How To Stay Sane When Road Tripping With A Toddler (Yes, It Can Be Done)

Easy toys you can pack to keep your child entertained on the road! Photo courtesy of Chantal M. Shelstad of Scattered Seashells.

By Guest Contributor Chantal M. Shelstad, blogger extraordinaire at Scattered Seashells

Before you break out into a sweat and close your browser because, well, “it’s just not possible!” I’m here to tell you that yes, it is. You can go on a road trip with your toddler, and you can even go as far as all the way across the country. Now, we haven’t gone all the way yet, but I’m certain we could. We’ve done plenty of road trips of varying lengths with our daughter, and if we can do it with our rambunctious girl, anyone can.

My husband and I are fans of doing road trips when it comes to PCS time. We’ve driven from Colorado to Washington and back, from Colorado to Georgia, from Georgia to California, from California to Alabama, and from Alabama to Colorado. Those last two were done with my daughter, one when she was just a tiny two months old, and the other at 22 months. I’d argue that this past road trip was easier than when she was a young baby who slept all the time!

7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity Intact When Road Tripping With A Toddler

Here are some tips to survive your road trip with your toddler, be it a few hours or several days.

1. Drive less distance/time you would normally do by yourself. The trip from Alabama to Colorado can be made in three long days, but we decided to add an extra day to our drive. This made it our days shorter and allowed us to take our time. If we wanted to stop for lunch instead of doing the drive-through, we could. If she was having difficulty or was being fussy, we could let her get out to run.

Snacks = Sanity. Photo courtesy of Chantal M. Shelstad of Scattered Seashells.

2. Stock up on healthy snacks that your child loves. Snacks are a lifesaver! I made sure to have some of her favorite, non-messy snacks. Think healthy fruit snacks (not the ones that are pure sugar), apples, carrots, crackers, cookies, chips. Sure, they aren’t all healthy, but strive for the healthiest you can have. None of you should feel sick during a trip! Don’t forget snacks for you and your spouse.

3. Pack some fun, easy toys for the trip. I brought with us some of her big flash cards to go through, a set of small stacking cups, all her favorite people and animals, and various other knickknacks that we could toss back there. Books are especially good, and think of providing ones that offer a bit more stimulation: Touch & feel, ones with flaps, fun colors, and so on. You probably won’t be reading the book to your child, so they need something to make it worthwhile. Of course, bring all their favorites!

4. Think about stopping at a fun attraction or even a park to rest as a family. At one point, halfway through our trip, I found a park by the highway and we pulled over for half an hour. The playground was awesome, and it gave us all a chance to run and laugh together. If you build in that extra time, it’s so worth it.

5. Make sure you all get plenty of rest. Parents, get a good night’s sleep. The rules don’t apply for the road, so don’t even worry about naps. More than likely, your child will sleep in the car. Throw out your nap schedule, bedtime schedule, and just go with the flow. You’ll all need the rest you can get!

6. Interact! Talk, sing, ask questions, name colors, count… just keep a conversation going with your child. Especially if they are rear-facing, your child will lose some of that interaction they normally get during the day with you. Make them feel included in your trip.

7. If all else fails, whip out the iPad/Kindle/DVD player. This is sort of a cheat, but it helped SO much during our trip. We have a headrest iPad holder and about seven of her favorite movies uploaded to our devices. We could slip it right in and she would zone out for a while. This is a special treat if your child doesn’t normally watch a lot of shows. Remember, the rules are thrown out during a road trip!

Every child is different, and every parent is different, so you need to do what works best for you. For us, this combination worked wonders, and we survived our latest road trip without a scar and with only a couple tantrums. Good luck and get on the road everyone!

Chantal is a writer and a blogger over at Scattered Seashells, where she shares her family’s adventures, thoughts on parenting, and healthy living tips. She is married to an Army pilot and mom to a busy toddler girl. They are headed to Korea!  Follow Chantal’s adventures on Facebook and Twitter


  1. deployment_diva

    Love how these tips can be applied to ANY age!


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