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We understand that there are many added layers of stress for parents who have to take a road trip with their toddlers – extra stops, maybe tantrums, small detours. But with the right guidance and planning, this can be a memorable experience for you and your child! Read on to know how to make the most of your road trip with your little ones.
Just hearing the phrase ‘road-trip’ may be the stuff of nightmares for some parents. Restless toddlers, tantrums, fighting siblings, never ending questions – anything could go wrong! But that is only if you are unprepared for your road trip. With just a tad bit of planning, and a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can actually have an enjoyable road trip with your toddler!
The key is to plan for everything, and be prepared for anything. With these few handy hacks, you can be travel-ready with your tiny tots.
Planning is the most important step of the whole journey – plan, plan, and then plan some more! Make sure you note everything from the departure time, to the route you’re taking, even down to the places you will be stopping at. Ensure there are ample rest stops along the way (check Google maps!), so you can make a quick stop at any time, if needed. We break these steps down into a more comprehensive guide so you can say, “Hey, that was actually a peaceful trip!”.
Map your route to the T and plan how many hours you’re going to be driving at a stretch. How you break these hours up by time of day will also go a long way in making sure you and your toddler find peace while travelling. Make sure you account for enough stops and breaks where everyone has a chance to get out of the car and stretch their legs for at least 10 minutes.
While travelling with toddlers, always remember to account for at least 2 hours more than what the map says. Make sure your itinerary is flexible enough to accommodate last-minute changes, if required.
Arrange all necessary documents in a folder and make sure you have everything you may require – vaccination certificates, booking documents, travel permits, identification documents, and passports (if required). It’s better to carry more than necessary, rather than being stuck unexpectedly without an important document. Remember to make a checklist of all the documents you may need beforehand.
Get your car serviced, engine checked, spare tyre replaced (if required), windshield wipers double-checked – you’re already going to be spending a lot of time in the car, you don’t want a last-minute glitch to add to those hours! The last thing you want to do is be stranded on the side of the road with a cranky, screaming toddler while waiting to get the engine coolant replaced!
Also, clear out anything unwanted from your car, and make as much room as possible to store your luggage without feeling cramped. Place your child’s stroller in the car well in advance to avoid leaving it behind at the last minute.
Although a car seat is not mandatory while travelling with a toddler in India, it can be very helpful if your little one is used to one. It secures them in a safe space and makes sure they don’t crawl about or move around while you drive. If your toddler is not used to a car seat, you can rent one (or buy one) a month, or even a few weeks, ahead of your trip and slowly get them used to it. We strongly urge you to use a car seat, especially on highways, to ensure the safety of your little one.
Keep a variety of snacks and treats readily available for your big day of travel. Toddlers are likely to get restless and hungry, especially while travelling – a range of snacks from healthy options to a few fun treats could help keep the tantrums at bay. You can even pre-pack a few snacks in to-go boxes, to avoid getting food all over the backseat of your car! Remember to feed your little one up to an hour before you leave, so they can use the bathroom if required, and at the same time not get hangry on the way.
A fun idea is to prepare a ‘surprise bag’ with different treats for your little one, from which you can give them little surprises at regular intervals or treats for good behaviour. Pro tip: remember to carry a LOT of water and juices – it’s okay if you have to make a few extra bathroom stops. Staying hydrated helps keep queasiness at bay. Try using sippy cups to avoid spillage!
Try to leave at a time where your toddler is calm and not full of energy. Ideally early mornings or after their bedtime is the best time as they are most likely to fall asleep for the first part of the journey. If you do not have this option, let your little ones expend their energy by playing around a little before you leave. This way they won’t have stored energy that makes them restless, cranky, or irritable during the drive.
Your little one may be mesmerised by the trees, buildings, and other vehicles going by, but not for long! They are eventually going to get bored of staring out of the window, and will resort to restlessness and boredom-induced tantrums. The key is to be prepared with toys and activities.
Try choosing activities that will hold their attention for a long time – finger and hand puppets, picture books, and simple puzzles and games! Parents, the decision to allow screen time/ digital time while travelling is entirely up to you, but be aware that staring at a screen in a moving vehicle can cause or increase motion sickness.
Simple travel activities can keep your little one entertained for at least 40 minutes at a time. These games can be played by you, your toddler, and everyone else in the car.
I spy with my little eye: Spot different objects, and try and guess what the other person spotted.
Sing-along: Sing your little one’s favourite songs out loud! A handy tip is to create a playlist beforehand that can be played at any time during the journey.
Scribbling: Give your little one a small white board and dry erase markers, so they can scribble and doodle the time away. Alternatively, a reusable chalk book is perfect for travel, as your toddler will stay happily busy for a while! >
Silly sounds: Everyone in the car can take turns at making silly sounds. The one that makes the most people laugh wins a point.
The minute you sense your tot getting a tad bit restless, stop for a while and let them stretch their legs, eat a snack, or simply get out of the car for a few minutes. They are not used to sitting for long periods of time, and time itself may feel like it’s moving a lot slower for them. With ample breaks, your little one is bound to be less cranky, and stay a happy traveller!
Whether it’s snacks, rest stops, games, or treats from the surprise bag, make sure you give your toddler only one thing at a time. This ensures they make the most out of each activity or thing given to them, and you don’t blow through all the options you had planned as well!
You may have planned everything down to the minutest detail, but some undue stress is expected. Sitting in a car is tiresome for most children so they are bound to get restless, and some things may not go as planned. The secret is to stay calm and patient and be prepared for anything. Remember, if you are calm, the chances of calming down your little one are greater.
Once you finally reach your destination, everyone is bound to be a little cranky, restless, and tired. Unless you are hundred per cent up to it, you can unload all your luggage after a little break, or even the next day. In anticipation of this, remember to pack a backpack or suitcase with all the essentials you may need on the first evening at your destination – a change of clothes for everyone, basic toiletries, towels, binkies, and blankies.
While you will have packed everything necessary (and sometimes more!), those may not always be easily accessible. Thus, it is essential to make sure you have a backpack with items you know you will need during your journey. This makes them easy to locate, and you don’t have to waste time rummaging through your luggage.
Your must-have “grab bag” should include:
Sick bags, or paper bags (incase your little one needs to throw up and you can’t stop)
Remember to keep things simple, plan as much as you can, and yet be prepared for anything to happen. The most important thing is to stay calm in the face of anything, and rest assured everything else will go smoothly. There is no ‘formula’ for travelling with young children. All you can do is your best and hope that everyone has a memorable journey!