Road Trip with a Toddler

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Let me just get down to the real deal…I cheated this week [insert giant gasp!]! I know!

But the reality of the situation is, I’m not a vacationer. Believe me, I wish I were, but I haven't been on a vacation since 2013! And before that, it was about 2011-ish. My heart and soul scream “world traveler!,” but that has not (yet) been the case.

Needless to say, knowing what to bring for a vacation is kind of hard when they are so few and far between. I will say that last year I went on a road trip to Atlanta to celebrate my beautiful Aunt and wonderful Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary! It was just overnight, but I don’t count that as a vacation because I literally only went to two restaurants besides being at the hotel for the event.

Anyway, being that I had a toddler who had never been in the car longer than a couple hours, I was a little freaked, especially because I was doing the driving and couldn’t hang out with her in the back. She sat next to my Mama, while my younger brother was my copilot.

All in all, it was a lovely trip and Jude did magnificent on the road, even given some traffic that definitely kept us in the car longer than we’d hoped!

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What I will say is that I thought of a couple things that helped on our trip with the little one. So if you are traveling with kiddos ages two and up, here are some tips that may be helpful to your sanity—whether you are traveling by car, plane, bus, or train!

First off, I made a “fun bag” for Jude. Now this is not new information—people know to pack crayons and coloring books, a child’s favorite toy, and snacks. But I found that getting a couple of extra things worked great. I picked up some inexpensive toys and books that Jude had never seen before. Each item was about $5 or less. I believe one book might have been closer to $8, but nothing crazy.

I found that giving her something she had never read or played with before held her attention really well! She was interested in these things longer than she might have been if they were toys or books she already had. And in between playing with these things, she just wanted snacks! It was like a dream!

We did not have a TV in the car, but that was by choice anyway. Don’t yell at me, but I am a believer in no TV/electronics in the car—besides radio, of course. I grew up that way and remember falling in love with looking out the window on the trips to my grandmother’s house in the summers. I loved finding fun signs, roadside landmarks, license plates, you name it. Honestly, it was fun for me to explore my surroundings!

I want the same thing for my daughter when she rides around. I love it when she sees something and asks me about it. It often leads to little discussions and more things to learn about.

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Since Jude couldn’t read to herself then, I got her a book about animals that made sounds when she pressed the buttons. I also got her a book about Daniel Tiger—because she loved him and the pictures are self-explanatory—a Minnie Mouse wooden dress-up doll set, and a little plastic elephant to hold and play with.

I only gave her one item at a time, so she was always excited to see what else she had. It worked like a charm! It made our trip super smooth, and when she needed a nap, she just knocked out from all the brain stimulation and playing. Perfect trip in my book!

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Now that Jude is four, I would pack more coloring books and crayons, music she likes to play, Play-Doh with a plate or bowl to put under it, and some fun questions to ask her throughout the trip. A great resource for questions is a website called Parents Together Action; you can sign up for a weekly text that sends a list of questions to ask your kids—ice breakers for during dinner, or just conversation starters you can use to have fun chatting any time! Jude also loves to play “I Spy,” so the options are better just a year later with her.

Alas, we have no trips planned at the moment, but I know these ideas will help when we do. Hopefully they help you, too!

Happy and safe travels!

 
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