Taking a Road Trip With a Toddler {my tips and tricks}



At the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton.

For February break we went on a road trip. I was very intimidated to do a long drive with a toddler (16 months old), especially since we hadn’t done a long drive since she was 6 months old. The last time we went she was just learning to sit on her own and didn’t move much, and still slept a lot during the day so it was easy to plan driving around her naps. This time she is walking and a very active little girl, so I had no idea how she would do with sitting for 5.5 hours.

I looked on Pinterest for ideas of how to occupy her, and I made a list of my own. I’ll share what I did and what worked, and what didn’t.
A) Make frequent stops. If your child is walking they won’t want to sit for more than a few hours at a time. Space out your drive so that you have at least 1-2 stops before you reach your destination (depending on the length of your drive). We made 2 stops. Once to let her run around Walmart and eat, and once to change her diaper. It was good for her to burn off some energy until she had patience to sit again.

B) Bring snacks and healthy food. I packed a lot of food (probably too much!) but I wanted to be safe! We were gone for 3 days and 2 nights and I knew we would be eating out a lot. I wanted Ellie to have healthy food with and not just restaurant food all weekend. Before we left I cut up fruit and packed it in containers in a small cooler. We had grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and carrots. I also packed fruit pouches for when we were out and needed an easy snack for her to hold on her own. Along with those I brought crackers and granola bars for an easy snack.

C) Plan the drive around nap-time if you’re able to. On the way up we left around 10 and she didn’t have a long nap (usually she sleeps around 1). On the way back we left after lunch and she slept for 2 hours which was much better. It was easier to leave when she needed to sleep then, instead of letting her get tired throughout the drive and fall asleep.

D) Go to the dollar store and stock up on new cheap toys. It’s likely some may get lost, so don’t spend a lot. I took Ellie with me and let her pick a few things, and I picked a few. I filled a small basket so she could pick what she wanted to play with. Here’s a list of what I all got:

1. Plastic beads. Ellie loves jewelry so I knew she would have fun with beads.

2. Plastic bracelets. Again, she loves jewelry. I was hoping they would occupy her for a while!

3. Mirror. This one isn’t from the dollar store, she already had it. But she loves mirrors so I thought I’d bring it along!

4. Pipe cleaners. I had found this idea on Pinterest, it’s a good sorting activity for toddlers. They can fill a water bottle and shake it, empty it out, and fill it again. We ended up making things out of them (and I think I had more fun with them than she did 😉 )

5. Books. I got some new ones for her, but if you have some at home you can bring those too.


This kid loves books!

6. Stickers. Ellie is obsessed with stickers. We travelled with my inlaws, and I told them to expect to be finding stickers in their back seat for weeks.

7. Flash cards. Ellie is learning a lot of words right now and it was fun to teach her a few new ones. I sat beside her and signed the words as well as tried to get her to say them.

E) When all else failed, we let her watch her watch a show on our phones. I don’t like to do that often so it’s a real treat for her, but she was just done driving after 4 hours and this calmed her down.


F) Dress them lightly, or in layers. There was quite the difference in weather between where we were travelling so I made sure to bring a jacket in the diaper bag, but I didn’t want her jacket on in the vehicle. I knew if it was she would overheat and become uncomfortable. I dressed her in comfortable pants, a light shirt, and a light sweater.


G) Make sure to bring any comfort items with, or something familiar from home. Ellie still takes a soother. She doesn’t really have any comfort items so we take her soother everywhere as it helps her fall asleep. I also brought 2 of her blankets from home. She doesn’t need them to fall asleep, but I wanted a familiar smell and feel so she didn’t feel too out of place in the vehicle and in the hotel.


H) Pack extra diapers and wipes. I knew I packed too many for our trip but I figured I would rather have too many than not enough.

I) Pack outfits in bags and plan ahead. I figured out which outfits Ellie would wear on which days and put them in Ziploc bags. This way if Colin was getting her ready in the morning he would know what she was going to wear, and he didn’t have to ask me any questions. You can also do this for yourself! It helps eliminate bringing extra clothes along you won’t end up wearing.

What are some things you’ve done to make travelling with a toddler a little easier?


2 thoughts on “Taking a Road Trip With a Toddler {my tips and tricks}

  1. Great tips Sam ! I am so glad it went well for you. I would add from my experience of long drives alone the mirror in the back is priceless – easy to tell if shes crying for a reason or just because she wants out.

    Also if you can have water & snacks for her in the front seat easy for you to reach and hand back – that’s even better!

    How did you manage sleeping away? Playpen or crib somewhere? How did she do with the change of pace/schedule? We will be going out west this summer (flying into Edmonton and driving to Calgary and then southern saskatchewan) and I’m nervous !!

    Great article mamma !


    1. Thanks Amy! We were in the back seat with her so we were able to attend to her easily, but I definitely agree with you if we had been travelling and both in the front seat with her in the back! She absolutely loves her mirror.
      Because she’s never really slept in a crib we got a hotel room with 2 queen size beds. One of us slept with her and propped pillows up on the other side of the bed so she wouldn’t roll out. In your case Anna sleeps in a crib, is she used to a playpen? Then I would probably try that! Ellie was good for the most part for sleep. The first night was really rough (but she’s also teething!) and we wore her for her naps. It worked out well for us. She was kind of grumpy towards the evening, but handled the trip well!
      Good luck!


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