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