Traveling with your little one is a wonderful way to introduce them to the world. Road trips are an easy and enjoyable way to expose your munchkin to the many cities, towns and states that comprise the USA and perhaps Canada or Mexico too (how adventurous are you?).
During a road trip, you are the master of your itinerary. You're free to make as many stops and take as many detours as you need. With a little planning, you can transform your car into a comfortable homelike environment where your tot can feel relaxed and safe.
If you're ready to hit the open road with your little one, here are nine tips for taking your toddler on a road trip:
1) Turn your child's backseat area into a comfortable, stimulating, home-like environment. Grab a couple of his/her favorite board books and toys, a favorite blanket or snuggie and place them where they can be easily reached. Provide plenty of opportunities for self-entertainment.
2) Bring along a fun playlist or CD of songs your little one recognizes and adores. There are a lot of opportunities for fun and memory making here. Encourage your tot to have a dance party in his safety seat. You can do the same from the front seat (unless you're the one driving). Have a family sing-along. Whatever you do and however you do it, have fun.
3) Pack your iPad or Tablet. My husband Mark and I spent a lot of time trying to keep Ohm awake on our last road trip. Kids love to sleep in the car which is lovely for adults but too much sleep can backfire at bedtime thus potentially throwing your entire schedule off. To keep him awake and lively, we played some of his favorite shows (a lot of Backyardigans and Sesame Street). We have an iPad holder that sits on the back of the driver's head rest- it's like gold. The iPod works well at night too if your child gets fussy in the dark. Pssst - the iPad works wonders on husbands as well.
4) Pull over often and let your little one stretch their limbs and run about. We pulled over every 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
5) Pack snacks! You can never have too many. Pack a good variety so your little one will have plenty of healthy options since road travel most often means fast food. Make sure to pack plenty of fluids and place them somewhere easily accessible.
6) Have an extra pair of clothes and several extra diapers and wipes on hand- you just never know. Between food, drink and bathroom accidents, you never know when an extra shirt may come in handy. You're not going to want to dig around in your suitcase. I turned my glove compartment into a mini diaper bag.
7) Dress your little one in soft comfortable clothes and layer. Depending on your trip, you may cross multiple climate zones. You'll want to be ready. Your little ones comfort and contentment is equal to your comfort and contentment.
8) Make your road trip educational and fun. Depending on the age of your child, you can plan to make stops at museums, zoos, national parks, and cultural sites of interest. Pulling over to pick peaches at a farm in Georgia for example is a great way to teach your child about regional fruit and is a wonderful form of exercise after spending hours in the car. If your tot is really small, simply making an educational game out of identifying all of the familiar objects will entertain them. "Look, a tree! T is for tree, t-r-ee. Look, a truck! T is also for truck, vroom vroom - etc."
9) Take time for yourself! Listening to Sesame Street for hours on end, or to your child's favorite Raffi CD on loop can take its toll on your sanity. There is nothing wrong with silent breaks, or listening to your music while your child self-entertains. Encourage independent play! When your little one does fall asleep, and they will thanks to the lull of the car, make sure that you take time for yourself. Engage in an adult conversation, listen to the music you like, if you're in the passenger seat take a nap, it will save your sanity.
Taking a road trip with a toddler is not without its challenges, but it is well worth the effort. With a little planning, a little creativity and a little ingenuity, you can build memories and explore the world together.
Have you traveled with a tot?