If collecting moments, not things, is up your alley, you may be planning a road trip (even if you think doing so with your toddler is a disastrous idea).
A long road trip with a toddler may seem more like venturing into the dark paths of Mordor than experiencing a sunny Hobbiton-like adventure. You’ll probably have to deal with tantrums, feeding issues, peeing dramas, and lots of wiggling in between diaper changes—especially if you’re with younger toddlers.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t make it work. Tweaking nap time and feeding schedules doesn’t have to be the end of the world. And if you’re happy with making a few adjustments, it’s possible to plan a road trip with your toddler.
Whether it's a car trip to the nearest national park or ticking off an item from your bucket list, you’re bound to enjoy it.
Though there’s much to consider when bringing a toddler on your adventures, as Lao Tzu said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And that step is planning.
Here’s our list of packing essentials so your next road trip turns into a memorable joyride (don’t expect Hobbits and fairies, though).
1. Car Seat Organizer
Want to know how to make your road trips the epitome of chaos? Go without a car seat organizer.
Car seat organizers are handy little car essentials that spare parents those bad scenarios with chocolate bars, water bottles (and god forbid L.O.L dolls) getting displaced during a car ride.
Attaching car seat organizers to the back of the car's front seats will give you peace of mind. You’ll have all your kids’ stuff neatly organized in mesh pockets, drink holders, and tablet cases.
This may even earn you an “organization whizz” title in the immediate family circles.
Here are some ideas of what you can stash in those handy compartments:
2. GPS Tracking Device
A GPS car navigation system is important for your road trip packing essentials list. You want to avoid the frustrations that ensue when your kids start feeling tired, and turning at the wrong street, adding hours to your route, won’t help.
That said, a GPS tracking device can make your long car ride a little shorter. Whether it’s a separate satnav, Google Maps, or a smartphone app—it can get you from point A to point B before your kids get antsy and all hell breaks loose.
3. Printed/Downloaded Maps
(Image source: Unsplash)
A map is also a must-have when setting off on a road trip with a toddler. Why? Well, it's always a good idea to supplement your satnav if it loses signal or dies on you.
With this, you’ll always have a few options—either download your road trip’s area on your phone or rely on a printout version to navigate that way.
If you’re a freestyle roadtripper, meaning you don’t have clear stop points on your mind, then having a printed map is a good idea.
Here are our suggestions for the best USA road maps:
- AAA Roadside Assistance Maps and Guidebooks
- The Rand McNally Atlas
- National Geographic Road Atlas 2022: Adventure Edition
Alternatively, go for trip-planning apps such as Tripsy. They’re great for planning driving routes, making reservations, and getting information on local sights.
4. Booster Seats
Bringing booster seats with you will make your family road trip more comfortable and safe.
They’re perfect when the kids get bigger and no longer need full car seats, and it’s useful to serve as a transition until your child can be properly buckled up in the back seat.
The booster seat raises the child's seating position so they can sit high enough to use the seatbelt.
Ideally, a road trip with a toddler is a super safe one—and for many parents, a booster seat is non-negotiable (especially as some states require booster seats by law).
Did you know? Booster seats offer side impact protection for your kids during long car trips.
Road Trip Essentials for Kids
5. Road Trip Snacks
(Image source: Unsplash)
Snacks are one of the ultimate road trip essentials because everything is more easily done with a full tummy. Knowing what healthy food options to take with you and how and when to bend the rules is the secret behind keeping a happy road-tripping kid.
Having baby bottles at hand will help you endure long periods in your car. If you’re still nursing, however, scheduling stops for mealtime might be a good idea, too.
An older toddler will be easily satisfied with morsels of fruits, cheese cubes, or whole-grain bars. Spoon-feeding your toddler with puréed food is not recommended while the car’s in motion; it poses a choking hazard.
Ultimately, you can never go overboard when snacks are concerned, so here are some ideas on what to stock up on:
And lastly, imagine a 10-hour road trip (though this may be a bit of a stretch) without an odd “bad” snack for your youngster. The road trip itself is already testing your toddler’s psychophysical capacities—it’s only fair to dole out their favorite albeit unhealthy treat at appropriate times.
6. Toilet Training Supplies
When planning a road trip with your toddler, you must consider them needing the toilet on the way. This problem doesn’t go away even if your toddler is toilet trained—accidents do happen.
To keep things at bay in between toilet stops, make sure to have all the essential supplies at hand:
- Pack a few pairs of training pants, as these may be handy to bridge that in-between phase. Training pants are partially waterproof, so they’ll stop minor accidents. Plus, they’re easy to pull up and down, lending themselves to regular toilet usage.
- If your road trips stretch longer than expected, your toddler may have trouble holding it in. That said, an easy-to-collapse portable potty is in order. Pack some toilet paper along with a grab bag as well.
- A long road trip may call for a piddle pad for your car. They’ll ensure those little accidents get absorbed without too much fuss.
7. A Travel Stroller Wagon
(Image source: Facebook)
Combining strollers, scooters, and bicycles may be ideal for your local outdoor tours, but there may be better ideas for your road trips.
When your toddler gets shattered or tired, they’ll want to sit or get carried. A stroller wagon is an excellent solution here. And did we mention you won’t have to lug around any scooters or bicycles on your way back?
A good stroller wagon is a perfect addition to your travel checklist and is a great way to simplify your trip. Get your little ones on board if they’re feeling cranky after walking, or let them nap in the stroller to their heart's content.
Most importantly, they’re easy to travel with and fold (they fold down to a slim size fitting, however little space you may have in your car).
Below is an overview of our X Series stroller wagons to hint at what you can expect.
WonderFold Stroller Wagons X Series
Holds up to 4 passengers
Magnetic 5-Point Harness
All-Terrain PU Tires
50+ UV Protection Removable Canopy
Adjustable Handlebar and Pull Handle
180 lbs max
41 lbs max
A stroller wagon is a perfect companion for long walks and naps. And the best part? You can use add-ons to help satisfy your road trip necessities. Think of an additional snack tray (ours can hold up to 25 pounds), a cooler bag, or WonderNet for stashing in all the little toddler goods.
Entertainment & Tech Gear
8. An iPad or a DVD Player
Whether you like it or not, electronic gadgets make it onto the list of 21st-century toddler travel essentials. And though we recommend using them only as part of your travel reward system, a DVD player or an iPad is good to have on deck during long car rides.
Stocking up your gadgets with popular kids’ DVD titles will keep the kids busy, and it’ll make your life easier when the little one drifts off and needs a little peace and quiet. With that in mind, a little screen time won’t hurt.
Another idea to consider for toddler road trip activities is listening to audiobooks. Make sure to load up on them—they're great for keeping your little ones entertained or lulling them to sleep.
Search iTunes or Audible for fun kids’ stories and download them, so you don’t have to rely on a good signal. Here are our top picks:
9. Toddler Travel Toys
Your road trip includes plenty of time in a confined space, so you better keep your child entertained before things go haywire. Aside from relying on your favorite road trip games, pack some of your kids’ favorite travel toys.
Your choice will depend on the length of your journey and how much you have to strategize with your car space.
Opt for toys that aren’t quickly outgrown, such as Lego Duplo sets or Magnetic tiles. Also, consider multi-purpose travel toys that you can use in different scenarios during imaginary play.
If you’re going on a long road trip, make sure to have some surprise toys prepped up—new toys will keep the little kids entertained for longer periods.
A Road Trip With Toddler—Yes or No?
No one is desperate to be stuck in their car with their toddler for hours, so long road trips with toddlers may not be a good idea. So, don’t opt for a cross-country road trip straight away. Start small and work your way up from there.
With the 9 packing essentials above, you have something to put on your road trip with a toddler checklist. Well, that’s a good start.
Here at WonderFold, we believe it’s possible to initiate your little ones into travelers as early as possible. Just take your stroller wagon out of your car, fold it out, and you’re set for your next family adventure.
Still waiting to pack up and hit the road? The WonderFold blog offers many more ideas to explore:
- 10 Fun Fall Family Adventures
- 6 Outdoor Activities for Kids [Plus Prep Tips to Ensure a Fun Day Out]
- 6 Reasons You NEED a Stroller Wagon
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