Are you planning road trips with a toddler? A family road trip with kids can be an epic adventure for the whole family if you plan it right.
Many parents are taken back by the thought of having a baby or toddler at the back of the car for hours, but road trips with a toddler don’t have to be daunting!
In this post, we will share our best travel tips for road trips with a toddler. We will cover the best interactive activities to do, healthy snacks to prepare, the best toys and books to bring for your toddler, and you will find a nursery rhymes playlist at the end of the list to help you put together a road trip with ease.
When you’re ready to hit the road, be sure to use our interactive packing list to minimise the things you need to remember!
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1. Schedule Your Road Trips Around Toddler’s Naps
There’s nothing more peaceful than having a sleeping angel in the car. Make your road trips with a toddler easier by scheduling the drive around your toddler’s nap times.
Many parents have realised that kids fall asleep easily in a moving car. Perhaps the white noise from the road resembles the familiar environment of the mummy’s womb, or perhaps it’s the rocking motion.
Some toddlers can sleep up to 3 hours as long as the car is moving. Some toddlers instinctively know when you’re almost arriving at the destination.
Either way, schedule a section of the long drives around your toddler’s nap time can give you a much-needed break!
2. Have Regular Stops & Break Up The Road Trip
Many parents prefer to get to the destination as soon as possible when they’re on road trips with a toddler. However, we often forget that road trips are about the journey of getting to your destination. When you look back in the future, the best part of a road trip is usually the funny family sagas or the to-cry-or-to-laugh toddler dramas that has happened on the road.
While it may be tempting to avoid the hassles of stopping for toilet breaks, having regular stops allow you to explore new and unplanned territories and give everybody a chance to refresh, stretch their legs, and recharge. Treat pitstops as reset buttons.
If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, perhaps scheduling extra time ahead and find points of interest en route to your destination will take some road trip stress out of the family.
So chillax and break up the road trips into small drives of 30 minutes or so.
Pit stop ideas
- Pit stop at a petrol station, perhaps reward your toddler with an ice cream if they’ve been good? Or a bathroom break.
- Check if there are any local markets on.
- Pullover to enjoy the rural / landscape scenery.
- Stop at a park for lunch or morning/afternoon teas.
Play a countdown game with your kids at every stop. That way, you set clear expectations and make the road trip seem so much shorter.
Kyra often asks me, “Mummy, how many minutes more?” Even though I know she doesn’t have a precise concept of time, I still update her with “just 10 more minutes!” or “when you finish xxx”. Then I get her to do a final countdown from 10 right before arriving at the next stop.
This simple activity gets her excited with anticipation, and she feels mighty proud that she could do a ‘random’ countdown all the way from 10! Be sure to praise your toddler and get excited as well when she gets to the last 1 second!
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3. Bring Healthy Snacks & Water Bottle
Most parents already know this, so we will simply remind you that healthy snacks still work wonders! Bring a no-leak water bottle, and only fill water inside! Sugary drinks will make the kids more thirsty.
Snacks are life-savers and are essential for road trips with a toddler. Bring snacks that are low in salt and saturated fat. If you don’t want to your toddler to make a big mess in the car, dry snacks that don’t leave crumbs are ideal to bring – for example, dried fruits, fresh berries, mixed nuts, and veggie sticks.
Don’t forget to bring a container like this one below to keep all the snacks dry, clean and organised.
6 Types of Healthy Snacks for Road Trips
- Fruits: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, apple & pear slices
- Dried Fruits: dried cranberries, raisins, dried apricots, dates
- Nuts: almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts
- Whole Grains: popcorn, rice crackers, breadsticks, granola bars, dry cereals
- Vegetables: bit-sized cucumbers, soft carrots, red capsicums
- Dairy: yogurt pouch, little milk packs, cheese sticks, hummus
4. Our Favourite Toys & Books for Road Trips
Don’t bring your toddler’s toy box, choose just a few of the favourites. The best types of toys to bring on road trips with a toddler are the ones that don’t create a hot mess and can erase, rebuild, or take a long time to figure out.
We love these tiny pocketbooks that are perfect for our toddler’s little hands. Kyra loves to draw, so we brought her drawing journal, washable markers, and a Magic Sketch boogie board, which she can erase with a press of a button, and redraw.
Road Trips with a toddler alone?
If you’re alone with a toddler at the back, the only safe interaction with her is through music and sounds. This is why toys with sounds and noises are the best type of toys to bring when you’re road tripping with a toddler alone.
We recommend toy story sound books. These books have a variety of sounds to keep kids entertained for a long period of time. You can join the conversation or story-telling while keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Our toddler is currently a die-hard fan of Peppa Pig, and she couldn’t get enough of her new Peppa Pig story sound book with colourful buttons, music and story-telling! When we finally pulled up at our destination during this road trip, I cheered, “Yay, we’re here.” and Kyra creatively pressed a button, and Daddy Pig mumbled, “That’s good.” in a very silly voice. We both had a good laugh and started our holiday with a lightened mood.
Don’t forget to use a car backseat organiser with a foldable table tray to keep snacks, bottles, toys and little things in place.
Toddlers Car Seat Tray Organizer
- Large Tablet & Cup Holder
- Waterproof Food & Snack Lap Tray
- Road Trip Activities for Kids
- Travel Games for Kids in Airplane
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5. Avoid Technology on Road Trips
We don’t encourage technology in our family, especially in a moving car. Watching movies or using an iPad in a moving car cause headaches for our kids. Focusing on a screen for a prolonged period of time is also bad for their eyes.
Besides, do you really want to be on a family road trip where everyone does their own thing? Shoving your toddler an iPad strips away valuable family time, which is one of the many reasons why we go on road trips in the first place, right?
After long hours of screen time, toddlers are mentally exhausted and therefore become emotional. Speaking from experience, our toddler always gets really fussy after a long period of screen time.
So despite almost every other family travel blog out there suggesting bringing your iPad and load it with your toddler’s favourite movies & apps, we vote against technology. So, what other activities can you do on road trips with a toddler?
6. Best Activities for Road Trips with Toddler
One of our favourite road trip interactive activities is playing the scavenger hunt card games with our kids. You can either purchase the scavenger hunt card games like the ones below. Or do some DIYs at home! We encourage DIYs to boost family bonding. Your toddler will be far more likely to stay engaged and look forward to the upcoming road trips where they can put their artwork to use.
Create your own games
Perhaps get the kids to count the number of motorcycles, cyclists, or red cars on the road. Draw some vehicles at home and cut them out. Bring the cards with you on road trips and ask your toddler to spot these vehicles on the road!
You can teach her to count, recognise colours and imitate the noises the vehicles are making. Ask your toddler to describe what she sees and improves language skills. This activity not only keeps your toddler busy and entertained on the road, but will also teach her different types of vehicles, shapes and colors.
You could turn up a notch for the older kids and challenge them to find plate numbers with xxx or street names that start with xxx, etc. Kids often need parents to guide them through games and conversations, so don’t forget to be involved in the activities! Set a goal, and give them lots of praises when they reach a goal.
If you’re travelling in rural regions, get your toddler to spot some farm animals on either side of the road. If they have siblings, start a friendly competition!
7. Compile a Nursery Rhymes Playlist
Toddlers have an abundance of energy to unleash, of course they will not like sitting in a car for hours. So get your toddler to clap her hands, kick her legs, wave her arms, and wriggle along as you turn up her favourite nursery rhymes.
You can jazz up the atmosphere in the car by either burn your own CD or purchase some music CDs that are children’s favourites, like Disney singalongs and nursery rhymes.
Prepare 2 CDs, one is a compilation of lullabies, for when you want to put your toddler to sleep. And the other one is a compilation of sing-along upbeat nursery rhymes.
To help you get some ideas, here are 36 nursery rhymes that we have on our CD.
36 Nursery Rhymes
- My Teddy’s Got The Wiggles
- Zippity Zap
- Ba Ba Black Sheep
- Itchy Bitsy Spider (Incy Wincy Spider)
- The Mulberry Bush
- The Wheels On The Bus
- Baby Shark
- Five Little Ducks
- Baby Boy Blue
- It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
- If You’re Happy & You Know It
- Hokey Pokey
- 3Old MacDonald Had A Farm
- Humpty Dumpty
- Hickory Dickory Dock
- Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star
- Johnny Johnny Yes Papa
- Star Light, Star Bright
- Jack and Jill
- Little Teapot
- Five Little Monkeys
- Ten Bears In A Bed
- Sing-A-Song Of Sixpence
- London Bridge
- Row, Row, Row your Boat
- This Little Piggy
- Little Miss Muffet
- Three Little Kittens
- Mary Mary Quite Contrary
- 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe
- Cock-a-Doodle Doo
- Hey Diddle Diddle
- Wee Willie Winkie
- Noah’s Ark
- Ring-A-Ring o’Roses
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In the meantime…
What are some of your best tips for road trips with a toddler?