I’ve just returned from a road trip with my almost 16-month son, and while it went about as smooth as I could have hoped, I learned a few things from the experience, mainly, some tips that might help others who decide to road trip with a toddler!
When my brother announced he’d be getting married in Alabama I immediately thought how fun this mini vacation would be! Then I looked down at the tiny person pulling in my pant leg and remembered that now I’m a mom, so this is technically a work trip, right?
A million questions went through my mind:
How are we going to get there? How is this going to work? Will we fly? Drive the 11 hours? Should I even take my son? Should I even go?
I mean, obviously I was going to go, I wasn’t going to let the logistics of traveling with my kid keep me from my brother’s wedding!
It was finally decided I would drive to the wedding (lots of factors at play) and my husband, due to his schedule would fly to meet us there.
Now, before you think I’m a real hero and made an 11-hour road trip alone with a toddler, I should confess that my parents traveled alongside us in their car. This was a tremendous help knowing had backup!
Now that I’m home (had a great time, but yay!), I’ve been thinking about some of the things I did that really worked for us, maybe they’ll help you to!
1. Make a plan
After making the decision to drive I knew right away hat I’d be breaking the drive into two days, stopping somewhere along the halfway point.
Yes, this added on a hotel stay on the way there and back, but my sanity was still in tact when I arrived so I call it money well spent!
My plan was to leave our home a little while before his morning nap so he’d have his first nap on the drive, we’d rest/stretch our legs for a bit and then hopefully have his second nap on the drive as well. (Of course he took no afternoon naps on our two day drive home!)
2. Have snacks handy
Since I was driving alone in the car, I had plenty of room in the passenger seat next to me for snacks!
While normally road trip snacks are a favorite part of the experience of travel, these weren’t for me! (OK, some of them were.) I had wafers, rice cakes, cheese puffs, yogurt melts, and anything I could easily grab and hand back to my son when he was hungry. I also had a cooler with some milk ready to go.
3. Get some new toys and books
My son loves books so I decided to grab a few new ones before we left so he’d have something new to play with when he got bored. I waited until I could tell he was getting antsy to produce a new book and it bought me lots of extra time!
I also bought a box of Melissa and Doug animal magnets for him to play with on the drive, as he’s getting into animals and their sounds.
It seemed like the last 45 minutes of the drive he’d start to get fussy, that’s when I’d pull off to a gas station and grandma would switch cars and hop in the backseat to entertain! (Not helpful if you don’t have traveling companions, but if you do, do this!)
4. Find some places to stretch your legs
When lunchtime hit, and he had finished his first nap, I found a place to stop for lunch. We’d eat and then I’d find a place to stretch our legs. The first day this was at a park I found (I searched “playground” on Google Maps), but almost every other stop? Walmart!
He’d help push the cart and we’d find a non-busy area he could roam around. He loved the dog food aisles and would go from box to box barking at the puppies. Hilarious AND cute.
I made another stop usually after his second nap too, I had never been so glad to see Walmarts everywhere!
5. Be flexible
Fortunately on this trip we left with plenty of time for a two-day drive without being rushed. I could stop if we needed to and wasn’t worried about hitting a deadline of when we had to be somewhere.
We didn’t make hotel reservations for the evening, we’d just decide to stop when it seemed like the best time and that really kept me from feeling pressured to get to a certain point.
Had I not had my parents traveling alongside I made have had to make my stops a little earlier and that would have been OK too.
Kids are unpredictable and while my son handled this trip like a champ, I know that things could have easily been different depending on his mood!
Honestly, my husband was really worried about me making this drive but it went so smooth overall. Granted, I was incredibly happy when I arrived home (and never want to hear or sing “If You’re Happy And You Know It” ever again)!
Here’s to future road trips! (A long time from now!)