My Mama lives about 500 miles away from me, and we are really close. This basically means that a road trip with toddlers became a regular thing for me, and I would consider myself somewhat of a master when it comes to planning to travel with kids in cars.
If you have a fun spring break road trip with toddlers planned, this is my step-by-step strategy to make the driving portion of the adventure painless.
I personally like to avoid a bunch of “Pinterest-mom” pre-trip packing and just time the driving right. I consider when my kids usually sleep, and then I plan to do the driving as much as possible during these times. Sounds simple right?
Step 1: Planning for a Road Trip With Toddlers
Have a plan. Get all of the adults on the same page. Plan where you will stop along the trip, and when you need to wake up in order to leave on time. Get your playlist for the drive whipped up. You know, employ the basics of planning that you’ve probably been doing your entire life willy nilly. They have now become a road trip essential.
Spontaneity is great if you are an adult on a road trip with friends. It’s not nearly as great when you are an adult (or even two) with a kid or three that constantly need to stop.
Set your expectations from the start and prep for the drive. I can’t say this enough. Plan, plan, plan. But also be aware that things rarely go to plan and accept that fact now.
Step Two: Start the Day Ahead
Pre-load EVERYTHING possible. All of the bags should be packed and loaded. All of the snacks should be in the car or in a cooler ready to grab from the fridge. The gas tank should be full. The shoes should be waiting by the door. Better yet, if your kids are still tiny they can be in a tote bag already in the car. Just carry your toddlers right out to their car seats.
You want to be ready to just jet off as soon as everyone is loaded up. It’s the worst to wake up at the crack of dawn so that you can make your drive as painless as possible but then eat up an hour or two trying to get organized. If you must do nothing but grab your adorable children in the morning, you have hit the mark.
Step Three: Road Trip with Toddlers that are Sleeping!
I like to get moving three-four hours before usual wake-up time. If your kids are early risers, you might consider starting your drive in the middle of the night. Bug them enough to make sure they aren’t hungry, make them go potty, and then load them into the car with a cozy blanket and tell them to go back to sleep.
The goal is to never stop unless 100% necessary. By driving when they are comfortably sleeping, you can completely avoid their boredom from the time you leave till you reach your first stopping point. (Traveling during odd hours has actually saved me a ton of time with construction as well.)
Also, I love a good sunrise.
Step Four: Have a Morning Road Trip Snack
I don’t know about your kids, but mine wake up and think that they are starving to death. Remember when I said that planning is key? No stops Mama. Not unless you 100% have to. That means bringing car-friendly food! If you are breastfeeding, consider pumping before the trip in order to avoid stopping to nurse.
After my kids wake up and eat their snack, I make them stare out the windows until we reach our first stop. Over the years, this hasn’t been an issue. They aren’t really aware that they have already been on the drive for five hours. This whole car-ride thing feels new to them and they should be perfectly content for a while.
I like to push my luck and get in about two more hours of driving after they wake up, but if your kids aren’t used to riding you might want to shorten that time at first.
Step Five: Enjoy Your Road Trip Destinations!
Whether you have reached your first gas check-point on the way to Grandma’s house or are going for the classic Route 66 drive, it is time to get everyone out. You have reached your first planned stop and I am so proud!
Stretch. Play. Plan to stay for at least an hour and eat some real food while you are out and about. I love to plan my stops at fun locations where we get to really enjoy the break. Something scenic or adventurous.
On true road trips, this is simple, but if it’s all about the destination try to get a bit creative! One time, we stopped in a city and went to the zoo! Don’t forget to enjoy the journey and make the most of the opportunity to stop somewhere you normally couldn’t.
Step Six: On the Road Again
At this point in the day, it’s doubtful that your kids are going to be thrilled to hop back into the car unless you stayed somewhere for hours. This is when you pull out the tablets and movies. Everyone can stay “busy” and their screen time is moderately lower than it could have been so far. I mean, win-win.
Keep going. Follow the plan. Enjoy the journey.
Using these steps in rotation has been super effective for my family. It’s usually me and my three kiddos on the road trips, yet we have an absolute blast every time we take off to a new destination.
Who wouldn’t choose to have an easy to prep road trip with minimal whining and complaining from the kids? With these steps, it really is that simple.
If you are also against spending five hours collecting and then creating activities for your road trip with toddlers and would prefer to just time things well, share this post on Pinterest! Thanks for stopping by!