Since Toddler H was born almost 3 years ago we’ve done quite a few long car journeys to family and grandparents. A long car journey with a baby, never mind a long car journey with a toddler are rather different to the road trips hubby and I used to do. We now have to adapt our perspectives, time scales, and boot sizes! We really think we should have travelled and flew more than we did with Toddler H, and so plan to with Baby B. Several of my tips for flying with a toddler also apply to road trips, so do check that post out too here. So, given Christmas is approaching and that inevitably means families travelling to see each other, I thought I’d pop my top tips for a long car journey with a 2 year old toddler into a blog post. Most also apply to 18 months plus, and probably 3 year olds too (UPDATE: I can confirm these long road trip tips still work with a 5 year old!). So really these are tips for car journeys with a preschooler!
(Some links below are Amazon Affilliate links, others are reviews and posts I’ve written previously)
Tips for a long car journey with a 2 year old toddler
1. New magazine
This is my favourite tip – at your first stop let them choose a magazine. Yes even a £5 one with a bunch of toys. Those toys will keep them very busy for hours.
This tip also works as a bribe to keep them going an extra half hour (or more), unless they’re yelling for the toilet!
2. Small snacks
Pop lots of small snacks in separate pots/Nom Nom snack bags so they don’t eat too much at once.
3. Two lunch boxes
Pack a lunch box so they can eat a sandwich and snacks and also you have one in reserve if you get stuck in traffic. It also keeps them occupied and a hungry child is never good!
4. Limit drinks
Try to limit drinks in the half hour before you leave, then take several cups that only have 2-3 inches of water/squash in them. This means when they drink one you should be able to get 20 minutes until the next stop is needed. It also means they don’t drink too much, and feel sick or just really need a wee. A child screaming for the toilet on the motorway is never good.
5. Buckle toy
We used a homemade version of this buckle toy on our plane journeys too, but it mostly lives in the car. Let little one to the buckets up, matching the colours. We’ve also added zips and poppers to ours, which I made. So I’ll add a tutorial to the tutorials page ASAP!
6. Water colouring book
We love these water colouring books– mess free and occupy little one nicely.
7. Toddler laptop
Singing and learning songs and the abc’s are perfect car entertainment. Toddler H’s little Leap Frog toy laptop is a brilliant toy to bring out part way through the journey once the other toys have worn off. We love educational toys and singing toys. The road noise also dulls the sounds, which is brilliant from the front seats.
UPDATE: now H is 5, on long journeys with older children, ipads, Kindle Fire’s and tablets also work, but we usually try to keep them until the novelty of the magazine has worn off. On a trip from Cheltenham to Scotland I’d hope to keep them hidden until Lancaster. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!
8. Home comforts – a blanket
Toddler H has a Peppa fleece blanket she loves to snuggle with watching TV when she’s tired. We took it on holiday with us to Majorca, and also take it on car journeys so she’s lovely and snug. I’m not sure if it’s the same with all toddlers, but Toddler H loves her home comforts. I guess it’s reassuring and something the same while we’re away in a different place.
Let little one choose their own books to take. You will probably need to limit their choices but, if hey choose them right before leaving the house they’ll generally want to read them.
Of course all toddlers want to take their toys, but like with books, let them choose which they’d like to take and put in their bag themselves. Give them a small bag for his and that way they can reach for the bag and pick their toys during true journey. Again they just chose them so they’ll want to play with them.
11. Kids music CDs
Make sure to have toddler music on hand to start sing-alongs. We love this kids sing along CD (it had the best Amazon reviews) and wouldn’t travel without it. The Baby Einstein CD is also fab for encouraging sleep – just make sure you have coffee before playing it or you might feel tired too!
UPDATE: Disney CD’s are now a must have, especially the Frozen soundtrack, or Disney hits (Frozen, Moana etc. – the ‘big’ songs).
My toddler is obsessed with shouting “I need my sunglasses” at the slightest sunshine. We now keep her sunglasses in the car, those screams of “I can’t see, it’s too sunny” aren’t fun.
We do have window blinds but the sun always finds its way round them or through another window.
13. Travel potty
Even if your child has been potty trained for 6 months or more, they will still need the toilet. We found that by stopping in a lay by or in a service station car park we could save time by just using the My Carry Potty – it’s much simpler and quicker than all the time getting in and out of the toilets.
14. Baby wipes
Well I can think of anyone who would go anywhere without baby wipes… Just pop a packet in each car door pocket so they are easily accessible when putting a child in our out of the car, and to hand back of needed.
15. Car changing bag
Have bag ready with a change of clothes, wipes and pants/nappy (and changing mat if required). It makes running into the services for a change much quicker. You can also do a change on a seat or on the parcel shelf if you’re little one is a geeky monkey like Toddler H used to be, always pooing right as we left a service station.
One last tip has to be to just be prepared to stop lots. Be prepared to bribe. Be prepared for the journey to take 1.5 times or even double your normal time. Kids definitely add stops to a journey and each stop does add up.
Of course, road trips with toddlers are testing and it’s all about juggling the activities you allow them to play with so they can be occupied the whole time. We do all of the above and then breakout the DVDs and an Amazon Fire kids tablet or iPad. We always leave them for a very last resort, keen that they find ways to keep entertained instead of watching Peppa Pig on repeat. I say that, but on our last long car journey with toddler H to Scotland, she used the Kidloland app for the last hour and by the end could identify and trace most letters in the alphabet.
I do hope these tips for long car journey with a 2 year old toddler do help… and help if you’ve a journey with a 3 year old coming up too… If you’re after any more ideas my tips for flying with a toddler, and many from tips for flying with a baby would definitely also apply to road trips so do check them out too!