4 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with a Toddler

road trip with toddler

The trip to Disneyland, from where we live in Oregon, takes about 15 or 16 hours, give or take. 

15 or 16 hours, in a car, with a young toddler, can be torture. We had done a few road trips to places like central Oregon and Idaho, but nothing quite like two solid days in the car through the entirety of California. 

A few of my friends suggested driving at night so that Forrest would sleep. A few of them actually did this and had it backfire around the same time as our trip. The truth is, your toddler is not going to sleep great in the car, even if they normally sleep amazing in the car. If they're going to be in that seat for 14+ hours, they aren't going to sleep there very well. So prepare yourself for minimal naps and early bedtimes in hotels. 

We made it though, with minimal tantrums. How did we do it? Here are our 4 tips. 

1. Buy a DVD player for the car. 

Listen, I know. I always said I would never. But then my son reached toddler age and, you know what? Sometimes, you need to just distract them. A DVD player is perfect. We brought a collection of DVDs for him: Zootopia, Peter Pan, a Sesame Street DVD, a Barney DVD, and Toy Story. By the end of the trip, he was singing the theme from Zootopia whenever he had the chance. 

2. Bring snacks. 

When all else failed, we handed Forrest something to snack on. He is particularly fond of cereal bars, so we brought those, of course, as well as Goldfish, bananas, and apple juice. While sometimes he just made a mess (in the last 20 minutes driving home, he opened his milk cup, dumped it all over himself and the seat, and then mashed a cereal bar into it); otherwise, it was exactly what he needed to get over a tantrum. The first rule of toddlers is, if you can, distract them.   

3. Have someone ride in the back with him or her. 

For us, this was big: sometimes, it seemed like he was just lonely in the backseat. So, we would rearrange things and my husband would ride in the backseat with him. They would read books, watch Barney together, or just point out things along the road. 

4. Stop frequently. 

I hate stopping during road trips. I am goal oriented and, often, for me the goal is getting to our location. But with a toddler, it’s good to get out and walk around. We stopped at every other view point or rest area and got out just to stretch our legs; Forrest would walk around with his safety harness. We’d grab a snack or a soda and sit outside for just a few minutes.