Road tripping alone with a toddler doesn’t have to feel stressful! But I know that it can.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and worry in anticipation of a road trip alone with your toddler… you’ve come to the right place.
I’m a mama to my 17 month old Blakely and we have had to make MANY road trips just the two of us since she was born. The longest we have done together is a little over six hours when she was just six months old… and she thankfully napped half of the way!
As nice as that was, I’ve found that as she’s gotten older she sleeps less and needs to be entertained more. Even a simple 15 minute car ride to the gym has her whining in the back seat some days.
After doing tons of research on what to do to survive a road trip with a toddler, as well as experiencing it myself, I have put together a master list of helpful AND practical tips to help you get through it!
There are two main things to takeaway from this: prepare as much as you can ahead of time and be flexible! Let’s dive into how to do that!
TIPS + ADVICE ON HOW TO SURVIVE A ROAD TRIP WITH YOUR ONE YEAR OLD
1) PLAN AROUND NAP & MEAL SCHEDULE
Along with #8, this might be my most important tip. Now that Blakely is 17 months, she is napping once a day starting around noon. When we traveled 4 hours for Easter, we left around 11:45 a.m. AFTER we fed her lunch. She ended up falling asleep for over two hours a little into the drive.
If your 1 year old is taking two naps a day and you have a long road trip ahead of you, I’d recommend feeding them a good breakfast and then leaving right after that. A fed baby is a happy baby!
2) KIDS SONGS ON REPEAT (sorry in advance)
I get that no parent wants to listen to baby shark on repeat for hours during their road trip… but hey, if it’s either that or a screaming baby I’d take the former any day! I stream my music off of Spotify and they have so many created playlists for kids. Our go to Spotify songs and playlists for road trips are:
- SONG… Wheels on the Bus by Cocomelon
- SONG… The Family Madrigal by Encanto
- SONG… Baby Shark by Pinkfong
- SHUFFLE… Cocomelon radio
- PLAYLIST… Nursery Rhymes by Spotify
- PLAYLIST… Disney Hits (my personal favorite)
3) PACK WATER & EASY + PORTABLE SNACKS
Make sure you pack a non-spill water bottle or sippy cup because we don’t want to have to stop the car just for an outfit change from water. Now if your 1 year old is anything like mine they may get creative in the backseat and start to spit the water out on themselves. If this is the case, you may want to offer water at your rest stops.
Another helpful tip is to pack easy and portable snacks with a snack cup! Blakely uses our Mushie snack cup every day, multiple times a day. Our favorite snacks to put in the snack cup are puffs and cheerios. I’ll also bring a few other portable snacks that I’ve prepared and packed ahead of time to give her when we stop. These include:
- cheese stick
- fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or mandarin oranges)
- applesauce pouches (love the Go Go Squeeze brand)
4) PLAN STOPS AHEAD OF TIME
And be okay with having to stop. My pre baby self was skilled at driving many many hours without stopping… But you can’t do that with babies or toddlers. They need to stretch their legs, move their body and get their energy out!
I strategically plan our stops every 2-3 hours on trips, depending on her eating and sleeping schedule. Knowing when and where I’m going to stop saves me a lot of worry and stress when Blakely starts to get fussy.
When road tripping alone, I like to stop at busy exits with lots of food choices for the safest option. To do this, I have to do some research ahead of time. You could also just watch the signs and pull over at one with many food, hotel, and gas options.
5) HAVE TOYS AND BOOKS ON STANDBY
The challenge with road tripping alone is you don’t have the convenience of having someone give them back the toy they threw down 5 minutes prior. What I do is when I start the road trip (and each time I stop) is rotate out toys and books for her. The trick is to not only pack toys and books they’re familiar with, but to ALSO throw in a new toy and book.
PARENT HACK: If I don’t want to go buy something new, a trick I like to do is put away a book and toy that she likes a few days before the trip, and then offer it to her for the car ride. She thinks it’s good as new!
If your toddler keeps throwing down the toys and or books, this is where I’d turn to tip #2.
6) KEEP DIAPERS, WIPES, AND CHANGING PAD CLOSE BY
This one is self explanatory, but I have been that mom that accidentally packed the wipes in a suitcase buried in the trunk. Never again.
I’m sure you want to keep your rest stops quick and painless. I (now) always pack a bag that I keep in the front seat filled solely with diapers, wipes, and a changing pad. You have to make your life easier too mama! This helps keeps the stress out of rest stops because it’s both efficient and all in one place.
7) PUT UP WINDOW SHADES
Sometimes your toddler might be whining because they have sun in their eyes! My daughter is still in a rear facing car seat that thankfully has a shade over top, but we still put up the window shades for long road trips just in case. I love that this is a purchase that I will be using even when she is in a front facing car seat too.
8) USE A CAR MIRROR
My final mommy must have for an easier road trip!! I have used this Itomoro Baby Car Mirror since Blakely was born and I’m telling you, it’s a life saver. I know some people use an actual mirror to see their toddler in the backseat, but I have found that this is the safest and best way to see your toddler on solo road trips. You just easily put the monitor on the dash and attach the cameras to the head rest in front of your toddler. Practical and essential!
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