Road Trip with Toddler

Updated on April 19, 2011
T.S. asks from Dayton, OH
9 answers

Hi Moms! Our family will be taking a vacation in July to Oak Island, North Carolina. Our daughter is currently 13 months old, so will be almost 16 months old when we go on vacation. The drive will be probably around 12 hours with stops. I would like recommendations on what we can do to make the trip easier and to help to keep her entertained? We are thinking about buying a portable dvd player and attaching it to the back of the seat for her to watch. Do you have any recommendations on DVDs that she would like? We took a trip in October 2010 to Chicago for my sister-in-law's wedding and that was around a 5 1/2 hour drive. It was not too bad, but I had to sit in the back with her to help to entertain her when she was awake. Thanks!

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answers from Clarksville on

Does she have shows/ movies she already likes? If so I would just find them on dvd and bring them along. If she doesn't really watch t.v. I wouldn't spend the money on a dvd player, since it doesn't keep her entertained at home. When my kids were that age I would take stickers, paper, storybooks, small toys they loved to play with, and puppets.

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answers from Atlanta on

I would definitely recommend a DVD player for that long of a trip. You can save money and get a variety of DVDs for her to watch at the library. At that age, she might do better with TV shows on DVD instead of movies. Mine liked Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins, and Backyardigans. Also, ask some friends if they have some that you can borrow.
I also bought a bunch of very inexpensive toys and kept them for really tough spots on the trip. If she is really bored and upset you can distract her with a noisemaker or small stuffed animal. We put a small basket next to the seat and put board books, stuffed animals and small toys in it so that she could reach and get things herself to look at.
We also took a lullaby CD to play at nap time to encourage a regular sleep schedule. Finally, we played a sing-a-long CD of children's songs and had singing/dancing time when they got squirmy. Snacks are key too!
Best of luck! You may have some rough moments but traveling with kids is so worth it as you all benefit so much from a change of pace and environment. Have fun!

Mom of twin girls
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answers from Cleveland on

I agree that you should find "new" toys for the trip. Something that she won't get to play with until you are on the road. They make containers that go next to car seats and are great for storing goodies. Every time you stop to eat or play you can switch out the toys with a couple of new items. a ball or other outside toy for when you do stop is also a great idea, and stop often, every couple of hours, so she can run and play. This is important even if your kiddos are older to fight boredom.



answers from Houston on

My son has been taking road trips since he was a yr old, with his first being from Texas to Connecticut.

Keep a schedule and have an activity planned for every 20-30 mins or so. We never had a DVD player or let him watch movies, only b/c he would get fussy when we turned it [email protected] we didn't even consider having to deal w/that on the road. He did fine w/o it and we all survived.

If we were on the road by 7am, our schedule looked something like this:

7am lullaby CD (to keep things calm as we set out and had to find gas/way to the highway, etc)
7:30 Read along books (even if they can't read, at least they can hear someone's voice)
8 coloring (I highly recommend triangle crayons)
8:30 non battery operated toy
9 sugarless snack
9:30 books
10 another non battery operated toy
10:30 playdoh or wikisticks
11 battery operated toy
11:30-12:30 lunch
1 read along CD
1:30 lullaby CD
2-3 nap
3 sugarless snack
3:30 books
4 non battery toy
4:30 battery toy
5 start looking for a hotel!

Btw, we played singalong CDs most of the time as he was doing his activities.

GL and HTH



answers from Dayton on

We purchased a "taby tray" for our first long trip. It buckled under the carseat and had a cup to hold small toys and crayons, drinks, was very handy! I also wrapped small toys and let her unwrap them every so every new state as she got old enough to understand that.



answers from Dallas on

I took a similar trip last summer with my 4 yo and then 19 month old. I was traveling by myself. I got some great recommendations that helped a lot from mamas on this site. The DVD player will help. If you are interested in investing a ton of money in DVDs your daughter may not like, you might try the library, if you'll be back in time for their return. A ball helped a lot. Every rest stop I pulled it out for my kiddos. It helped them blow off some steam! Lots of snacks helped. We kept it healthy and I let them have water in the car. I also stocked up on toys at the dollar store and kept them hidden. When the kids got fussy or cranky I pulled it out. It seemed to distract them from a melt down. For my daughter I got stuff like hand puppets, little dolls, a new snack cup, etc. The best investment for our trip was a lap tray I bought. It was $9 at Target. They are kept with the car accessories. It's a soft tray, so your kiddo is safe during a accident. ANd it has raised sides. It attaches to the car seat straps so it doesn't fall off. It gave my daughter some place to play, hold her books. It also was a little lap table for her snacks. I only bought one for her to begin with and then we had to stop on the road for my son. It was also great for his car and figures. It kept things from falling. Have a safe trip!



answers from Columbus on

I recommend the dvd player - has always worked well for us. Don't know if you have a Once Upon A Child near you but they often have used dvds for cheap. If there's anything she likes now (or in July) a new one or two of them would be good - dora, the wiggles, angelina ballerina, etc. (my DD3 really likes strawberry shortcake now but also likes dora, the wonder pets and barbie; bakyardigans is cute, too) They usually like to watch the same one over and over (and over...) again, LOL!
I like the Crayola color wonder line because the markers are clear and only make colors when on the special paper but the markers have caps - don't know if she'd be able to put the caps back on? Crayons and paper are good - you'll just want to make sure the crayons all go back into their container - they will melt if left in a hot car (Sadly, I know this for a fact, LOL!) Crayola makes these triangular crayons for little ones (we also tried their TaDoodle Crayon Buddies but they never worked that well for our DD3 who was about 18mo at the time). Crayola also makes a Pip-Squeaks line with little colored pencils that might be good for her.
Books are always good.
Also might check out - I think they have travel stuff - maybe a desk that can attach to the car seat to give her a surface to color/play/read on?
Just thought of one more thing - you might consider taking a ball or something to play with at the rest stops - might help burn off a little energy!

Hope you find something that helps!

Have an AWESOME trip!


answers from Detroit on

Baby Einstein DVD's were a hit with my girls at that age. Barney is a really good one too. Maybe Dora? My oldest was not really introduced to Dora until she was about 2.5…not for any reason, we just didn't turn on the channel that had those shows. It was an INSTANT hit.

You may be able to rent for free at the Library. Do you have a Family Video in your area? They rent all kids movies for free. You can rent for a week and call them and say you want to rent for another week for free! Or you have to pay $1 late charge. Target has a few Barney movies for $5 which is not bad.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Plan on stopping every 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours for play time and or snack/meal time. She is going to be sore, cranky, tired, bored, happy, enjoying seeing new stuff, napping at odd times during the day and awake odd hours of the night, etc....

We map out our road trips with McDonalds and parks or school playgrounds planned as stops. She will need physical movement where she can run around and de-stress. Life will be much easier if you do it this way. A DVD lasts about an hour and a half. I would say stop after every movie.

On the other hand: If you leave late at night you can eat dinner, drive for an hour to 2 hours, stop for a late night snack and some play time, then count on her sleeping most of the remaining way. But think about would you like to be strapped on your back to sleep and not allowed to roll around, sleep on your tummy, all those wonderful things we take for granted. If you can lean her seat back quite a bit where it is still safely placed then that will help her to be more comfortable too. If she is not going to sleep you'll have to make more stops too.

This would be my plan if it were me:
Leave home, put in movie.
Let her have lots of fluids and have some safe snacks on hand
Stop for mid morning snack and play time. Spend about half an hour.
Drive another section. Do games, color, read books, play active things she can really get mentally in to like Dora or other cartoon characters she likes video games. Stop for lunch and bathroom breaks. Play about half an hour here too.
Plan on nap time for little one, play quiet music on laptop, plan on having ear phones on so driver won't take nap too...LOL. Ive snuggly blanket, have a snuggly available. Drive like crazy so you can make up for time lost playing at McDonalds.
As soon as she starts stirring to wake up look for signs for next food and play area. Maybe already have them listed and highlighted to save time. She'll need some extra play time now. She has refreshed and is fully ready to run to and fro the rest of the day. Expect a struggle when putting her back in the car seat. She knows what to expect now and will want to stay playing.
This would be either an early dinner or late afternoon snack.
Drive until she is starting to get hungry or restless from sitting too long. She is starting to get sore from sitting in the same position for too long. She needs to eat a full meal here and play. She may go back to sleep if she gets a full tummy. Maybe not but it can't hurt to try. Drive as much as possible until dark.
This should be the last stop before reaching your destination. She needs a late snack, play time, change into pj's, have drinks ready for bedtime ritual, do calm things with her to get her to go to sleep. If she has had too much sleep during the day she might be the crankiest baby at this time too. If so stop, get out, let her move, let her get tired. Then try again. Let her sleep until you get to your destination.

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