8 Tips for Surviving Road-Trips with Toddlers During the Holiday Season

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It’s inevitable. Every year, right after Thanksgiving and Halloween and (or Halloween and Thanksgiving, depending on which side of the border you’re on)… BAM! It’s the holidays. Which, for a hardcore lover of all things twinkle lights, pumpkin pie, gourds, gingerbread, and Santa Claus…isn’t a bad thing at all.

However, all of the traveling that we do to visit friends and family isn’t on my top 10 list of favorite things to do during the holidays. Many of you know about this shuffle – the scheduling and the planning. Our families commence doing so two months in advance of Thanksgiving or Christmas. It all leads to many hours of being trapped in a car with our lovely children.

We happen to do more road-tripping, I’m inclined to think, than the average family. For a long-time, my partner was a musician who did a lot of touring. Much of it was local and we’d go along when possible. I now deem myself a seasoned expert, totally qualified in handing out advice in how to win at traveling with toddlers….especially by car, for long stretches of time.

So, if you, like me – have lots of road-tripping to look forward to this holiday season, have no fear! Success is definitely in the little things and how well you plan.

  • 8 Tips For Surviving Road-Trips With Toddlers During The Holiday Season 1 of 9
  • Plan & Pack Ahead 2 of 9

    Make a list of what you are going to pack and do all that you can the day before. I cannot stress this enough! You'll appreciate not running around last minute; avoiding that sort of thing does wonders for one's stress levels and patience. Toddlers have a sixth sense when it comes to mom and dad needing to get stuff done, as in they will be all melty and clingy during peak hours of packing/trying to hit the road.

    Do yourself a favor and get a majority of the packing done the day before and even make a game out of it. We're rather fond of toddler tailgate parties around here, packing the car together and playing in the trunk (confessions of a mini-van convert right here), with some of our road games and singing (more on that in a bit). 

  • On Comfort, Diaper Bags & Winter Car Seat Safety 3 of 9

    Dress your kids in comfy clothes and pack the holiday outfits in your diaper bag to change into upon arrival. Make sure to pack an extra set of clothes per baby/toddler in an easy to access place, (i.e: not in your suitcase). As much as we don't want it to happen, the inevitability of a toddler having an "accident," getting car-sick or making a mess with their food is high. Pack a few diapers for those who are still in them and a couple extra pairs of underwear for newly potty-trained toddlers. Also have a compact case of wipes for snack clean-up, boogie faces and diaper changes handy, and a changing pad or small blanket for quick changes. 

    We start the car to warm it up before piling in, usually keep it parked in the garage to avoid the evils of ice and snow, and have a couple of polar fleece car blankets. This is because we opt out of strapping our kids into their carseats with big bulky winter coats on. Doing so makes for a loose harness, which really isn't safe.

    Read more about winter car seat safety here, here and here

  • Keep Them Busy, Keep Them Happy 4 of 9

    I fill up each of their knapsacks with toys that are easy to play with in a car seat. The Leap Pad and iPad are obvious ones those go in the console between the driver and passenger seats. Magnatabs, Doodle Boards, books, Matchbox cars, little dolls and play food go over well for us. We also get crayons (in a pencil case), stickers and construction paper on a small cookie sheet. I've recently gotten into busy bags, and love them. I switch out items every month or so, or depending how much traveling we're doing; which during the holiday season is usually a lot, so. 

    Learn how to make busy bags for your toddler right here on Babble!

  • Eat, Drink & Be Merry 5 of 9

    Is of the upmost importance. Have their favorites (ideally low-mess) packed up and readily available, including cold, fresh water. I always include some almond raw chocolate milk to give them as a treat at some point. A good tip in general, but especially when you don't want them melting down and/or bouncing around more than usual, is to avoid juice and other high-sugar snacks/foods.

    I fill up two medium-sized cooler bags, one with the drinks and the other with snacks. If I've really prepared well, we have a separate hard case cooler that I can put our lunch and dinner in for extra long road-trips. Ice packs keeps everything nice and fresh and the investment of a good Thermos is totally worth it to have hot homemade soups, stews and pastas on the road.

  • You’re The Star of This Adventure 6 of 9

    Kids love adventure. The promise of something magical and exciting happening if you've made them aware and comfortable about where they're going and what they'll be doing will win out over fear - especially around the holidays. When all else fails and the whining over wanting out of the car seat reaches maximum levels of patience testing (mine), it's time for me to take my nose out my book, or head out of the clouds, and get down with some kid-approved/adored antics.

    A good old-fashioned round of peek-a-boo, while making ridiculous faces at them and acting like a crazed monkey, is just the right amount of silliness required to turn things around. 

  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles 7 of 9

    Whatever your mode of transportation, I just want to hone in on the awesomeness of screen-time during long road-trips. Since we're talking about long car rides here (like 7-plus hours one way in our case during the holidays), I highly suggest investing in some quality headphones for kids. All I'm saying is that you might want a break from all of the kid stuff and listen to something a little more sophisticated.

    Also, your little ones will be way more engaged with the headphones, because they can hear better, especially in the case of having more than one little one. 


    Whatever your screen vice of choice hook that action up, no shame. It will improve everyone's experience in spades. The end.

  • On Taking Breaks & Sticking To Their Sleep Schedule 8 of 9

    If we leave for a long car trip first thing in the morning, we pull out the big guns so that they stay awake until their regular afternoon nap. Car games, like "I Spy," sing-a-long songs, audio books and some precious screen time all go over well. If it's nice weather, we have a picnic lunch at a rest stop somewhere pretty.

    In the winter we tend to indulge in some take-out and have a pit stop at a restaurant if we didn't have time to pack hot food for the trip. Sticking to their sleep schedule really will improve your chances upon arriving at your destination without grumpy, confused toddlers.

    This way they can go to bed before midnight and partake in some cheer with the family and friends you don't get to see all that often, right?

  • Creature Comforts 9 of 9

    New places, new people or seeing new relatives can be disconcerting and overwhelming for little ones in the large groups that often gather for the holidays. Show them pictures of the loved ones they're excited to see and those who they might not remember from last year. 

    When we go touring around during the holidays, we often need to bring an air mattress, extra pillows, blankets and our toddler cots. I never leave home without their turtle constellation nightlight and their lovies.

That’s it! Did I miss anything? How do you do it?


More Babbles From Selena…

Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Regular writer here and on Disney Baby. Part-time mischief maker, all the time geek. 

Elsewhere on the internets…

Via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve

Article Posted 3 years Ago

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