Remember what a blast road trips were when you were young and kid-free? Yes, kids make traveling a little tougher, but with some solid planning, you can have a fun and (relatively) low stress road trip experience! Here are 10 tips and must haves for family travel with babies and toddlers.
1. Healthy snacks
When it comes to road trips, no matter what your age, snacks are KEY! Our pouches make for a super convenient, mess-free, and healthy car snack for your littles. Our puffs are also a great healthy option that takes a bit longer to eat, making them a great distraction too! Of course, we only recommend snacks in a carseat for kiddos who are experienced eaters (Safe in the Seat recommends ages 2+!).
Check out this blog for more of our favorite snack ideas. And if packing space is tight in the car, consider sending more snacks and ahead to your destination.
And don’t forget snacks for the adults too. We love grass-fed meat sticks (Roam, Paleovalley), Hu crackers, Siete chips, SuperFat nut butter packs, and Rhythm veggie chips.
2. Sleep essentials
Sleeping in the car is glorious if you can make it happen. Make the atmosphere as conducive to sleep as possible with window shades and white noise (we love this portable and rechargeable white noise machine).
For your destination, we love the Slumber Pod to make a blacked out sleep space no matter where you are!
3. Eating essentials
Don’t forget the things you need to make eating away from home and on-the-go easier. We love bringing a portable highchair like this one or this one. And for impromptu picnics, the Gathre Mat is great!
4. Remember entertainment
You’ll want some entertainment for the carseat and for rest stops. Even if you’re normally light on screen time at home, you might be okay with some (or a lot of) screen time in the car. No shame in that game. If you opt for a tablet, be sure to remember the power cord, and remember that you might not always have access to a reliable internet connection, so download some shows or games in advance!
For rest stops, pack a picnic blanket for the littles to crawl around on. And for older ones, pack a frisbee, jump rope, bubbles, and other small fun things to encourage them to move around a bit and stretch their legs.
5. Pack a cleanup kit
Spills, blow outs, car sickness. It can all happen. It’s not fun, but you can be prepared by packing a kit with baby wipes, sanitizing wipes, plastic bags, Ziploc bags, and hand sanitizer for easy cleanup. The Suds 2 Go makes it easy to actually wash your hands on the go, for when wipes and sanitizer just won’t cut it (we’ve all been there). And don’t forget a change of clothes for everyone in the car (you too!).
6. Set reasonable expectations
Traveling is hard. Traveling with kids is even harder. Set reasonable expectations for how long things will take and how many stops you’ll need to make. Understand that you’ll probably default to some habits that you wouldn’t otherwise encourage (like screen time, or unlimited snacks). Don’t worry about creating poor habits when you veer from your normal routines. There’s an element of survival mode when traveling, and you’ll get back on track when your travel day is over.
7. Plan your itinerary wisely
For example, if you know that your kid will absolutely not nap in the car seat, consider that when deciding when to leave. If you know your kid or kids will fall asleep when it gets dark and transfer to a pack and play or bed just fine, consider leaving in the evening, stopping for an overnight, after a few hours of them sleeping in the car, and then finishing your trip in the morning.
8. Know your route
We don’t mean plugging your route into Google Maps when you hop in the car to leave. We mean plugging it in days in advance and scoping out potential stops and attractions, like a state park for a picnic lunch, a larger town that has a great natural foods store or healthy restaurant, or a fun playground using an app like Playground Buddy.
9. Pack the car wisely
Think through what you need right when you get there and pack that right at the front of the trunk. For example, if you will be arriving right at bedtime, put the pack and play and a bag with sheets, jammies, toothbrush, etc. right in easy arms reach so you can just grab one back to get the little one (or ones) settled right when you arrive. The rest of the bags can wait.
10. Give yourself grace and go with the flow
Listen, it might not (probably will not) be all smooth sailing. Someone will melt down, you might lose your cool. Give yourself and the rest of your crew some grace.
Go with the flow, and enjoy the ride!