Car Travel with a 23 Month Old

Updated on May 06, 2015
S.B. asks from Burlington, VT
15 answers

We have a family vacation coming up that will involve a couple of plane rides and several long car rides. Our 23 month old is a healthy and outgoing regular toddler. Between us I'm dreading the car rides. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions about how to make this trip something manageable and even enjoyable. One suggestion that I keep hearing is investing in a travel dvd player. If you agree could you please suggest a reliable and affordable brand? Thanks for your time.

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answers from Omaha on

We drive 18 hours twice a year to visit our family, so we spend a lot of time in the car. We have been doing this since our son was 4 months old (he is 4 years old now). As much as my husband and I can stand it, we drive at night, so our son can sleep during a lot of the drive. I highly recommend that strategy if you are able to trade off on driving.

I think the DVD player is a good suggestion. We have a Phillips one that has worked well for us.

For one trip, when my son was your son's age, I wrapped up different toys. Every hour or so (if he was getting restless), I would give him a toy to unwrap. It would take him a while to unwrap the toy, so that would be part of the fun and would occupy him a while. Then, he has something new to play with for a little while. I bought 2-3 really small toys at Target ($3 or less), but I also wrapped up some of his own small toys to play with. Some of the toys I wrapped, I hid them for a little while, so he didn't play with them for a couple of weeks before the trip. Then, it was like a brand new toy to him, even though it was his own.

I hope you enjoy your vacation!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Plan lots of stops so that your little one can get out and run around, maybe bring a ball or favorite outside toy. When we went on a long trip I bought my son a few new toys and also packed a large bag of toys too. It really helped. Make sure you have tons of healthy fun snacks too. Good Luck and have fun.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

We have a travel DVD player and it is awesome. I dont know the brand, sorry, and it's in my husband's car at work. We also have a DVD case that has speakers built in, and the straps can go over the headrests of the two front seats, putting it in the middle. It is great. Without the extra speakers its very hard to hear sometimes in the car.

I also would recommend the Color Wonder markers, since they can only mark on certain paper and not on your car.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I don't have a brand suggestion, but I would highly recommend one that plugs into your car lighter. I have a portable DVD player and I can't tell you how much I've spent on batteries, at this point I'm sure it's more than I saved going with the less expensive player. Also I would recommend using Redbox for DVD rentals if you have one in your area and in the areas where you are traveling to. Rentals are $1.00 per night and there is no due date. They can be rented in one location and returned to any Redbox in the country. You can check out for more info, and to find out if there are locations wherever you're going to. Have a great time.



answers from Detroit on

My wife spends a lot of time in the back seat of the car with our toddler. She keeps them pretty occupied. We found a product that helped us heaps at night time. It clips to your car interior light. It lets the family read books and play games in the back when it is dark outside. It doesn't distract the driver either. (you can buy it online at



answers from Boston on

We have travelled a lot with our three year old daughter and we chose not to buy a DVD player. If we are driving, we play games (what color is that car? Do you see any cows? etc) and when flying, we have small toys, coloring books, magnet boards, etc). Her little Dora always tags along. This summer, we are flying Jet Blue to Colorado for a hiking trip in Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park and they have TVs, so I'll see what I've been missing without a DVD player and probably love it. I only have one child and want to enjoy interacting with her while she is young and still likes me! Good Luck.



answers from Portland on

I traveled in a car several times with my granddaughter at that age. We were in the car for approximately 3 1/2 hours. I stopped about half way so that we could get out and she could run around. I took a few toys and books as well as kids' CDs. Even tho my granddaughter is high energy I had no difficulty. She just seemed to understand that sitting in her car seat was necessary. She often fell asleep.

I think what helped is that I didn't expect to have any difficulty. We talked just a little bit about what to expect and I had her help me pick out which toys, books, and CDs. I talked and sang with her in the car when she started to get restless. And I was willing to stop any time we needed to stop.



answers from New York on

I have a cheapo DVD for the car and it works fine. You can pick one up for under $100 in Walmart. Don't forget, you will also need the case that straps on to the back of the headrest and earphones. I use the sony earphones (for kids) but keep in mind they are very fragile. It's easy to snap them in half. My daughter broke 2 pairs already.

Otherwise, books and toys and snacks should do the trick. And when you stop, encourage a little running.



answers from Boston on

I just got back from a 7.5 hour car ride with the 26 month old twins I nanny for. These two travel a lot. One thing I would suggest is to save the "big guns" like new toys or dvd players as a last resort. We went for something like 3 hours without a dvd because they were fine just sitting in the back talking and then listening to music.

That being said, here's some DVD player advice: One of the twins likes DVDs and the other doesn't. If your little one doesn't sit long for movies, the DVD player won't work. So, I'd suggest test driving movies from the library before you go out and buy a ton. Our travel DVD player is a Sony DVP-FX930. I'd also highly recommend the Fisher Price headphones (available at Target) because they are perfect for little ears and are super tough and throw-resistant. We like that DVD player because you can swivel the screen to hide the part that opens (and the button that opens the DVD compartment) and also lock the front buttons so they can't turn it off. We don't use any car harness to hold it up...but that could also be a good investment (or just sit with your toddler with the DVD player on your lap).

We bring ALL of the following on plane and car trips: food in big tupperware containers that they can use like a tray (eating meals takes up a huge chunck of our trips - bring wet paper towels in a baggie for cleanup), STICKERS (that they stick on themselves, you, your face, wherever), aquadoodles/magnadoodles, books (preferrably new ones/library rentals or their favorites so they hold their attention), CDs, a bag of mixed little toys from the house, a bag of new toys (think Matchbox cars or dollar spot at Target that I hide and pull out as a "big gun" if needed) and their lovies/comfort blankets (to encourage naps).

Good luck and just have fun!



answers from Boston on

unless your child enjoys watching tv and it keeps him/her entertained I would not go that route. we took 2+ hour car rides on a regular basis when my son was that age and never had a problem. he mostly slept in the car or you can give them fun little toys - we used those chunky cars that are appropriate for toddlers along with playing little games to have him notice the things outside (lets see how many motorcycles/tractor trailers/red cars etc we can find) also take breaks & let them run around in a safe area of the rest stop if they start getting restless.



answers from Boston on

We travel several times a year btw 3-5 hr trips, my daughter is 26 months. We bring a tote bag with books, a few fave stuffed animals, and a few electronic toys she can play with (pushing buttons, playing music). We try and time it so we travel from lunch thru the afternoon so she naps.

To keep her from being bored, we try and play peekaboo games, and now we start singing songs or doing ABCs.

If it's the 4-5 hour drive, we usually stop for lunch (if she's awake), it helps break the drive up a little. We've also stopped and done the picnic lunch thing so she can run around for a half hour.

When things get too ugly, one of us gets in the back seat and plays peekaboo or other tactile things to mix it up.

Good luck!



answers from Hartford on

We drove to florida (two 14 hour days, including stops) with our son at age 2 and on the trip down, we did not have a dvd player (i was morally opposed, after all, I didn't need anything like that). Put it this way- while in florida we went to best buy and bought a player! Made the ride home MUCH easier. We bought the generic best buy brand (can't remember the name) and it has a swiveling screen so that the toddler won't be tempted to press buttons.
Other tricks- get treats for the ride that they don't usually get, make a play list of kids songs on your mp3 player and get some old fashioned (non ear bud) head phones, my son thought that was really cool.
Also, those books that you press buttons and they make noise- will keep them busy for awhile. Also little prizes-balls, stickers. anything that HE can do himself without being frustrated. Hope this helps and have a safe trip.
ETA- read another mom's suggestion about aqua doodle! Those are the BEST! Non messy, and soft!



answers from Lewiston on

We travel alot and dont have a travel dvd but it is a good idea. I find new toys, books, and miniature color books with crayons help a great deal! I also usually bring one toy that is an all time favorite. We often sing songs and play some of her favorite cds for her.


answers from Burlington on

Two additional ideas that may work for you:

1. If possible, consider sitting next to your child. My husband and I drive across country every year (32 hours each way!) and we take turns sitting in the back seat. with our son. We tell stories, talk about what our son can see out the window, play silly games, sing and dance along to the radio, feed him, etc.

2. You don't say exactly how long the rides are or when they're in the trip (after a plane ride? before a plane ride?), but maybe you could change your mental approach to the car trip? If you aren't in a hurry because you have to catch a flight or be somewhere at a certain time, relax and have fun! It can be a great time to "hang" with your child and forget about other responsibilities (work, cleaning the house, whatever).

Good luck!

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