Travelling with a toddler: road trips

Passed out in the car after a long weekend with her grandparents

Passed out in the car after a long weekend with her grandparents

Willow and I have our road trip game down these days. We have been doing this for a while now and I have learned A LOT along the way!

Recently I took a five-hour solo road trip with her to Hoedspruit to visit with my family. A series of unfortunate events meant that we ended up spending almost seven hours in the car. While it felt like the longest car journey of my life, Willow weathered the trip incredibly well.

I’m not sure if I have detailed our travel issues with Willow on the blog before; if I have please forgive me. Willow has a very tumultuous relationship with the car seat. From when she was a little person she really hated it. Most babies fall asleep in the car, not mine. She would scream and scream and scream. It was incredibly unpleasant.

We tried everything. We tried to time our travels for nap time, travel at night. It all amounted to nothing. Thankfully she outgrew the screaming phase and has come to realise that car trips mean that she will be seeing her grandparents or doing something fun. That has made the trips a lot more pleasant.

All that said, I have discovered a few things make our lives so much easier in the car.

  1. Bring snacks – what child doesn’t love snacks? I find snacks calm the beast. Great car snacks include Cheerios, biltong, fruit like grapes or blueberries, low sugar biscuits and fruit pouches. I also take water or coconut water with me.
  2. Get the timing right – Admittedly this took a lot of experimentation. But we have found that road trips just work out better for us if we travel during the day. We usually leave after Willow’s nap at about 2.30pm. I know it may seem counterintuitive to leave post and not pre nap. But I find she is in a much better mood if she is rested. Kids don’t sleep well in car seats. It’s not really restful. She is happier and more willing to be entertained if she had a good sleep. It also doesn’t mess too much with her usual schedule.
  3. Pack entertainment – This is whatever works for you. I bring along threading activities, stickers, crayons and paper, musical toys etc. I offer her all the toys before I give her the final solution.
  4. Load the iPad with kids programs and get a mount to attach it to the seat back – The iPad is a lifesaver let me tell you. I have an old one which is just for Willow and it is filled with Dora the Explorer and Sofia the first. I try to limit her screen time normally, but on road trips, I tend to bust it out and let her watch for as long as she likes. Once you have had a peaceful road trip there is just no going back.
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