19 answers

Seeking Advice on Car Travel with 1 1/2 Year Old

I'm considering taking a trip with my son who is 1 1/2 next month. I would be the only driver and the trip is an 8 hour trip. My son is a typcial toddler who doesn't enjoy being in a car for longer than an hour at a time. I'd like some tips/advice/encouragement from those of you that have travelled with toddlers? I'd like to visit my dad, but I'm stressed about the thought of traveling with my son for that long alone.

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Well I decided to try to look into flights. Driving is just so daunting for me to do alone!

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I know he's young but can you rig up a DVD with kiddie movies or videos that are at his level? This has helped a two-year-old grandchild who used to just scream and scream. Frequent stops, music he likes, things you can hand him that he considers special - toys, foods, comfort items - I imagine you've thought of these things. Also, knowing the time of day that would be best for him - maybe when he's sleepy.

Good luck!

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When we took our first trip to the family cottage 7 1/2 hours away in Canada our girls were almost 4 and 2 1/2. We had more adults in the car than you did, but most of the things I did with them you could do alone. I packed an activity bag for each of them - that they could easily get into by themselves. In it I had a few of their favorite toys, books, crayons and a small pad of paper to color on. I kept snacks & water bottles in the front seat with me, so that I could control how much they ate/drank at a given time. Our oldest was potty trained, so we didn't want her to get so much water that we had to stop every 30 minutes!! Even though our youngest wasn't potty trained, every time we stopped at a rest area or to use a restroom, we all got out of the car to stretch our legs and let the girls run a little bit. We didn't stop at every one, but we stopped often enough. Because you are alone, I would put the snacks on the front seat where you can easily get them. Also, if your son isn't normally in the center of the back seat, I would move him there for the trip just so that you can reach him easily. You may find that he sleeps more, possibly in shorter periods of time, but I wouldn't count on it - we left in the late afternoon that first time hoping they would spend the first couple of hours taking a nap, we were about 5 hours into the trip when they finally fell asleep for 30 minutes!! We've talked about getting the portable DVD player for the girls, but have managed to do the trip 2 times (going on 3) without it and haven't had a problem.

1 mom found this helpful

I took a trip from MI to FL this spring with our one year old. She has never liked car rides or car seats for that matter from day one so I knew it would be some what of a challenge. We took some of her favorite small toys and we had plenty of food because at that age she did not eat very much adult food. We had snack traps that let her hold her snacks but they didn't get all over. They are available at Toys or Babies R Us. We would stop every couple of hours or so, so that she could get out and move around. Maybe take a ball in the trunk or something that he can chase when you get out of the car to burn some steam. I think because it is just the two of you, maybe you could read up on some car games like pointing things out that he can recognize cars, boats, animals etc. this way you are interacting with him most of the way. Good luck and have fun. You won't regret it!

1 mom found this helpful

If you can handle it leave about an hour before his bed time that way he will sleep most of the trip. Have your dad watch him while you catch up on your sleep. Or try leaving at nap time make sure you have something to keep him busy. 16 years ago I used to travel alot with my son the doctors advice at that time was to give him a over the counter med that would make him sleep it worked to a point I didn't feel right about it he was interested in video games so I bought him a game boy when he was around 2 it worked it would keep him occupied for a couple of hours. I would then stop get gas a couple of snacks and drinks at a gas station next to an open lot or close to a rest area then I would let him run around the rest area or even at times McDonalds where they had the play areas let him play for 20 mins or until he was board then back in the car. It takes longer to get places that way but he would then sit for a few hours sometimes 3 or 4 before we needed to stop again. The key is to find something that will entertain them. If you leave an hour before his afternoon nap you may cover both bases he will take his nap you can stop get dinner let him play than it will be close to bed time. You need to figure out which schedule would be best for him and you.
Another thing make sure his car seat is well padded for him if you have to add some behind him and under him. put his seat behind the passanger seat so you can reach back and touch him and talk to him he will feel more involved if you have a conversation with him and he can see you.
I have a friend who drove to florida with two small children around that age she bought a portable DVD player and took along there favorite movies that worked for her.
Good luck. Have a safe trip

i travel w/my 15 mth old for a 6 hour trip ever since she was 3 mths old alone. depending on her mood, we can just stop once for gas, or 3-4 times... i keep a bag of toys/books and snacks beside me in the passenger seat and hand them to her when she gets fussy. if that doesn't please her then i know it's time to stop. i've also traveled in the evening w/her thinking that she would sleep...well that didn't work for me. she was up the entire trip minus the last hour and NOT in a good mood. i figured that at night, she doesn't have anything to look at, so now i travel in the day. however, i will be making a trip to myrtle beach, and i'm going to try to do that at night, but for that trip i might get a dvd player?...so we will see how that goes.
all i can tell you is to take your time...it's not important at what time you get there, just as long as you get there safe. and to stop as much as needed. take a stroller in w/you at rest stops unless you can use the bathroom while holding your little one...lol.
hope this helps, and have fun!!!

We actually just traveled with our 14 month old. The trip would have been like 10 hours, but we split it in half. We got a hotel room. I know it seems like a lot, but all three of us were in much better moods than we would have been. I also packed slot of snacks that could be distributed easily from the front seat includng dry fruit, raisins, and French fries. No crackers or anything of the like because the crumbs would be everywhere. I also packed a few sippy cups. We also made sure to play a lot of music and try to make eye contact with her as often as possible. Also, no driving at night for us. As soon as it gets dark and she can't see out of the window all he'll breaks loose.

My family is not from here, to get "home" to visit grandparents it takes 8 hours also. We have been traveling long car rides since my girls have been born! Things that helped at that age were, getting extra sleep during the day and leave around 6pm and travel through the night so that your young one can sleep in the car while you travel. If traveling through the night is not an option, other things that work for us is to make sure they were surrounded with their favorite toys in the back seat, we took snacks to have in the car, and of course if it is a possibility when all else fails, the portable car DVD system to pop in their favorite movie never fails!

Good luck with your trip!

All of the other advice is top notch. When we took my son from MI to NY, we also included a "car" for him to drive. It has a steering wheel and music and everything. The sounds were pretty annoying, but they were much better than him crying and/or asking to get out. What activities can she do while strapped in to make her feel like she is "helping" or important? That timing advice is really the best. My parents would do it on our 12 hour trips when we were teenagers.

We just took a trip with our 1 1/2 year old (about 6 hour drive). One thing that was a life saver was when she started to get cranky and needed to get out and blow off some steam we would get off on an exit and look for a church or school with a playground and let her play on it for a few minutes. Snacks were great and her favorite cd and a few small new toys to play with.

I traveled from MI to Texas when my son was that age - needless to say much longer than 8 hours, then to Baltimore, MD just a few months later! The things that worked for me were the DVD player - I normally don't let him watch that much TV during the day but made an exception for the car - it saved both of us a lot of sanity. Snacks are a must - have them be easy things you can just hand him that he can do without help (the snack traps are great). When we stop for meals on the road, we do a playland (like McDonalds or something) and he plays while we eat, then we bring his food to go which takes up some driving time with him eating. Do chicken nuggets and fries, again, stuff he can do without much help. And he will get some energy out playing and you can eat while watching him. We stayed away from rest stops - I personally don't feel really safe at most of them - I prefer places with lots of people around. And the last thing is traveling at night doesn't work for us - my son will nap in the car just fine, but any longer sleeping and he gets uncomfortable (tries to roll over), plus his head begins to hang down and his neck hurts so that wakes him up. But I would do what you think will work best for your fam! Good luck to you and have fun! I'm sure it will be great!

8 hours IS a very long trip for a toddler and mom alone. With the cost of gas, maybe you should fly to see your dad. Kids under 2 fly free as long as they sit with you plus it would add time visiting with your dad if you weren't on the road that extra 16 hours.

2 months ago I did an 8 hour trip alone with my son, he was 17 months. All I can say is a DVD player was our savior. He was great up until the last 20 mins. Don't plan on getting there in record time (our trip took almost 10 hurs.) We stopped every 2 hurs at rest areas and I let him run for about 15 mins each time. I also packed snacks and juice, water and milk that I gave to him every couple of hours too. Just take your time, stop when you need to and don't stress too much about it. Good Luck!

Drive during the night when he would normally sleep.

Will he sleep in the car if he's tired? I would suggest leaving at his bedtime that way he'll (hopefully) sleep for the majority of the trip. I made a 9 hour trip last year with my son, but he was only 10 months old at the time. This summer we'll be taking a 6 hour trip, when he's almost 2. We plan on bringing a portable DVD player along as well as crayons, books, etc.

Hi Loziermusic,
I think a good attitude goes a long way. Don't dread it. Give yourself plenty of time, basically don't be on a schedule. My husband and 2 boys (4 and 2) just got back from Mackinac Island, which is a 4 hour drive from our house. We got up early brought some cereal for the kids in the car and then stopped after about an hour and had breakfast and to let them play at a little park for about 20 minutes. Then after 2 hours we stopped at a nice rest stop for a potty break and to let them run. We played tag so they could get some energy out. Then they napped for the rest of the way. I also went to target and bought some cheap toys that they hadn't seen. They love matchbox cars so I got a few of those and packed some snacks and the trip went really well. Good luck and have fun.

I know it's a bit of an investment, but I'd try a portable DVD player. We have one, but haven't used it to travel yet. I've heard that it helps pass some time away. Otherwise, I'd just pack lots of things to do, and eat. I hope your travels will be peaceful! Good luck!


I know he's young but can you rig up a DVD with kiddie movies or videos that are at his level? This has helped a two-year-old grandchild who used to just scream and scream. Frequent stops, music he likes, things you can hand him that he considers special - toys, foods, comfort items - I imagine you've thought of these things. Also, knowing the time of day that would be best for him - maybe when he's sleepy.

Good luck!

Drive during his sleep time. Go to bed early the night before so you are rested but then leave at one or two in the morning. He should sleep in his carseat at that time. When he wakes up you can get him some breakfast to eat in the car and then he may only have an hour of just sitting there awake. Our portable DVD player has been a life saver for us on long trips. Get a new movie to keep his interest.

It's a little intimidating to do a long drive with children and one adult. I bet you'll find that your son will sleep for a good portion of the trip. Build in extra time for frequent stops (for you and him) and just take it nice and slow. Make sure you have the snacks and drinks readily available so you're not digging for something while driving. Take along his favorite children's CDs and an accessable bag of toys. Maybe think about a neck pillow, too (he really will sleep through most of it). We have traveled quite a bit with our children and they do very well. Make it an adventure! Good luck to you - you'll be just fine!

If you can, drive at night. It is the easiest way I know of to do it. I have done it before, and the trip was a breeze. Yeah, I was a little tired, but try to get a nap during the day before leaving and bring enough caffeine and protein packed food items. Good luck!

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