How to Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler: 5 Tips to Make it Through and Make it Fun!

* This blog post is sponsored by Sinclair Oil Corporation.

When people heard that we were going to make the twelve-hour drive to San Antonio from Kansas City, and back again (yes, your math is correct, 24 hours in a car) with a 4-year-old, they thought we were crazy. And honestly, I kind of thought we were too. But when we booked this trip, we knew that we wanted to drive so that we could make stops along the way to see friends and family that we had not been able to see over the past few years. And with a lot of planning and coordination, I’m happy to say that not only did we survive, but we actually had a lot of fun along the way. In partnership with Sinclair Oil Corporation, I want to share my top five tips for surviving a road trip with a toddler.

1. Plan Your Stops. Of course, if there are people and places you are wanting to see along your route, make sure you schedule those well in advance. But more than that, this is an opportunity to add in a bit of fun for your family. Littles need to exert energy, so stopping to stretch is a necessity. (For this mama too.) In your planning, research rest stops, parks, restaurants, historic sights, or anything else that may be of interest for your family. For this trip through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, we chose to stop at Sinclair stations along our route. For background, Sinclair Oil was founded in 1916, and every station looks a little different and unique offerings. However, you are always able to find gas, snacks, drinks, and service options if you need them. But most importantly for this trip, a lot of stations have their signature Dino the Brontosaurus statue, and we chose to try to find as many as we could along the way. Our adventure brought us to the oldest Sinclair station in Oklahoma (located in Perry), a frequent motorcycle hang in Kansas, and a tiny station off the main drag in my college town of Norman, Oklahoma. This was such a fun (and relatively cost-free) addition to our trip, and our toddler is now even more dino obsessed.

2. Pack Early. Approximately two weeks before our trip, I made a list of everything we needed to bring on our trip. And then a week before, I started collecting everything in one spot. Let me be clear, there was nothing organized about this initial collection, but it was all in one spot. This allowed for every time I thought of something, I could just throw it on the pile to be packed. When it comes time to formally pack, you can edit the pile, but at least you’re not running all over your house (or all over town) to collect things.

3. Stock Up On Snacks. Road trip or not, on any given day, I get asked for a snack no less than 900 times, so I was already multiplying that times bored toddler, and my mind cannot do that complicated math. Over the couple of weeks leading up to our trip, I started adding additional snacks to my shopping cart and storing them in a specials place. It’s a similar concept as above, but this way, I could ensure that we had plenty of easy, healthy snacks, and prevent unnecessary stops or spending on our route.

4. Activity Bags. This was overwhelmingly the VIP of our entire trip. Leading up to our trip, in addition to the snack collection, I also started acquiring small activities. These were things that we already had, or they were cheap purchases from Amazon or Dollar Tree: magnets, window clings, sticker books, cars, and more. From there, I also purchased a few packs of gift bags. From there, I made 12 activity bags. Each bag had and activity, a snack, and a piece of candy. Every two hours, I introduced a new bag to prevent boredom and to create excitement. This also ensured that we had activities at our destination without having to pack a bunch of toys. Our son still talks about these, and his new favorite word is “activity.”

5. Take a Tray. I cannot stress how helpful it was to have a tray! For the activities, for the snacks, for meals on the go, for everything. We have had this tray for years, and once again, it saved the day (week).

I hope you found these tips helpful, and I would love any of your additions in the comments.  I promise that a road trip with a toddler is doable, and it can actually be fun!


Molly B.

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