Road Trip Essentials + Tips for Travel with Toddlers

Thank god for road tripping during this pandemic. We haven’t been brave enough to jump on a plane with our toddler and our toddler/baby, so we’ve resorted to taking road trips during this time and it’s been a nice way to getaway safely.

With the holidays coming up, I know many families will be doing the same — so I’m listing some of my essentials and tips for what helped keep us keep sane and comfortable during the long drives with the kids:

  • IPad Arm: This is iPad Holder is single handedly the BEST item I bought for this road trip. The kids loved that it seemed like a TV and it kept them entertained for most of the trip. You can adjust the arm to fit in the middle so that both kids are able to share the screen and flip it toward you when you need to choose something else to play.
  • Make sure you take “Loaded” iPads: During the summer we drove from Miami to Anna Maria Island. Somewhere along the middle of the drive we completely lost service…and the crying from 2 bored kids in the back seat was unbearable. This time, we made sure to load the iPad with movies from Netflix, Disney + and our Xfinity purchased movies and it made for a much smoother journey. We also made sure to pack a charging splitter and extra cords in case we needed to use them.
  • Bottle Washer + Small Travel Soap: I got this OXO Travel Drying Rack + brush when Alec, was a baby to use when we would travel with formula and bottles but I kept using it for cleaning water bottles/sippy cups and any food containers I pack for my daughter with food allergies. I always keep a small travel soap container like this inside it and a small kids spoon in case of emergency in there.
  • Entertainment: I used to think “are we there, yet?” was something only kids in the movies said. And then, about 2 road trips ago, it actually started happening; little did I know, the joke was on me. Oh, but believe you me, I learned my lesson and for this trip we stocked up on ALL of the Dollar Store and Target Bin finds! I packed things like Water WOW books, squishy toys, sticker books, small dry erase boards for drawing and also for leaning on them to color. A very wise fellow mom also suggested we wrap each of the small toys to make it fun for the kids and take up more time. I wanted to love that idea, but as much as I love crafting, I HATE wrapping. Instead, I stuck each little knick knack toy into some treat bags filled with tissue paper to hide the contents and it really did give us a few extra minutes of entertainment.
  • Snack Bag + Water Bottles: I always pack a “dry snack bag” … and pretty much just stuff those suckers with anything in the bag whenever they start whining. I’m kidding, kind of. But snacks are definitely a “free for all” when we are all stuck in a car. And all moms know, “can I have a snack?” is most certainly always followed by an “I want water,” whine. Lately, I’m loving these personalized Yeti Kids Water bottles I recently purchased for the kids. They are a little pricey but they really have held water with ice in them (despite the Florida heat) for over 24 hours, even when we’ve taken them to my son’s baseball practice.
  • Small Cooler: Any small cooler works, but we’re on a Yeti trend lately over here. I’m pretty sure I’m late to this party – and despite their hefty price tag, we are definitely fans. We recently bought the Yeti Hopper Travel Cooler and it’s small enough to fit in the second row between the kids car seats and it has held up with ice in it for 48 hours. I packed it with pre-made allergy friendly food containers for Vera and snacks for all of us, which helped cut down on the amount of stops we made. I also used it to keep a small bag of chocolate kisses from melting for absolute emergency bribing. lol. *Also, I wanted to mention that over the last few road trips, we have noticed a lot of rest stops closing earlier and many of the eating establishments had “temporarily closed” signs up due to Covid. It could be this has already changed (or maybe that we’ve just been unlucky) but it’s a good thing to keep in mind if you are traveling with small children and need to find something to eat.
  • Small Carry-on Bags for “In Between” Stops: On our most recent trip we drove from Miami to North Carolina. We don’t usually break this trip up but because we were traveling with the kids, we broke up our trip into smaller spurts and tried not drive more than 4-6 hours each day. If you are traveling long distances over several days, it was really helpful to pack small bags to easily pull for the “in between stops” so that the car could stay packed until we got to our main destination. *Another note on traveling during Covid: Although most of the main places we have stayed at have been vacation rentals, we have stayed at a few hotels “in between” our destinations and we’ve noticed most have minimal staff and no luggage cart available. Small Carry-on Luggage with wheels have been our life saver for lugging all of our stuff.
  • Sanitizing Wipes + Travel Size Antibacterial Gel with hanger: these little antibacterial hangers have made it super easy to clean little hands on the go and are the right size to just pop in a Germ-X or Purell travel size bottles in them, but they also bring it’s own bottle for refilling from bigger ones.
  • First Aid Kit + Medicines: Complete with a ziplock with all the kid’s medicines, thermometer and bandaids. It never fails, traveling with small children, we always have a use for something in this bag.
  • Travel Stroller: We own a Yoyo Stroller and it folds down to purse size. Do I really need to say more? With limited car space, we love this stroller for travel. But if that’s a little too pricey, here’s another option that I’ve had my eye on: Zoe Traveler. The Zoe traveler also folds down to purse size but it’s also capable of attaching to a second stroller or detaching back into a single, which is MUCH easier to get into small spaces like a restaurant for dinner. That feature alone is enough to sell me and make me wish this stroller was out when I purchased mine. We actually own a Zoe Double Stroller and love how light it is, but because double’s take up more space and our oldest is 4, we usually only take this one for Disney or trips to the zoo.
  • An easily accessible diaper changing pad + an extra baby wipes in the front of the car: I love my SkipHop Diaper Changing Pad with clip. It makes it easy to clip from any luggage or stroller without having to carry the entire diaper bag with me. It has extra space for diapers and wipes and was super easy to pull out during rest stops. I also keep an extra baby wipes pack in the front for dirty hands or cleaning up after snacks.
  • A small zippered bag with small toys: Right before Alec, turned 2, we took him with us on a 5 day road trip around Scotland. Looking back, I cannot believe he sat still without complaining for so long. I swear to myself that part of the reason for that was because I packed a small zippered bag with 5 or 6 small Disney figurine toys for him to play with on the road. He actually spent the entire car ride opening and closing the zipper and putting in and taking the toys out. It was genius. For Vera, we got her a small purse with zipper, and once again it worked like a charm. So if your kids are around that age, this could be an easy trick to buy you some more time.
  • Chicco Snack Booster Seat: This last one, is particularly for parents with babies 2 and under and while it is not a road trip “essential,” we’ve packed it in the car for our last few trips and it’s made it super easy to keep the baby still for meals. This little chair straps on to any stool or dinner seat, it is super inexpensive, folds down flat and doubles as a high chair that stays at grandma’s house for us.

I hope these tips and finds make your trip easier this Holiday season. Will you be traveling by car this year? Let me know where and if there’s any essential or “tried and true” tip you have used that I may have missed?

Safe Travels!

XO, Gisselle