• Liz Applegate

11 Tips to make your Road Trip with a Toddler go smoother

All bets are off when traveling with a toddler - especially when the trip is further than your local grocery store or neighborhood park.


Over the Fourth of July holiday, I went on 4-day cross country road trip from Colorado to South Dakota with family members - 5 adults and one toddler. We all rode in the same minivan together and what could have easily turned into a living nightmare actually turned out to be a wonderful time together. We visited many sites (including Mt. Rushmore), saw some beautiful country, drove a lot of miles and made many happy memories. I’d actually do it again.


Here are a few tips we used to make traveling with our 19-month-old grandson a lot more enjoyable:

Schedule tips

1. Don't feel rushed to see everything there is to see in the allotted time you have. If you do, and you try to pack too many things into a day, you'll end up feeling frustrated and so will your child. Plan to see 2-3 really big things in a day and then really enjoy them. There is always next time to see those things you didn’t get to see this time. This isn't about what you see but about your memories. What do you want to remember?

2. A little planning beforehand goes a long way. Do your research. What activities are available in the general location to where you are traveling? What food / restaurants are available? Check TripAdvisor.com, Yelp.com, and other resources you trust. This helps to alleviate the “I dunno, whatcha wanna do?” syndrome when you get there.

3. Create a list of places to go and see and create a sample itinerary.

4. Ahead of time, survey each of the participants of this road trip and ask them which of these places THEY would like to see and how badly they would like to see each of those site.

5. Reiterate the need to be flexible to each of the participants. Toddlers have a way of throwing off even the best laid plans. By knowing beforehand that it might not be possible to visit ALL of the places on their list, participants are usually more willing to go with the flow as long as they know they have been heard and their suggestions considered. When we first got to Rapid City we did a Google search and happen to find this place. It was an interesting little park for kids and it was free. We walked around it and just watched the sheer delight on Mr. P's face as he experienced all of these new places for free. Next to Mt. Rushmore I think it was one of our favorite places we saw on the trip - and all because we were willing to "go with the flow". Who knows?! You might just find your favorite place on your trip this way.

6. Try to plan long drives between sites around the baby’s nap times. Although your baby probably still won’t get a really great nap, at least he can recharge somewhat for the next adventure on the itinerary.

7. Try to stick to your baby’s normal bedtime routine and timing. One adult may have to take one for the team and miss out on the nighttime activities to babysit but it’ll be worth it - trust me!

Packing tips

8. Pack the snacks. On road trips toddlers (and adults) are forced to sit for long stretches at a time. At times, this can disrupt their digestion patterns. Be sure to pack healthy snacks to help maintain their regularity. For babies who tend to get constipated consider packing fruits and vegetables such as berries, pears, broccoli, or even “green smoothies” (Naked Juice Green Machine), etc. For babies who tend toward diarrhea, stay away from high sugar foods, high fiber foods and fatty foods. Breads, small amounts of peanut butter, pretzels, crackers, etc. are good choices in this case.

9. Pack the entertainment. Download your toddler’s favorite videos onto a computer, tablet, or even phone. Attach the tablet to the headrest with the plastic bag your sheets came in (you know, the one with a zipper). You may not be a regular fan of screen time, but it can sure help out in a pinch. Curious George sure saved our bacon!

10. Pack the love. Don’t forget your baby’s comfort toys - pacifier, blanket, pillows, jammies, favorite stuffed toy. Without these, your trip will be a very, very long trip.

11. Don't forget to take videos and photos - everywhere you go. You've got your phone. Pull it out and use it. How else will you remember? Capture the small moments as well as the big, grand events you came to see. These moments are what Life is all about.

I hope these little tips help you out. Let me know where you’re going on your next road trip and what you’re going to see. I love to live vicariously through other people’s trips! If there's anything I can do to help, give a holler! I'd love to help! Bon voyage!