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Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Perhaps you cringe at the thought of loading up the kids in the van for a long road trip?

Flying with the kids? Click here for our tell-all on preparing the kids so you can have the best flight ever!

Not me! I love road trips! I love having a swagger-wagon (minivan) that I can load lots of people and stuff into and just GO. For me, the memories and adventures begin, not when we arrive at our destination, but the moment we start planning for the trip. I am so confident in my road trip abilities, that I just traveled, AGAIN (for the 5th time) with my 2 sisters, our mom and our (collective) 5 children under the age of 4, from Florida to North Carolina to visit our grandpa and to see the leaves change. Yay!! I have found it can be both fun and rewarding to travel with toddlers because of the tricks and tips I have learned over the years.

Here are some tips for the journey, and the destination that will help you worry less and enjoy more of your road trip.

1. Count down the days till you leave AND the days till you go home.

Anticipation builds excitement and also helps to ease the nerves of children set on routine. Bonus: A count down calendar is a great way to teach your toddler the days of the week and counting backwards!

2. Take outlet covers, night-lights… and a mattress protector.

I learned this one the hard way on this trip. My 2yr old son peed through his diaper 5 of the 7 nights! Vacation for mommy = laundry with a new view. Lesson learned!

3. Don’t pack the closet!

If you will have access to a washer/dryer, plan on using it! Kids can go through 3 outfits a day sometimes, but its crazy to pack 15 outfits per child for 5 days. So pack with the plan on washing and re-wearing the clothes.

4. Hide some toys for a week before the trip so that they are excited to see them again.

5. Pack ‘car-friendly’ toys for the way up… toys they can enjoy while being buckled up.

Invest in a DVD player! (Worth it!) Wait as long as possible before playing. Movies will keep their attention, but do nothing for restlessness. So try to keep their fingers and hands busy!

6. Stock your car with a pack of wet wipes and grocery bags (for trash).

7. Schedule your trip around your child’s schedule and temperament.

We have an 11 hr trip to my grandpas house. Our first road trip with kids, we got there at 3:30 am. We were exhausted and ready for bed but the kids had an entire days worth of energy that had just been unbuckled! They ran around the house till 7am! Now we schedule ourselves so that we arrive at our destination just before dinner. This way we have time to eat, unpack get settled and allow for the kids to run around and be ready for bed at their regular time!

8. Collapsible toys.

They take up minimal trunk space! An inflatable pool, collapsible tunnels, and a can of shaving cream = a dream play ground.

9. Buy a couple toys to reveal during the trip.

My mom, ‘Nana,’ got glow sticks for bath time… It was a huge hit!

10. Take a quick tour of the rooms and child proof immediately.

My grandpa has so many pretty breakables that he displays to make the house look nice for us. We thank him, we compliment him, and then move it all to higher ground. It saves his decorations and my nerves. I over heard my son and nephew saying, “Cool Dangerous.” I come into the room to find my nephew chomping a pair of pruning sheers with my son ready to take a turn! (Hello 10 new gray hairs!)

11. Keep your plans flexible and kid friendly.

Sightseeing, shopping and even a fun kid outing can go south with toddlers. One second they are holding a baby chick and the next screaming to get away. So be flexible, don’t force the fun. Unfortunately I have caught myself on a number of vacations being too attached to experiences I want them to have.

What the kids loved most was going on ‘adventures’ around grandpa’s property everyday.

It’s possible to travel with kids and it can be so much fun. Don’t be afraid. Pack up the kids and hit the road! Do you have any tips to share?