Carla May and I went up to Mentone, Alabama, last weekend, a road trip that usually takes me six hours to drive by myself, so I had no idea what to expect with a toddler in tow. I put out a call for help on Instagram beforehand, and lots of mom friends shared their valuable advice with me. Including stops, the drive ended up taking us a little over seven hours each way. CM was a road warrior – only a little fussing and no tears! Here are our travel tips from the experience:
- Have a supply of snacks and drinks within easy reach. In the passenger seat next to me, I had a cooler stocked with cheese, fruit, water bottles (for me), and milk cups for CM (I like these because they don’t spill). I also had a bag full of snacks – puffs, cheerios, teething biscuits, etc.
- WARNING: Do NOT pass a pouch full of baby food back to your child, or it will end up all over your child and your backseat! (The photo below is actually from CM eating blackberries with her dad, but it is pretty representative of what she looked like when we finally stopped…)
- Which reminds me: Have an extra set of clothes and LOTS of wipes on hand, just in case!
- Even if (ESPECIALLY if) you are a no-screentime or limited-screentime family, buy or borrow a TV/DVD player for the car. I don’t let Carla May watch TV normally, only if she is sick or if it is an Alabama football game, so TV is still really special for her. We borrowed a player (similar to this one) from my sister-in-law, along with an assortment of DVDs, and it provided hours of entertainment for her and quiet for me.
- Have a bin full of toys and board books within easy reach of you. Whenever your kiddo starts to fuss or act bored, pass a new toy back. Bonus points if you bring things she/he hasn’t played with before. Double bonus points if you bring this toy (A sweet friend got this for her as a birthday gift, and in all seriousness, she played with it for hours).
- Plan out a few fun stops along the way, but BE FLEXIBLE. One friend recommended stopping at a great park near Birmingham that is conveniently located on the same exit as a Chick-fil-a. I had the address all plugged in to my GPS and looked forward to checking it out, BUT as soon as we got near the exit, CM fell asleep… Rather than wake her up, I just kept on driving and found a Chick-fil-a to stop at later on.
- Tourist traps make great stops! One of my favorite places to stop is Durbin Farms Market in Clanton, Alabama, a little town known for their world-famous peaches. CM and I shared a double scoop of peach ice cream and played amongst the pumpkins on display at the Market to break up the trip.
These sweet little duck overalls are so cute and soft and were the perfect traveling outfit.
- If you are traveling alone with a toddler, bathroom trips (for you) must be thought out in advance, something that never occurred to me before traveling alone with a toddler. Putting my daughter on the floor of a public restroom is out of the question, and leaving her in the car is frowned upon these days, SO I brought an easy-to-unfold umbrella stroller for restroom stops. This model is slim enough to fit in a handicap stall with you.
- Don’t forget to bring paper towels and trash bags! By the time we arrived at our destination, my car was a WRECK, but my happy traveler was well worth the clean-up.
- If all else fails on the entertainment front, pull out a box of tissues. Hand them back one by one and let your kiddo rip them to shreds. This valuable tip was shared with me by a friend who embarked on a 13 hour (!!!) road trip with her tiny tot, and she said it was a lifesaver during their last hour of travel.
Traveling with little ones can be a lot of effort, but new experiences are so good for young minds and so worth it!
Do you travel often with toddlers? What are your favorite travel tips and tricks?