Just when we felt like we mastered the road trip routine with our baby he grows into a little person with his own personality. That means we’ve had to be more creative and come up with new strategies to make the car rides a fun experience for him. Here are my five top tips for a happy road trip with toddlers.
1. Give them something to look forward to.
Our son doesn’t initially warm up to the idea of temporarily parting with his toys to be confined to the car seat. But once he hears that we will be going to a park, zoo or beach, he is willing to get ready for the trip.
It is important for us teach him that exploring the world doesn’t deliver instant gratification. The typically short attention span of a toddler will require you to keep talking about the thrills that lie ahead and keep him excited.
2. Keep them entertained.
As the toddlers become more curious about the world, it gets more interesting as well as challenging to keep them entertained. My son is easily amused by vehicles so we play simple games like spot a bus/truck/van etc. We also encourage him to appreciate the changing scenery by pointing out things he can indentify such as trees, mountains and rivers. Smarty Pants TravelingMom has some more great tips about entertaining your toddler during travel.
I pick a few things that my son typically enjoys doing and plan ahead for our time in the car. Consider changing activities regularly, to keep kids from being bored or restless. Since most young children like routine, don’t introduce too many new games or toys at once. I sneak in something new among my son’s tried and tested favorite toys to add a little bit of excitement.
No matter how much we plan, there may be a part of the trip where no amount of games or sing alongs can keep my son pacified. That’s when we relax our electronics rule and indulge him with a couple of his favorite videos. Having monitors with Blue Ray capability in the back as shown in this photo from a 2015 Chevy Suburban enables easy access to entertain the kids with content that is parent approved.
3. Take breaks.
When traveling with small children, the journey is as much as it is about the destination. If you start the trip with an exhausting drive, parents don’t have much recovery time before they have to be back on their feet exploring a new location. The time you saved in driving at long stretches maybe spent recovering from it and cutting into precious sightseeing time.
Ohio TravelingMom Tonya shares her take on adding quality and fun to a road trip by exploring roadside attractions. One of my favorite breaks is to make it a culinary adventure by tasting a local specialty or trying out a farm to table restaurant along the way.
When we don’t want to spend much time finding things to do along the way, we settle on a mall that has a child friendly play area. Getting the kids to run about in a children’s play area will help them nap be refreshed for the second leg. Any way you can break up the journey to give everyone including the driver sufficient rest helps you have a more enjoyable road trip.
4. Be comfortable.
Hopefully most of you have a vehicle that can carry luggage, activity gear and yourselves comfortably. If you don’t, consider renting one for the trip. A comfortable and safe ride will be the best yardstick for any road trip’s success.
Having taken the 2015 Chevy Suburban for a test ride during the TravelingMom writers’ retreat in Orlando, I’m dreaming of taking a summer road trip in one. It was a specious SUV that could seat seven TravelingMoms comfortably.
5. Teach them about safety.
Toddler age is the right time to start talking to kids about road safety. To help our son understand the importance of safety, we try to be very clear and concise with our instruction. We started with simple concepts like holding on to an adult’s hand when walking on the road and having to ride in a car seat.
We try to lead by example by telling him how stopping at a red light and wearing a seat belt are important steps in protecting against accidents. As a two year old boy, our son is at an age where he glamorizes car crashes without much understanding about its impact on human lives. But as parents we want him to internalize the importance safety from an early age and build the confidence that he needs to handle tough situations in the future.