Road Trip Essentials For Toddlers

Road Trip Essentials For Toddlers (and Babies) 

We just returned from a short family vacation in Montauk and these road trip essentials for toddlers (and babies) were super helpful on our 4-hour drive there and back.

Before our trip, I asked my Instagram community for their long car ride tips and tricks for traveling with small children. Of course, you guys delivered and gave me great ideas plus lots of encouragement (which I needed). We also picked up a few tips of our own along the way. 

This was our first family trip with a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old. My toddler has traveled long distances before but has never been in a car for this long of a stretch. My 10-month-old has never been in a car for longer than 1 hour. I was mentally prepared for lots of tears, and tantrums. 

Shockingly, everyone survived with minimum meltdowns. I always expect the worst, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they both did. While I’m not ready to do another trip anytime soon, I do have more confidence for longer car rides in the future. 

If you’re planning to take your first family road trip with small kids, here are a few items to consider. These are now my road trip must-haves for travels.

Road Trip Essentials For Toddlers

Travel sounds machine

This travel sound machine is my number one item to bring on long car rides, and vacations in general. This helped both my toddler and baby to sleep soundly for 50% of the trip. After about 30 minutes into our ride, and my little one was getting sleepy, I turned this on low and placed it in between the two of them. They both fell asleep and stayed asleep for almost 2 hours. I made sure it was charged before I left.  

Snacks and beverages

For my toddler, I stocked up on a few of his favorite snacks which include fruit bars, apples, and Pirates Booty. I brought a small juice box as a special treat. Tried not to load him up on too many liquids but also needed to keep him hydrated. 

Pull-ups & Travel Potty

My toddler is largely potty trained, but I put him in a pull-up just in case. I also packed a few extra for the ride home. That way we didn’t have to worry if we couldn’t make it to a rest stop in time. I’m a huge fan of Coterie diaper and pull-up products. They are the most leak-proof diapers and pull-ups I’ve ever used. 

We also brought a travel potty but thankfully didn’t need to use it. We were able to find rest stops and convenience stores along the way. Still gave us peace of mind knowing we had something if we needed it. 

Toys 

We packed a few toys but honestly didn’t go crazy. We brought a stuffed animal for my toddler so he could relax in the car. For the baby, we brought a teething toy, a mini black and white crinkle book for sensory stimulation, and a small toy car for him to play with. When he got sick of those, I gave him a mini bag of unopened Pirate’s Booty and that kept him entertained for another 45 minutes. 

Napkins 

We didn’t have too many spills or reasons to use napkins but I’m glad we had them readily available just in case. We also had wet wipes for diaper changes and sticky hands. 

Garbage bag

We forgot to bring a garbage bag but used a brown bag we got at a rest stop and made it our trash bin. Without a garbage bag, the empty wrappers and half-eaten food end up in the same place as the unopened food. Nobody wants that!

Sanitizer 

Sanitizer is something I forgot and need to remember for our next trip. I’m not a fan of sanitizer because it kills off all of your skin’s natural flora but some brands are making gentler ones using herbs. It’s helpful if you have to make a pit stop at a less desirable location or public restroom. Thankfully, the places we stopped at were very clean but you never know! 

Road Trip Baby Must-Haves

Many of the road trip essentials for toddlers are also good for babies. In addition, to the sound machine, and a few toys, here are two road trip baby must-haves that I’m glad I remembered before we left.

Plastic spoons

Plastic spoons came in handy when I needed to feed my 10-month-old his purees both on our road trip as well as on vacation. I didn’t have to waste time hunting down a spoon to feed him. I thought about bringing a reusable spoon but then I’d have to figure out how I was going to clean it in between feedings. 

Nursing cover-up

A light, breathable nursing cover-up is great for squeezing in feeds at a rest stop, and also while on vacation in general. I used this while on the beach and had it available if I needed to feed in random places. They are easy to store in a diaper bag.

Long Road Trip Travel Tips With Kids 

Travel early 

I’m a huge fan of traveling early. Everyone is well rested, traffic tends to be less, and it makes for easier travel overall. The kids are up early anyway so it works well. 

Stop every two hours 

Try to take a break every 2 hours to stretch, find a restroom, and have a snack. We took a 20-minute break on our way to Montauk and it helped everyone to refresh. Everyone was fed, used the restroom, diapers were changed, and we prevented the hangry tantrums.

Be honest with travel time 

When toddlers start getting antsy, which was largely while we were stuck in traffic, be honest about travel time. They understand more than we give them credit for. Telling them that we still have a while in the car but we can take a break soon, or that when we get to the destination we can go to the beach. Letting them know something good is coming has helped us. 

Keep your first day of vacation low-key 

We made the mistake of making dinner reservations the day we arrived. It was a long day for the kids, naps were off schedule (or skipped), and we ended up having to pack up our dinner and eat at the hotel. Next trip, we will order in and let the kids rest on day 1. 

Final Takeaways: Road Trip Essentials For Toddlers (and Babies)

We survived our first road trip with two small children. These road trip essentials for toddlers (and babies) made the trip less stressful. Overall, we didn’t need much. As long as they were rested, fed, and changed everyone was largely calm. We took breaks as needed so everyone could refresh. 

We survived 4+ hours in the car without screens. Instead, we made a game pointing out trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, and bridges. We sang “If You’re Happy, and You Know It” so our little one could clap his hands. The best part was on the way home when my toddler was making funny noises and making our baby laugh. It was cute to hear them bonding and entertaining each other when left to their own devices. Final takeaway: road trips with toddlers and babies are doable. Pack a few things to make your lives easier and improvise as needed. 

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