Long Car Trips, Alone with a Toddler: Some Tips

Long car trips can be tough. Long car trips with a toddler can be even harder. Log car trips alone with a toddler can test the very core of your being. But, there are some things that you can do to ease the stress.

Childproof the Back Door and Window
This last trip, I put my toddler’s car seat behind the front passenger seat instead of in the middle. It made it easier to hand him things and keep an eye on him. If your toddler will be next to a door, be sure to check your owner’s manual to figure out how to prevent him or her from opening the door or window while you are driving.

Pack Plenty of Snacks
On a long car ride with a toddler, snacks are more than just food. They are entertainment. Pack interesting snacks and plenty of them. For great healthy toddler snacks for traveling, read: The Best Healthy Toddler Traveling Snacks

Have More than One Sippy Cup at the Ready
At home, your toddler may only drink one cup of juice or milk in an hour or two, but prepare two cups at least before you leave and any time you stop. Toddlers are notorious for “accidentally” dropping cups in the car and the last thing you want is a toddler screaming for juice when you are on the highway. I just used an insulated lunch bag to keep them fresh.

Keep the Essentials in the Front Seat
This really goes without saying, but think about what you will need quick and easy access to when you are driving. Your cell phone, sippy cups, snacks, little toys, etc.

Pack a Riding Toy
If you have the room, consider packing a riding toy. This was a life saver on a 10 hour drive I took recently. Every time we stopped, I found a safe place and let my toddler ride his little heart out. He had more fun than if he was just running and was completely tuckered out when we got back in the car.

Play with the Balance on your Radio
Most car stereos have the option to make the music louder either in the front or the back. When my toddler is sleeping, I listen to books on tape with the balance set so that it is louder in the front. When he is awake and listening to toddler music, I change the balance to the back so that I can think.

Try to Avoid Traveling with a Dog
I have a great dog who travels very well, but traveling with a dog is a totally different experience when you have a toddler and no adult help. If you have help, one person can take care of the dog’s needs while one person takes care of the toddler’s needs. If you are alone, you have to do it all. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it can be. I had to leave my dog in the car to take my toddler to the bathroom (a 15 minute adventure). Even with the windows cracked and the moon-roof open, I was given the third degree every time. I am not sure what folks expected me to do, but next time my best buddy is going to stay home.

Plan for a Much Longer Trip
On my last adventure, I ended up stopping about every hour and a half for 45 minutes to an hour. (I was traveling with a toddler and a dog.) My 7 hour trip ended up taking 10 hours. Maybe you will get lucky and your toddler will sleep for much of the trip (mine did not), but just be prepared to make a lot more stops than normal.