Car Trip and 22 Mo Old

Updated on January 11, 2012
M.P. asks from De Pere, WI
16 answers

My husband and I are driving to FL (live in WI) in April. Our son will be 22 months at the time. Any car trip experienced moms have any tips for making the drive more comfortable/entertaining/bearable for our son? When we planned it, I figured driving would be fine, but now as it comes closer, I am spooking myself out and getting nervous!! Flying is not a possibility (driving is cheaper - we figured it out with plane tickets and car rental...). So, how do I help keep my toddler at ease while driving that far??

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answers from La Crosse on

we found a plastic lap table with pockets on the side at walmart for under $5. It had a small raised edge on it. It works perfectly for them to play on in the car and keep thier toys, books, crayon in the sides and the edge kept the things from rolling onto the seat/ floor.

Having or borrowing a portable dvd player would help.

Driving at night while he is asleep will work great! That way he is sleeping for most of the ride.

Lots of little stops to stretch out his legs and run off some energy.

Ipod/ mp3 player with head phones ( actual headphones not the ear buds) and a bunch of silly songs on it that he would like.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Feed them dinner, let them play and get sleepy, hop in the car and drive at night for as long as you can stand it.

I drove from TX to GA this way.

I also like PS's schedule. Great idea!

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answers from Washington DC on

We drove to Orlando from Maryland when our kids were 6, 4, and 2. We left about 630pm and got in around noon the next day. We drove through a crazy snow storm (December 2009). The kids slept most of the time and were ready to party when we got there!

They each had their own DVD player and DS or DSI with ear plugs. We have ways to charge all of them in the car. They also had on PJ's, and had their pillow's and blankets.

We packed a collapsable cooler with grapes, cheese, water bottles, and apple slices before we left. I also kept some "treat" snacks up front in case they needed them.

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answers from Washington DC on

Drive at night or nap times when you can. When kiddo is sleeping, keep the pedal to the metal and don't make any unnecessary stops or if you do stop, keep one person in the car so you don't move the kid.

Bring snacks. I like munchkin's snack cups. Bring sippy cups and a small cooler with juice.

Do plan a stop or two to get out and run/walk/change diapers.

Have a bag of toys - maybe new things or things he hasn't seen for a while. Let him investigate.

Consider a DVD player or baby laptop. Consider having one of you back there with him for part of the trip to interact with him.

My DD has about a 5 hour limit. Anything longer than that needs a dinner or lunch break for at least half an hour. Shorter can be shorter breaks.

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answers from Phoenix on

My kids are much older now but remember a trip we took with our daughter from So CA to MT. It normally took 2 days, it took us FOUR days! It seemed like we were stopping contantly for feedings, bathroom, changing, breaks, etc. So it will probably take longer than you think so plan for that. Good luck!!!

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answers from Houston on

We started taking road trips to CO, KY and all over the northeast up to Maine when my kid was 9 mos. We did all but 2 trips DVD free, only b/c our kid wasn't into watching when he was small. If your child likes watching, then I highly suggest a portable player. We love road trips and my kid never had a problem traveling.

I would completely stay away from sugar snacks. All the other suggestions on what to take are good. The only thing I would add are clip on battery operated lights (like a clip on light for bookreaders).

At 22 mos, I kept my kid on a schedule like this after bfast once we were on the road, something schedule every 30 mins. If one activity didn't last 30 mins, we just talked to him, sang or did what we could to keep him entertained until the next activity. I had one big bag of his activities, packed in ziplocks according to the schedule. That way, instead of digging around my bag, I could just reach into the bag w/o really looking, pull out a ziplock and hand it to my kid. When it was time for the next activity, I'd just throw everything in another bag. We never had more than one activity out (I hate traveling in a cluttered car).

gl! For our family, road trips are so much fun.

6:30 - 7am Music
7:30 Music - kids action songs (finger or sock puppets are fun)
8 Books on CD (so he could flip the pages when he heard the bell)
8:30 Reading aloud to him
9 Stop/snack/stretch
9:30 Art (playdoh, wikisticks, large popsicle sticks, post it notes. We bought a soft travel tray for him to use)
10 Sticker book - we bought him a notebook and give him a bag of large stickers. Google eyes, glow in the dark, and scratch and sniff stickers are great.
10:30 Coloring (Color Wonders are great for small kids, we wrapped them in velcro and gave him a sheet of velcro to keep them on so they wouldn't roll off the tray. As he got older, we bought triangle crayons.)
11 Non battery toys
11:30 Battery or electronic toys
12 Stop for lunch
1 (back on the road) Soft Music
1:30 Reading books aloud to him
2-3 Nap
3 Stop/snack/stretch
3:30 Music - kids action songs
4 Art
4:30 Coloring
5 Non battery toys
5:30 Battery or electronic toys
6 Stop for the day

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answers from Appleton on

With four kids (9, 7, 5, and 3) living in PA with all our family in Wisconsin, we had to make long car trips several times a year. We would get in the car at around nap time. Drive until dinner. Stop at a place with a play land or a park (if it's nice out) and let them run around for an hour or so. After dinner, we put them in their pjs and let them watch movies until they passed out. There are no bedtimes on car trips because they are impossible to enforce, plus it adds to the fun for them. Then, my hubby and I took turns driving through the night. By the time the kids woke up in the morning we were within a few hours of our destination.


1) beg, borrow, or steal (or buy) a dvd player. It is absolutely essential for us.

2) Pack lots of fun snacks that they might not be able to get any other time.

3) Hit up the dollar store for a few inexpensive toys that you can wrap and they can unwrap when they are feeling particularly antsy.

4) Most importantly....BE FLEXIBLE! You will never get where you are going at the exact time you want to be there. You have to be okay with that. You will most definitely have some hairy times....crying, whining, boredom (and that's just the parents)... If you look at it as an adventure, your kids will. If you are upset, tense, apprehensive, your kid will be too. Have fun! There is a reason my kids still request to drive everywhere instead of fly even though we can afford it now. They have wonderful memories of those trips :) Good Luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

There is some good advice here about when to drive so I will just add some toys that help keep my little ones busy in the car
Coloring...I printed out a bunch of basic shapes from online
Finger Puppets (Ikea has a great cheap set)
Pipe Cleaners...take a pringles can and poke holes in the lid to push them through
Pom Poms and a chip bag clip/clothes pin...sort in an egg carton/ice cube tray
Wrap some new little toys in tissue paper to give sporadically throughout the trip
I sewed a little blanket with buckles and buttons for more fine motor practice
ISpy bottles/beanbags...put little items in a bottle with rice/clear hair gel and glue the lid down

There are tons of great ideas on blogs and pinterest. Here are some of the links I saved before our last trip

I have even more but I don't want to overwhelm you :) Feel free to ask if you want anymore ideas.

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answers from Chicago on

Take a portable DVD player with movies that keep his interest. Lots of snacks and his favorite blanket. Toys. Plan on making frequent stops so he can walk around. Coincidence but we are also driving to FL in April. My youngest just turned 2. When we went out East this last summer. The DVD player and frequent stops worked great for us.

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answers from Seattle on

Yup. Drive at night.

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answers from Chicago on

Hmmm, he's a bit young for it for daily use, but perhaps just for the trip a Leap Pad. It is $99, works just like an iPad (meaning, my 2 yr old uses it almost as well as I do), and should provide a lot of entertainment. It is something that you might end up buying anyways when he is older.

For airline tickets--did you check Southwest Airlines? I know they fly from Milwaukee, allow 2 checked bags per ticketed passenger, and generally have good prices. Your son wouldn't need his own seat--you can hold him on your lap until he is 2. Considering the extra expense of hotels & food, and days off from work, it MIGHT be more cost effective.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I would get in the car in the evening and travel as far as possible while he plays with soft toys, is interested in the trip, or perhaps put a movie in a DVD player then stop and have an evening snack and put on jammies. Then get back in the car and drive for as far as possible until whomever is driving can drive no more.

I would think driving to Chicago and then stopping for the snack would be good. Then perhaps on to somewhere close to Indianapolis for the rest of the night.

I personally liked to drive at night when the traffic was lighter and I could just go, drive and not have anyone else awake to distract me. Since the trip is about 24 hours of just driving I would plan on stopping every 3 hours for either a snack or meal with play time scheduled for each stop.
Stop at a hotel for the rest of the night. I would say the next morning you have some choices to consider while planning out the trail.

Option 1.

You can get up super early and the other adult drive while the child remains asleep and the driver from last night continues to sleep too. Then you can get some more miles on the trip before stopping for a good breakfast. I would dress the toddler at that time and perhaps change drivers back too. I would also choose some place that has a playground so the toddler can run amok and get some of his energy out.

Then after that everyone get back in the car and start on the road again. Schedule would be like this. Breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack.

Option 2.

Drive in the evening as far as possible then stop for a late evening snack. Go to a hotel and have some play time by the pool and use the amenities as long as they are open. Go to the room and get a full nights sleep. Everyone wake up in the morning, maybe 7-7:30am and get dressed for the day, everyone awake. Eat breakfast at the hotel as part of the bill.

Travel as much as possible until about 9:30 or 10am then stop and have a snack at a place with a playground where your child can run around and play out all his energy. He will probably go to sleep for a while after getting back in the car too.

In my experience while traveling with smaller children it is good for an adult to be beside them to pick up toys and be able to distract them so the driver can just drive and watch traffic.

The toddler needs to be able to enjoy the trip too.

He also is going to realize once he has been in the carseat for a while that each time it's time to get in the vehicle he is going to fight it like a wild cat. My friend who traveled to Houston to look at houses for a move had to have 3 people hold her toddler down to strap him in. He cried for a little bit but he got over it.

Going on a trip in a car with a small child is fun but trying to the nerves if you don't take your time and allow the child to have some normal things, like playing time. A small child needs that. They can't tell you "Hey, my hiney is getting numb here. I WANT TO GET UP FOR A WHILE!!!!".

They just get whiny and cranky and try to let you know the only way they know how.

I would drive from Green Bay to Chicago, over night stop, then to Indianapolis, stop, then to Louisville for lunch, then on to Nashville for a snack, I might stop somewhere around here for the night but it might be still light. Depends on how the day went. If he can get more travel done then go on and keep moving.

Nashville might be about half way so if you could do the trip with one night in a hotel and 10-12 hours each day that might be the way. I think I would take a more leisurely aspect and stay 2 nights in hotels and make more stops. It would be a much more pleasant trip in my mind. Like Indianapolis, Atlanta then on into Florida.


answers from Santa Fe on

The most our 22 month old can handle is about 4 hours of driving. We could probably push it to 5 hrs. Drive a couple hours in the morning. Stop and do something active then eat lunch. Drive as far as you can get while they nap! Stop and do something where your toddler can run around. Then drive a little more. Our toddler hates sitting more than 2 hrs so nap time is a good time to get some driving in. The other thing we will do is leave after dinner and have our toddler fall asleep for the night. We can drive 2 hrs and then she will fall asleep at 8pm and we can get in another 3 hrs of driving before we feel too tired. A DVD player is helpful. We read a lot of books and bring a bag of toys. We point out things out the window and sing songs. Good luck! If you are planning on driving about 5 hrs a day you will be fine. If you are planning on 8-10 hr driving days it will be very very hard or impossible.



answers from Philadelphia on

What worked best for us was traveling at night or nap time, but that doesn't work for the whole trip. The other thing I did was look up playgrounds in towns we were driving through every 3-4 hours. We would try to time it with snack or lunch and play for 20-30 minutes before getting back in the car. I'm not sure how far your trip is, but if you start in the morning, make a stop for lunch and play time, hope he naps some in the car and then stop to play and eat dinner, then finally put on PJs and drive the rest of the way through the night while he sleeps. While our son was awake we did activities very similar to P S, only getting one thing out at a time, not because I don't like a cluttered car, but because it helps to have just one activity for him to focus on at a time. You don't want to go through everything in your bag in the first hour.



answers from Milwaukee on

Hello. I just thought I'd let you know that someone else has done it. We are also from wis. And we had 2- 3 year olds at the time. That was 30 years ago. I don't think we even had to where seat belts back then but we brought lots of little things to do in the car. And believe it or not the kids did sleep alot just becuz car rides are so boring. We stopped when we wanted and didn't feel rushed about it, so that helped. And we drove straight through, taking turns driving. Believe it or not it ended up being great. Spending time with your child. Singing, reading, coloring... whatever you can think of. Make sure you keep your mood light and don't let your child upset you. And you should have a decent trip. I wish you lots of luck and hope it turns out good for you.
On our ride home one of the kids got chicken pox while we we're in Florida, so the ride home wasn't quite as fun ;)
That is my experience with that. Hope yours is as fun.



answers from Minneapolis on

Magnadoodle, lots of books, and lots of snacks. They can eat constantly in the car, and the novelty of the next snack keeps them happy, lol! If you live near a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods or other health food store, you can try a variety like dried fruits, fresh fruits, yogurt pouches, natural chips, etc. A new toy just for travel can help make it a positive experience, too. Singing along with familiar CDs can take up time as well. I drove by myself from Minneapolis to Columbus, OH with my then 3y/o and 15m/o, with an overnight or two stop with friends about halfway through each leg, and for the most part, unless we were stuck in traffic, they did great - no movies or anything!

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