Summer is just around the corner, and that means family vacations and road trips! But when you have kids, the phrase “road trip” doesn’t spark the same flames of spontaneity and excitement like it used to in your younger days. Hours crammed in a small space with restless little ones? Yikes. Here are some ideas to help make your road trip with a toddler as smooth and enjoyable as possible — for everyone!

How to Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler

While "road trip” doesn’t spark the same flames of excitement like it used. Here are some ideas to make your road trip with a toddler as smooth as possible

Toys and Activities

Pack a bag full of interesting toys- some that are old favorites can work, but a few new ones mixed in will buy you even more quiet playtime. Here are some ideas for toys and activities that your toddler will love:

  • Books- Toddlers may not get lost in a good novel while road tripping, but many are still enthralled by the colors and illustrations in age appropriate picture books. You can even spice things up with Touch and Feel books, Lift the Flap Books, or books with sounds.
  • Arts and Crafts- There are all kinds of mess-free arts and crafts options that can be taken on the road. Some favorites include magic markers that only color on special paper (don’t forget a clip board!), water paint books, and reusable sticker books.
  • Activity Boards- It’s best to find an activity board that does not include loose pieces, so that you don’t have to spend your car trip constantly retrieving items thrown about the vehicle. Try a Magnetic Maze board or one with lots of locks and latches for little fingers.


It’s no secret to parents that our weapon of choice, in any situation that demands good behavior from our toddler, is food. If you’re heading on a road trip of any distance this summer, be sure to pack plenty of snack options. Especially if your tot is still in a rear-facing car seat, try to avoid foods that could be a potential choking hazard (like popcorn or nuts). Cheese or peanut butter crackers, rice cakes, fresh and dried fruit, cheese sticks, and simple health bars like Lara Bars are all easy to transport and won’t result in sugar-induced hyperactivity and mood swings.

Pit Stops

When you become a parent, you learn to accept that things are going to move a little slower for a while — and this includes your road trip with a toddler. Plan stops on your route so that everyone can have frequent bathroom breaks or a diaper change, as well as run around and get out some energy. Map out rest stops and fast food restaurants or parks with playgrounds, and embrace the slow pace of the trip — it’s all a part of the journey!

While "road trip” doesn’t spark the same flames of excitement like it used. Here are some ideas to make your road trip with a toddler as smooth as possible

Jenna Lombardi
Jenna Lombardi
Jenna Lombardi currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, Aaron and Clare. She loves to travel (even with kids!), find a good bargain, and enjoys an iced chai latte with soy milk every now and then. When she’s not wrangling the kids at the playground or the zoo, she can be found practicing hand lettering, reading about pregnancy and natural childbirth, or testing out a new recipe in the kitchen.