Vacationing with a child can be difficult & stressful. Before our daughter was born, my husband & I were big travelers. We wanted our travels to continue as a family after her birth. We have traveled by air, by ship & we have traveled by road as well. Road trips with a small child can offer some challenges, but they are possible & can be an enjoyable way to take your journey.
Our most recent trip was to the Kentucky Derby. My husband has a goal of completing a marathon in all 50 states, so we worked the Derby marathon into a fun filled vacation with the Kentucky Derby as our final destination. This trip spanned 2000 miles round trip. With that much driving time, it is important to make sure that you keep your young ones happy. Here are some tips for the road.
One of the advantages of road tripping is the ability to pack more freely. You don’t have to worry about the restrictions that come with commercial travel.
Pack all of your essentials. Check out our vacation & packing tips.
While most of your luggage stows away in trunk, there are many things that you should leave accessible for your travels.
Have snacks & drinks within arm’s reach.
Have a trash bag, hand wipes & napkins on hand to clean up spills & messes.
Leave out a change of clothes & diapers if still needed.
Pack books, IPads, movies & your child’s favorite blanket or toys to snuggle up with.
Itinerary & Timing
As they say, timing is everything. This is true with most things & especially when traveling with a small child.
If you are driving great distances that might require a full day of travel, traveling before their bedtime might help alleviate any travel disasters. Getting an early start or leaving at nap time will also take some stress off your journey. We had a 15 hour drive ahead of us. We woke our daughter early & let her sleep in the car for a couple of hours while we began our first leg.
Plan to stop at great points of interest along the way to break up your drive. Add this into your vacation plans.
We made an overnight pit stop in Niagara Falls en route to Kentucky.
Food & Drink
Stop for quick meals to stretch your legs & refuel. Eating on the run will work too if your child is content. Snacks will be your friend on a long trip. Just make sure to watch your child carefully when they are eating. Be sure to also have drinks on hand, but if possible try to limit their fluid intake while on the road to avoid frequent stops.
Our snack selection included:
Dry cereal (Fruit Loops & Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
Hershey Kisses for emergencies & a little bribery
It is your job to keep your little ones entertained. You might have to get creative.
I amused my daughter for a half an hour just by blowing bubble gum bubbles. If you find something that works for you, go with it.
Our daughter is a music lover. It was actually quite funny to hear our 3 year old request Matchbox 20 as we drove.
Climb in the back seat & read your kid/kids a book.
Play a game. Depending on your child’s age there are many fun games to play on the road. We played eye spy with cell phone towers & silos.
Talk to your child. Now is a great time to teach them things. Are they learning to count or their ABC’s? Point out animals & buildings along the way. There are many lessons that they can learn from the car seat.
I know many parents are not too keen on their children using electronics, but there are many wonderful learning apps for small children that will teach & entertain. An IPad can be a lifesaver on a long car ride. We saved this as a last resort, but it was successful in keeping Mai engaged on our full day’s journey home. Our daughter used a coloring & drawing app that had her talking and smiling for hours on the way home.
Our road trip went off without a hitch. Our little girl did great. We enjoyed every minute of our family time together. I can’t wait for our next trip. What are some of your best tricks for the road?