Family Road Trip Survival Guide
It’s family road trip season! Road trippin’ with small kids might be a bit different than it was in your younger, kid-free days. But despite all the bad jokes, family road trips are ripe for making memories. Feeling anxious about the long drive? Don’t be! We’ve got you covered with the Road Trip Survival Guide for traveling with babies and toddlers.
Bring Road Trip Appropriate Snacks
Snacks are a must-have for road trips. They keep kiddos distracted, happy and help improve hand-eye coordination. But most importantly, they kill time! Pro tip: Keep your snack stash a secret so you can surprise your kids with a treat on different legs of the trip.
Make your own special Road Trip Trail Mix with your kid’s favorite goodies so it feels special and exciting. Check out the bulk aisle at your local grocery store for fun snacks to add to your unique trail mix blend. Looking for some more snack inspiration, check out our recent blog post about the best travel snacks for babies and toddlers…nutritionist approved!!
Snacks are important, but so are drinks. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water or other favorite non-sugary beverages.
Make the Most of Pit Stops
Don’t spend time out of the vehicle sitting in a restaurant, spend it moving! When BabyQuip Quality Provider Teresa Ore road trips with her daughter, she makes sure that “stops are for running and playing!” Eat in the car and take breaks to get moving! The goal is for your kiddos to be breathing hard when they get back into the vehicle so they want to sit.
The journey is the destination, right? Look up playgrounds on your route and plan stops around them. When you get out of the car, give your kids some freedom to move—run, crawl, hop, jump, skip, bear crawl, dance—whatever moves them. For newborns and babies, breaks from the car seat are perfect for tummy time. No playground around, no problem! Pack a soccer ball and the kids can have fun running just about anywhere.
Don’t forget to move yourself too—updog to downdog transitions are easy to do anywhere and keep the hips and low back happy.
Plan Fun Car Activities
Your packing list should include lots of toys and activities to keep your little ones engaged and entertained—or as a last resort, distracted. Outfit your little one with a car seat activity tray to make playtime in the vehicle more comfortable.
Put toys and activities in a latching box or purse so your little one can have fun with zippers, snaps or velcro. Puzzled about what to include in your travel-friendly toy selection? We asked BabyQuip Quality Providers for their favorites and the Melissa & Doug Water Wow! paint-with-water coloring book got numerous recommendations. Another great art-on-the-go option is a magnetic drawing toy.
If you’re okay with screen time, be sure to charge up the tablet before you hit the road. Try waiting until all other options have been exhausted before pulling out the tablet though because once it’s out it can be hard to put away.
Audio books and podcasts are another great way to pass time. This option is best for pre-schoolers and older kids but even toddlers can benefit from listening to audio books. Listening teaches little ones about text structure, vocabulary, rhymes and repetition. Visit your local library to browse the books on CD collection or download an app like Audible. This Audiobooks for Road Trips with Kids collection from Audible is a great place to start if you’re looking for inspiration. For podcasts, BabyQuip Quality Provider Juliana Pugliese recommends Stories Podcast
- Best Travel Toys for Babies and Kids
- Family Apps: The Best Apps for Family Travel
- BabyQuip Baby Gear Rentals: How to Get Started
Bring a Road Trip Potty Seat
Don’t fret about a road trip interfering with potty training. Pack a potty seat and you can stop whenever and wherever. When your little one lets you know they have to go now, you’ll be ready! Next rest stop 89 miles? No problem. Kid that dislikes public restrooms? Not a big deal. Every family on the road needs a road potty. Don’t forget to bring along some plastic bags for solid waste—makes clean up easy. With a potty seat on board you’ll be prepared to pull over anywhere—no panic, no worry.
Manage Your Expectations
Nursing baby? Potty training toddler? Antsy kiddos? You’re inevitably going to make more stops than you did when cruising solo. And each stop will take longer than you think it will. But the delays are worth it. Traveling with your kids is worth it!
Kids remember the epic trips. They remember the fun times. But they also remember the difficult times. They learn how to keep going when the road gets rough by doing challenging things with you. So if your travel plans hit a speed bump, don’t despair. Your kids will fondly remember that time you got a flat tire, road in a tow truck and spent an hour getting ice cream while your vehicle got worked on at the shop. One of the reasons we travel is to get outside our comfort zone and experience the unexpected. We bring our kids along to help guide them through the discomforts and reassure them that everything will be okay. If things get messy, remember that even if you can’t laugh about it now, you will someday!
We’ve all seen families with half the car unloaded on the side of the road because the sunglasses were in the bottom of the suitcase in the trunk! Don’t be that family! Load the family road trip essentials last, so they’re on top. Keep the diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, and snacks easily accessible. There’s nothing worse than digging to find a clean pair of pants after a blowout.
Feeling overwhelmed by packing or limited by trunk space? Leave the play yard and bulky stroller at home—rent the baby gear you need at your destination! Don’t buy an expensive rooftop cargo carrier or overload your fuel efficient sedan, you can rent a full-sized crib or a beach package complete for sand toys and folding chairs for the adults. There are more than 400 Quality Providers on the BabyQuip platform ready to help make your vacation easy and memorable.
Mindful Mantras for Road Trip Survival
Do you need a moment to regroup? These mantras can help recenter you when things get a bit crazy or stressful on the road. Say them out loud. Repeat them as a family. Or just say them silently to yourself. We find these mantras useful and hope you do to!
- This too shall pass
- I’ll laugh about this someday
- This is not an emergency
- I am grateful for this opportunity to travel together
Kathy is a freelance writer, an Independent Quality Provider with BabyQuip and the mother of a very active one-year-old boy. When she’s not changing diapers, developing engaging content for clients, or helping families travel with little ones, she enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, and naps.