Survival Guide for Road Trips with Toddlers

Girl sitting at KidKraft table with reading nook in the background

Fun road trips with toddlers are possible… but it’ll definitely take some planning on your part. We’re here to make that easier for you with some of our favorite tips, toys, and road trip activities for toddlers. With any luck, they’ll keep meltdowns to a minimum and make the journey almost as fun as the destination!

Schedule some sleep

This probably goes without saying, but naps are a lifesaver on road trips. Schedule some of your travel time around naptime, and bring a few sleep aids like a portable white noise machine, window shades, and your little’s favorite plushies. If you have a super long trip ahead of you, you might consider departing ridiculously early while it’s still dark out or driving into the night. Of course, just make sure you’re not getting sleepy too!

Create a toddler-approved playlist

Queue up some of your tot’s favorite songs to keep them happy or help them sleep...whatever the situation calls for. Songs from their favorite movies or TV shows are always perfect for peppy sing-a-longs! For something more lullaby-ish, we love the Disney Piano playlist on Spotify.

Talk about what you see

Your toddler might be a bit too young for family road trip activities like I Spy, but you can still have fun talking about what you see through the windows. Tell them what types of trees you’re passing, what’s in those cool buildings, etc. Ask them about what they see too, and try to keep the conversation going! You might be surprised how interested they really are!

Make some mess-free art

Crayola’s Color Wonder line of markers and paint pens are perfect for mess-free art on the go. They’ll only color on Color Wonder paper, so you won’t risk any stains on your car’s interior. Twist-up crayons are another relatively mess-free art option, as are colored pencils. Surprise them with some new coloring books to make it more fun!

Use a clipboard for coloring

Don’t be surprised if they get frustrated trying to use those new coloring books on their laps though. It’s a pretty tough balancing act for a toddler, so pack a clipboard to give them a better drawing surface!

Read all the books

Pack a mini-library to take on the road. Even if no one can sit in the backseat to read them, your little one can still flip through the pictures and “read” to themselves!

Listen to kids’ books on Audible

There’s a ton of great kids’ books on Audible, and you can probably find a few of your toddler’s favorites. They’ll probably love recognizing the same story from a new voice!

Get a headrest holder for the iPad

Even if you usually set strict limits on screen time… road trips are definitely a time to make an exception. These deluxe car seat organizers can hold everything from iPads and art supplies to toys and water bottles, but they’ll only work for kids in a forward-facing car seat. For littles who are still rear-facing, these simple headrest holders will let you set up their favorite show without giving them unrestricted access to the iPad.

Pack easy, bite-sized snacks

Hangriness and road trips are a bad combo for anyone but especially for toddlers. Plan ahead and pack plenty of toddler-friendly snacks. Go for a mix of fun treats and substantial snacks that actually keep them full, and be extra sure to avoid choking hazards.

Plan your rest stops

A thirty-minute romp in a park can completely turn things around when it’s turning into tantrum-town in the car. Look up good places to stop ahead of time so you can make the most of your meal and potty breaks.

Put them in Pull-Ups

If your toddler is already potty trained, you might want to consider using Pulls-Ups for the road trip anyway. You never know how far you’ll be from a bathroom when that gotta-go feeling strikes!

Surprise them with new car-seat-friendly toys

When even their favorite toys aren’t keeping them happy in their car seat anymore, surprising them with something new can buy a few more hours of tear-free travel time. Our On-the-Go Building Block set is *the* road trip toy for ages 3 and up, and bead mazes and shape sorters are great for younger toddlers.

A few meltdowns might be inevitable (they are toddlers after all), but your attitude and prep can make all the difference. Just do your best to have fun and make all the hum-drum road trip stuff seem exciting, and your little travel companion will probably follow suit!