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Summer travels with your toddler? 15 tips to survive the road trip!

Alex O'Donoghue

Written by Alex O'Donoghue

6 min read

Toddler laying on the car bonnet waiting to start a road trip

Any parent of toddlers knows how difficult travelling long distance can be. Whether it's potty training on the go, kerb side tantrums or simply grizzly grumpy kids, road trips can be tough.

With 2020 summer holidays all about staycations, most of us are figuring out new strategies to make the journey a little easier. Here's how.  

Travelling with toddlers: 15 tips for car trips this summer 

  1. Time your travel

    Try leaving really early in the morning, or late at night, so your little one will sleep through part of the journey — depending on your toddler’s normal sleep preferences. If you can, pack the day before. It'll get you out the house quicker if you leave super early. Bonus? Less traffic on the roads, which means less driving time.

  2. Take it slow

    Plan to travel for an extra hour or two beyond what your journey planner suggests. Although most of us want to make it to our summer destination as fast as possible (especially when it's super hot and the roads are full), this is actually counter-productive. Toddlers have short attention spans and need their day broken up with play, food, sleep and more play. Schedule park or play stops regularly and let your child run around.

  3. Choose road trip 'treasure' together

    Pack a bag of treasures ahead of time with your toddler. You could call it a treasure box or special bag, and fill it together with objects (from sticks to stickers) together. Better yet, let your toddler add to it with little finds from each road trip stop.

  4. Plan your stops

    Plan your breaks ahead of time, and know where you're going to stop. Not only does this give you focus (important when the journey is hell) on the next milestone, but it's really useful to have time for fun at regular intervals. Your toddler will have fewer tantrums when you're energised and they get to let off some steam and run around regularly.

  5. Take turns in the backseat 

    Take turns being in the backseat with your toddler (if there's space).  Someone singing or playing games can help distract a grumpy child a little while longer. It’ll also make the trip more exciting for your toddler, who will get a kick out of the change in parent playmates.

  6. Don't forget clean up equipment

    There will be spilt coffee, toilet accidents, food spillage and grubby hands and faces. Pack as though you're about to do a full clean up operation. Wipes, hand sanitiser, disposable bags for garbage (or car sickness), paper towels for spills, and an extra set of clothes - all kept in an accessible spot. And something to keep you feeling fresh, too.

  7. Borrow or buy new books 

    If your local library has opened up, borrow toddler books in advance and only bring them out during the trip. If you're after second hand books, try Preloved. And if you're splashing out, order new books online - preferably buying used books from the likes of Amazon or Barnes & Noble Marketplace. Our favourite recent finds are neatly rounded up here! And if you're out of time, audio books are a winner.

  8. Keep your toddler hydrated

    Choose foods with a high water content for your little one. Chunks of watermelon are a great choice because they contain a lot of water, and smoothies are also good foods for keeping your toddler hydrated. Try to avoid juice or dilute it with water. In the heat, offer your little one additional water two or three times daily.

  9. Pack frozen water 

    An often overlooked favourite of smart parents. Freeze bottles of water ahead of time and pack them in the car. Not only will it cool you down, but your toddler can have fun watching the ice melt and feeling the different temperatures. 

  10. Listen to music during the journey. 

    Music is one of the best tools for keeping families content and entertained during a family road trip. It can also be the complete opposite when you've listen to the same songs every hour! Make a playlist, mix it up and throw in different languages and cultural songs. Try classical music for kids (there are heaps of wonderful compilations) when you want to encourage calm or nap time.

  11. Stop for toilet breaks as often as possible.

    If you're potty training your toddler and decide not to do nappies for car rides, make as many toilet breaks as you can squeeze in, especially if it's hot weather and your child is drinking alot of liquid. Take a travel potty if you can, lots of wipes and avoid asking your child if they need the toilet. Simply go yourself, and take them along with. This trick often works with toddlers who are usually going through the 'yes' or 'no' stage.

  12. Snacks, snacks and more snacks

    A hungry toddler is an angry toddler. Pack healthy, low sugar snacks into separate pots and containers and hand out at regular intervals. Include a special treat when you sense a tantrum is brewing. Food for toddlers is a perfect distraction - a little similar to us adults!

  13. Pack bubbles and water reveal activity books

    Water books are a winner. There is absolutely no mess involved, and kids love how the colour appears on the page by 'painting' it with a water brush. If you can't get your hands on these, pack bubbles for stops with kids and make your own to save on cost.

  14. Video call family and friends 

    Nothing works better than some distraction for toddlers who are tired of their parents and tired of the road. Call grandparents or friends with small children and let them have a short chat with your child. It's a win-win for both your child and family members, some of who may still be in lockdown.

  15. Pack treats for yourself

    Car rides are tough on parents! Pack little luxuries to make the journey easier for yourself: from water spritz bottles to keep your face fresh, hand cream and little snack and drink treats you'll enjoy. A spare top is always handy, especially when you're wiping up the inevitable toddler car mess.

And when all else fails, whip out a child-friendly tablet where your toddler can catch a few episodes of Peppa Pig. There will be tears, tantrums and moments of meltdown - these are unavoidable so hold on tight - and keep your focus on the destination! 


About EasyPeasy

EasyPeasy App content on iPhone

Stuck for summer activities for your toddler? The EasyPeasy App is full of play ideas, parenting hacks and fun games to share with your toddler everyday - even on road trips! Bring some extra sunshine to your summer of parenting! 😎