Road tripping with a toddler? Easier than you would believe!

“Honey, tickets to fly will cost us $350”

“Hmm, why don’t we drive instead?”

“Sure, I’m sure we’ll enjoy the ride!”

And with those famous words, my fate was sealed: An 8 hour (one-way) road trip to a destination just south of San Francisco, CA.

Over the Christmas holiday.

With a 14-month old.

Doable? YES!


Now we’re no strangers of long drives. Most of my family lives 1.5 hours away and so from time to time we do travel there. But that drive can be accomplished during NAP TIME.

Of course, by the time I had questioned the wisdom of my husband’s suggestion, the ticket cost had sky rocketed and I was stuck with planning the road trip. But I’m always up for a good challenge and I learned a lot on our trip (which was quite nice, after all was said and done)! So now I present to you, “Ann’s Rules for the Road!”

Rule #1: If there are alternate routes that allow for more chances to stop, USE IT! Even if it takes longer to get to your destination!

My husband had one rule for me. He said, “It’s not a real road trip if you plan where you’re stopping at.” Men. But since this was his road trip as much as mine, I didn’t. Since we didn’t know how well The Bee would fare, I chose the route that gave us more chances to stop somewhere, just in case we had a baby meltdown. It worked out because it was the more scenic route and made being stuck in the car for so long that much more pleasurable!

…this leads to Rule #2: You’ll end up stopping every 2 hours or so (less if you have to change a poopy diaper!)

2 hours was about all that The Bee could take without needing a stretch break. Since he’s at that “I’m walking around everywhere and need to release my energy” stage, having to sit in a seat for long stretches of time makes for a potentially cranky baby. By the way, I have to give a HUGE shoutout to Recaro. The Bee was quite comfortable in his Recaro ProRide Convertible Seat!

When you stop, change their diaper and let them walk/crawl/take in the scenery to stretch their legs and bodies. Maybe grab a quick bite to eat. The biggest challenge of our road trip was getting to our destination with enough time to be able to relax and settle him down for the evening as we do back home (we ended up missing his bedtime on the drive up, but made it home with time to spare). If your child can sleep anywhere and at any time, this wouldn’t be a problem, but since The Bee is so used to his routine we had to get to our destination within 12 hours from when he first woke up for the day. So we couldn’t spend much time at our stops (probably about 20-30 minutes max).

Rule #3: Distractions, Distractions, DISTRACTIONS!

How do you entertain a toddler on a car ride? I couldn’t use coloring books and crayons (which is fair game for food in The Bee’s eyes). The Bee only naps a total of 1.5-2 hours so that meant I had a LOT of awake time to spend entertaining The Bee. Here’s what I used:

Portable DVD Player

The Bee’s a techie baby. So we had to have his favorite shows and cartoons with us! We bought this Philips dual screen portable DVD player for our car and it was great…when it worked. Sad to say, the secondary screen stopped working after we had made a stop on the way UP and, on the way DOWN, the player started stopping and starting at random. Philips’ customer service is great though and sent me another one right away. At any rate, be sure to have plenty of their favorite shows on DVD. I tried switching it up with a few videos he hasn’t seen before and ended up playing 3 DVDs over and over again. Ever do that? Next trip I’m stocking up. When you start memorizing lines from the DVD, you know you’ve been watching it too much.


One of the things that I didn’t think about was getting a portable tray of some sorts (and of course, I left our handy dandy portable booster seat at home since my sis-in-law had the same one at her house), so I tried to keep the toys to a minimum. Small toys that he could hold in his hands worked best, but it wasn’t long before he dropped them. On the opposite side from where I could grab it.


The Bee is a grazer. Literally. There isn’t a day when we don’t have to vacuum the living room and couches due to left over Cheerios and pieces of U.F.F.Os (Undistinguishable Floor Food Objects). Since I was tray-less, I was left using my hand or feeding him other snacks. Just make sure the snacks aren’t smear-able like, oh, cheese and soft carrots. Total nightmare to clean up!

Talk to them!

When not playing peek-a-boo, I gave a running narrative of what we were looking at and pointed out different things. Kind of hard to do when you’re in a moving car (things aren’t stationary after all), but at least it gave us something to do.  We also sang songs and seat danced!

Rule #4: Pack like you’ve never packed before!

Here’s a generalized guide to packing:

♥ 2 outfits for each day you’re away + socks (you never know when a horse will mistake your kid’s sleeve for a carrot and try to eat it…or if the kid should fall down while chasing a chicken. True stories!).

♥ 5 times x days of your stay+ 5 more= the amount of diapers you should bring. We had 5 diapers left by the end of our trip 🙂

♥ 2 packs of wipes. We nearly ran out of the 1 and only pack that we brought.

♥ Blankets/Sleep Sacks

♥ 3 sets of PJs

♥ Two towels and bathing supplies

♥ Two jackets (if needed)

♥ Bibs

♥ Teething essentials

♥ Bottles/Sippies

♥ Food maker or containers of food (and utensils)

♥ Most favored toys (I only brought two since I knew he would be getting a lot of toys for Christmas)

♥ Stroller based on the lay of the land. We brought a Quinny Zapp since it was the smallest folding stroller we have, but I wish we had brought a different one because we went on a walk through a near-by forest that I didn’t know was there. Luckily my sis-in-law keeps a jogging stroller with her.

Rule #5: Be prepared for sleeping challenges

Car rides are great for The Bee to put him to sleep, but what about at night? Your destination is unfamiliar, the room doesn’t look or even smell right and if you’re like us, there was only a portable crib available for sleepy time. Bring things to make bedtime as familiar as possible (such as night lights, nighttime toys, music, blankets, etc.). We tried to stay consistent with our nap and bedtime routines (which worked for the naps), but eventually the only thing that worked at night was keeping him in bed with us. That wasn’t fun. If you’re to go this route, make sure you’ve emptied your bladder before you settle your kiddo next to you. The Bee decided that particular spot on my stomach was the perfect place to lay his head and I couldn’t go back to sleep until he was asleep and I could safely move him.

And lastly, Rule #6 Enjoy your trip, no matter what happens!

I went on this road trip expecting the worst, but The Bee never ceases to amaze me at how resilient he is. We had a lot of fun, minimal whining, no throwing up (when both hubby and I were young, we both threw up during road trips) and a wonderful holiday. Best of all…MINIMAL TRAFFIC! I feel like I can take on the traveling world! This brings me to my most recent conversation with the hubby:

“That road trip wasn’t bad! I think we should tackle a plane ride next!”


“Yeah, I thought it’d be nice to go to Hawaii sometime this year.”


Stay Tuned…


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