5 Tips for Road Trips with Small Kids

I’ve gotten comments and questions over the years about taking road trips with babies and toddlers.  What are your tips for taking kids on a long car ride? Do you have tricks for babies and toddlers? Taking a long car ride with kids may seem daunting, but it is definitely doable. It is no secret that Jake and I have taken road trips since before having babies and that we continued after they were born. In fact, unplanned as it was, Hadley had her first road trip at 1 week old and was an absolute champ. Here is a little help with our 5 road trip tips for babies and toddlers.

Jake and I were in a long distance relationship for almost the entire first year of being together. I was studying in New York and he was working in New Hampshire. I was in Europe, he was still in New Hampshire. Then I was in New Jersey….you get the picture. It was not uncommon for us to drive the six hours (sans Europe) or meet half way to see each other during this time.

That’s how it all began.
 road trip tips for babies and toddlers
circa February 2010. Jake and I had been dating for three months here and he had driven down for the annual February family birthday party. I was leaving for Ukraine for two months soon after this was taken.

Fast forward to marriage, a move to PA and our parents still living on the east coast, we continued that drive (ironically still six hours to New Jersey but now ten to New Hampshire).

First off, I am not going to lie and say that it is always easy to do these trips. Though, we DO have good trips very often. We have toned down the amount of trips we take yearly because it is just a lot to handle and accomplish. However, I don’t think road trips overall is going to ever be over.

 road trip tips for babies and toddlers

Secondly, I think some trips go really well and others are just going to be bad. Sometimes when a trip is planned is the same time a tooth is deciding to emerge. It might be when the toddler is learning independence or there is construction and an hour of unplanned travel time. There are so many factors that are outside our control. HOW we deal with them is what matters. Below are our  road trip tips for babies and toddlers that we have learned over the years that help the trip go smoothER.

Please note that Jake and I do not have any experience traveling with kiddos over 2. So all of these tips are geared FOR young toddlers, infants AND newborns. Actually, bonus tip: newborns are super easy to drive with. They literally just sleep. The only hard aspect is that they need to be fed more often which results in more stops. Other than that, do the trips with the newborns!
  1. Plan around a sleep time. Generally speaking we plan our trips around the long nap time of the day or before bed time. We have done the “drive through the night” thing and it is just not for me. I applaud the parents who do that. We did that this past September with a baby who was not sleeping through the night yet and it took me about two days to recoup. To me, it was not worth it. (However, if you are driving 10+ hours, this might be in your best interest.)  I usually plan to leave an hour before nap time and they’re typically so mesmerized by the hum of the car or sights outside (I actually have no idea what it is, this is all my guessing >.<) that they fall asleep and nap! Leaving before bedtime works in our favor too because the time leading up to sleep is filled with dinner (which is a production in and of itself in the car!).


 road trip tips for babies and toddlers

2. Fill up your car with gas (and pee ahead of time.) This is not for your kids. This is for YOU and you might be laughing by now. But listen to this story: A fight of mine and Jake’s happened on a road trip (real talk). We were banking on Emmett napping in the car (see #1) and when he was finally napping the gas light on our car came on. We had just stopped not long before and we hadn’t thought to look at the gas tank. If we had, we would have known that the car was almost on empty and we would need to stop again. Needless to say, when we pulled over again for gas, Emmett was startled awake by the motion of the car subsiding and our “fool proof” nap plan was out the window.
3. Brings snacks and small activities. I think this goes without saying and you’re not looking at this one going “Lightbulb!” But I feel it is still worth mentioning. Our last trip was before Christmas and so we had our own family Christmas at home before we left. I stocked Emmett’s stocking (ha…stocked the stocking…ok…) with small activities for our trip. A small coloring book, a tin with magnets, a scratch pad, etc. They were fun SMALL toys that were new for him and inexpensive for us. As far as snacks, tiny snacks are great. When Emmett was about a year old, those puffs went a long way!

 road trip tips for babies and toddlers

4. Have a planned stop. This is not something we do much of in the winter because it is so cold. Our stops in the winter are mainly for some food or coffee. But if we take a trip in the summer, a fun thing to look forward to for all parties involved is a picnic at a rest stop. The meal is planned ahead of time and we are not at the mercy of a line at a restaurant or a new food employee (I know they need a first day and we’ve all been there, but when it takes 30 minutes to get three subs and your family is waiting for you in the car, you might find yourself wishing you’d stopped
somewhere else!).

road trip tips with small kids

5. Just drive. Ok, this is not a direct contradiction of #4. Please hear me out. Sometimes the baby is crying. The toddler is whining for something. All you can think is, “Get me out of this car!” But stopping only makes it that much further to your destination.  Sometimes you just need to drive and try your best to work things out in the car. I often end up in the backseat between both of our children. Emmett sometimes just wants to hold my hand or play with me and my presence next to Hadley calms her down. We have upgraded to an SUV which makes this more feasible to do. If you just keep driving, I promise you will get there <3

It’s also a mindset, friends. Jake and I go, “OK, we are doing this. If this is a bad trip, we can just take a break from trips.” And, trust me, we have. 😀

What are you road trip secrets?

5 tips for taking road trips with babies and toddlers

xo, bethany rose

15 Comments on “5 Tips for Road Trips with Small Kids”

  1. This is so helpful! Also – I didn’t know you had a Jake, too! <3 Haha. Anyways, hoping these tips help us in our upcoming trip. Luckily this time we aren't going too far (maybe just 4 hours at the most) but I definitely plan to leave around nap time! Thanks for sharing.

  2. We love family road trips! Both of our little boys have manages 10 hour drives in multiple directions like champs! Your suggestions are right on the mark!

  3. These are so good! We always try our best to plan around sleep schedules and hope Little sleeps on the drive! Snacks are awesome and so are planned stops – bonus if they are near a playground! And yes to just driving. Sometimes, you just have to get there!

  4. I loved these tips! Our next “adventure” (lol) is going to be flying. I think we may try to take a babymoon with our toddler before our little boy arrives. Also, I love learning about you! I have 2 very good friends who live in the East (NY & MD) and you remind me of them; it makes my heart happy!

  5. Tip #5…. Yes. Sometimes you just have to power through. We recently had our toddler meltdown on a flight. Deep breaths and keep calm. I wrote a post on the same type of thing. Just gotta power through.
    Keep up the work. Your content is great@

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