Tips for Traveling in a Car With Kids

Get lots of tips for traveling in a car with kids. Know how to entertain your children and how to maintain your schedule.

Family on a road trip

I love a road trip. I love to see new places and even love to see land pass me by.

But traveling in a car with children is not always fun. Kids aren’t known for loving sitting still. It isn’t necessarily comfortable to be strapped into a carseat so tightly that you can’t really shift your weight.

You also have meal time and sleep to deal with.

Despite the challenges, there are ways to make your road trip doable!

Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Kids

There are a lot of simple things you can do to set yourself up for success.

Traveling with Baby

When we travel with a young baby, we always try to leave right after a feeding. So while I nurse the baby, my husband is sure the vehicle is ready to go.

Once baby is done eating, burped, and diaper changed, we go. This way we can get as much driving as possible before baby needs to eat again.

I like to put a diaper cream on the child before we leave. They are strapped into the car seat and of course end up wetting their diaper. It is much easier on their skin if they have protection there. I like Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.

Remember to do diaper changes regularly to protect their little bottoms.

Traveling and Schedules

Once it is time for baby’s nap, let him do so. If you are sitting by him prior to nap, move so he will not be distracted by you.

You can put a blanket over his car seat if that helps (it did with my son). If you are traveling with a toddler, you can also let him fall asleep (I can’t imagine what that would be like 😉 ).

>>>Read: Traveling Sleep Hierarchy for Babies

How close you remain to your schedule will depend on your child. When Kaitlyn was a young baby (newborn), she would fall asleep in the car seat but not for long. Her schedule ended up being a little ahead (like 2.5 hours instead of 3).

As she has gotten older, she stopped napping in the car, even for a 3-4 hour trip. She does, however, stay happy and stay on schedule. If your baby sleeps in the car, you can let him go a little longer if needed.

Just don’t stress out if you end up ahead of schedule or a little behind schedule while traveling.

>>>Read: How To Travel Without Destroying Your Babywise Progress

Sometimes I would pump and feed Brayden with a bottle while he was in the car seat, but that wouldn’t be for a long trip.

If your baby eats solids, you can feed those while driving and he is in the car seat.

If it is a long drive, it will be good to stop somewhere and get baby and children out of the car seat. Let them stretch their legs and burn off some steam.

It will take you longer to get to your destination, but it should be easier to keep the peace along the way. Your baby will be more likely to sleep in the car seat if he can burn some energy along the way.

Remember bibs and burp rags for spills. Also, keep wet wipes really handy.

Encourage some waketime and playtime. Otherwise, you might have a rough night of sleep ahead of you.


Have plenty of toys to keep baby entertained. Bring things he loves, including books.

You can also break out new toys–they usually captivate the child longer. You can also hide toys away for a couple of weeks before you go so they seem new.

Puppets can be fun.

If you have a toddler or older child, don’t underestimate the power of watching movies or shows.

We tried that item with both kids around 9 months, and neither was interested (and Kaitlyn was in fact upset that that cute baby in the mirror had disappeared). But as Brayden has gotten older, it has been a great item for long trips.

We don’t leave it in the car at all times, and he actually only gets it if the ride is about 2 hours or longer. I have many fond memories from traveling long distances with my family (though my parents’ memories probably aren’t as fond–I know my sister and I fought a lot).

Set your own limitations based on your family standards. Whatever works for you.

We do not allow electronics to start at the beginning of the trip. They need to wait for 1-2 hours before breaking them out, depending on the length of the drive. If it is really long, we go even longer.

Listen to music! Toddler tunes! Not always so fun for the parents, but the kids love them. You might want to screen them before you buy them. Some can be pretty bad. I have found we really like the Little People CDs.

You can sing all of those fun songs.

For older kids, come up with fun road games. Pointing out things they are interested in (for my son, tractors, trains, etc.), I Spy, etc.

Get more ideas for Driving Activities here.

Snacks and Water

When you are bored, snacks can help a lot. Finger foods and snacks all around! That is, if your baby is old enough. And you also want to be sure you don’t ruin appetites for meals.

Also, children are famous for getting in a car and suddenly realizing they are dying from thirst. Have some water for your child to drink. I always have a sippy cup of water for each child.

Prepare Ahead of Time

I would recommend you have the car all gassed up before you officially leave with your children so you don’t have to spend travel time sitting at the gas station.

Along the same lines, if you like to snack on the drive, have those purchased before you leave. Not only will you save money by purchasing snacks at the grocery store rather than a gas station, you will save time.

I would also have an emergency kit in the car in case something happens on the way. If there are cold temperatures (and remember, some areas can be cold at night even in the summer), be sure to bring blankets, hats, etc.

Have plenty of water and food for those in the car. Have sippy cups and/or bottles. Be sure you have the necessary items for your vehicle, also.

A tow rope is always a good idea even if you drive a car; while most truck drivers will carry one with them, not all do. Jumper cables, oil, tools, spare tire, etc.

>>>Read: What to Keep in Your Car in Case of Emergency

Don’t forget your medicine that you might use (Tylenol, Motrin, gas drops, etc.). They seem to need those things at the least opportune moments. I still remember Brayden’s first Thanksgiving; he got a fever and needed it, we didn’t have it, and we were in Wyoming where stores actually close for holidays.

Be Careful to Not Overstimulate

While I sat in the back with Brayden a lot, I didn’t do that with Kaitlyn (she had Brayden). When we are on a long trip and she is getting really impatient, I will move back with her. It is good to space that out so you have some back-up ammo for if they lose it later. You want to be careful of overstimulating your baby.

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Tips for traveling in a car with kids

14 thoughts on “Tips for Traveling in a Car With Kids”

  1. Hi, my LO started crawling last weekend…I thought a really helpful post might be your advice on babyproofing a house. Of course, with BW, he isn’t out crawling around or anything, but I’m sure, still, that just like anything else, as a first time mom, there will be lots of things I won’t think of. We would all appreciate your experienced take on this, and even advice on toddler/child-proofing. Thanks!

  2. We travel to my husband’s family once a month from Fri-Sun. What works for us is to leave late Fri (we have horrible traffic so we would have to leave after 7 anyway) around 8. We bath our daughter, put her gown on, and then I nurse her. Strap her in her car seat then swaddle her by wrapping a blanket around the front of her and tucking it under her back. Her bedtime is 8:15 so she just falls asleep in the car. When we get to our destination I take her out, swaddle her, and lay her in the crib and she just goes right back to sleep.If you are traveling at night that may be helpful. When we come back I leave after nursing her, then she plays in her car seat about 30 min, then will take a 45 min. nap, which is shorter than normal, but at least it’s something.Every other night we just swaddle and lay her in her crib. No rocking or anything, so I don’t think if affects her at all by doing this once in awhile.

  3. If anyone has some tips for me please let me know.My daughter is 11 1/2 weeks old. She has to be swaddled at night. During the day she takes her naps without being swaddled though. At night however if she gets even an arm out of her swaddle she wakes up crying, then we go in reswaddle her, and she’ll fall right back asleep.I don’t know why it’s different at night. During her naps I do cover her with a blanket which I don’t do at night. She sleeps so well though,(8:00PM-7:15AM with one feeding)so I don’t want to mess that up.However, I think at 3 months I would like to break her of this. I’ve heard that a lot of developmental growth happens in a crib and I don’t want to hinder her by having her swaddled.Any advice for transitioning her from a swaddle? Thanks!

  4. First, let me apologize. I am new to this blog and I do not know where to post my questions, etc. I am not sure whether to post them under the topic or just ask the questions regardless of the topic being discussed.I have so many questions.One concern I have is my daughter’s seeming inability to calm herself to sleep – especially when she is in her car seat. She can settle herself for a few minutes and then she is back to fussing. I think she may fight sleep – but she is much more compliant when I am holding her and she drifts off to la-la land. Is this where CIO will benefit us? One area at least.Also, when you allow your baby to CIO at naptime, especially, do you include their cry time as a part of their naptime? For instance, if your baby takes a 2 hour nap but she cries for 30 minutes do you allow her to sleep for an additional 30 minutes or get her up to feed at the appointed time? It seems like if your baby cried the duration of her naptime that she would not benefit from the “feed, wake, nap” routine since she didn’t nap. Would that effect her sleep and attitude for the rest of the day?

  5. CIO should help your daughter in the car seat. Once she has methods of self-soothing that are under her control, she should be able to soothe herself wherever she is.I don’t include the cry time as naptime, but I almost always get up at feeding time. There are exceptions. One is if your baby cried a lot before that nap; I would allow baby to sleep 15-30 extra minutes if she will. If she doesn’t fall asleep, yes it will affect her sleep and attitude. This is common during sleep training, but highly uncommon once she has learned. Be sure to see this post:Waking Early From Naps/Won’t Fall Asleep For Naps:

  6. We’re leaving in a few days for Florida = vacation! It’s a 6 1/2 to 7 hr. drive from TN with an 8 month old (girl)! We’re planning to leave at 2 or 3 a.m., hoping she’ll sleep ’till her usual 8 a.m. wake time. Has anyone tried this? Any advice to share?

  7. We are new to BW… very new! Our 7.5 week old son is now on day 3. First, I want to thank you for this site. I have been on it about 6 times a day since we started and it has helped SO much! He is on a three hour schedule right now and goes down for naps with about 5 minutes of fussing. He often wakes up an hour into his nap and within 5 minutes is back to sleep. He is also waking up every three hours at night, but goes back to sleep with little to no fussing. (We have been CIO parents from the start.)That being said, I have a couple questions that I haven’t seen answered yet, or maybe I just need clarification. Despite the terrible timing, our family is going on a road trip next week that can’t be cancelled. Our longest leg should be six hours. We would like to leave around noon after his feeding but are unsure of how to handle naps. He sleeps so-so in his car seat, taking little naps rather than long ones. I have heard of covering the carseat with a light blanket to remove distractions and encourage sleep and my husband and I are willing to let him CIO for a period of time in the car (though being confined will definitely limit our patience). Do you have any suggestions for keeping the routine for this young of a child while traveling. If he doesn’t nap well, should we just wing it and put him down for a nap as soon as we arrive no matter his schedule? Do you have any other “en route” advice for long car trips and being out of routine?Also, since we will be visiting several friends for the day we are there, how should be handle his schedule? When I am able to put him down for a nap, I gladly will, but what if we’re in a restaurant when he shows signs of being tired. Do we try to get him to sleep while we’re out? Do we hold off on the nap and make up for it later? Do we just throw caution to the wind and take him off schedule for the day? I would love specifics of what you would do. All suggestions are welcome. My husband and I are dedicated and I know we’re new and there is a period where you need to be rigid to get the schedule set (he’ll be at it for about a week by the time we go on this trip) but but I would like to know, does sticking with BW mean that “out of the ordinary” just can’t happen?

  8. For traveling in the car, you kind of just have to go with what happens. If your LO won’t fall asleep, you can’t force him and have limited options for how to get him there. If he sleeps but for short times, there is again little you can do about it. I would try to stick to the feeding schedule as much as possible, but realize you might have to get off if sleep doesn’t go as well as it usually does. If you arrive and he hasn’t slept well and it isn’t time to eat, put him down for a nap to catch up on sleep. An overtired baby is much harder to work with :)While you are out, I would try to get him to fall asleep if you can. When Brayden was a baby, I could set him in his carseat in a restaurant and he would fall asleep–for a short nap. With Kaitlyn, she wouldn’t. She had to make up for the nap later.Out of the ordinary can happen. It is best to be established in your routine before that happens, but if not possible, do your best. They bounce back much easier if they are well established first. Be sure to look on the index under “traveling” and look at the posts there. There are many different tips from me and readers in all the posts.

  9. In a couple of weeks we will be traveling across the state for a friend's wedding. My husband is a groomsman so we need to be there the day before at 11am for the rehearsal lunch & rehearsal. According to Google maps, it will be a 3 hour, 40 min car trip. I'm wondering what to do in regards to my 7 month-old's schedule. He's on a 3.5-4 hour schedule right now, waking at 7am. We would need to leave by 7am, however, to get there by 11. He does really well in the car, usually sleeping most of the time when we've gone on long car rides before.

  10. Jencwu,One idea would be to get him however early you need to in order to nurse him before you leave (if you nurse). Then go. I assume he eats solids. If so, you can feed those in the car. You just put a bib on and feed the food. Then you might stay by him until his waketime is over and then move to the front seat and leave him to fall asleep. Or you could move up right away and leave him with a toy or two. Then hopefully he will sleep until you get there (or close) and you can feed him again as close to your arrival as possible. Good luck!

  11. Hi Valerie, Thank you so much for this post. Some amazing tips here. Firstly, thank you so so much for your blog and advice. I don't know what I would have done without you in my life. lol. Any issue I face, I google "Babywise Chronicles + the issue", and there it is. A solution for everything. So, thank you 🙂 We are prepping up for our first weekend getaway (the car drive is around 3.5 to 4 hours long). My baby (10 weeks old) is napping well (except for a few disruptions here and there) and sleeping in the night from 7-7 AM with one feed between 3-4 am. He typically sleeps for 45 mins or a bit less when he naps in the car seat stroller (Glad to know this is very normal and he is not the only one). My question is if he wakes up after 45 minutes in the car and starts to get fussy, should we consider it as the end of the cycle (2.5 hours instead of 3 hours), and start the next feed cycle (feed-wake-nap) again? Whether he is hungry or not. Most likely, he will calm down with the feed. (perhaps we will stop somewhere to feed or give a bottle in the back). Your thoughts? Thank you.


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