Before kids, road trips were probably something you looked forward to. A few friends, some take-out food, and the right music were all you needed.
However, road trips with kids can be panic-inducing. How do you keep your toddler from having a meltdown? Do you have enough space in your vehicle for everything you need? What do you even need?
Make your next trip a little easier with our travel essentials.
If you regularly drive around with your kids, you likely already have car seats for them. Not only are they the safest way for young children to travel, but they are mandated by law in most states.
Your children are familiar and comfortable with their own car seats. Always plan to travel with them, even if you aren’t using your own vehicle. Switching your child to a different car seat they aren’t familiar with can be a recipe for tantrums, especially if they are going to need to spend a lot of time in it.
If you need to switch your car seat from one vehicle to another, make sure you install it properly in the other vehicle. Improper car seat installation is a common cause of injury and death in car accidents. Check out the National Highway Transportation and Safety installation information for help if you have questions or concerns.
If you are planning air travel, it is a good idea to bring your car seats on the plane with you. Car seats provide the ability to restrain your child in their familiar seat, so you don’t have to worry about them trying to escape or crawling all over the floor.
While it may be tempting to sit a younger child on your lap, they are actually safer in their car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children fly in their car seats so that they do not receive head injuries from being thrust forward during turbulence or sudden stops.
Different airlines have varying guidelines for car seat usage, so you’ll need to check with your airline before your bring your car seats on board. You’ll also need to make sure your seats are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
If you plan to be out and about at your destination, you’ll likely need a stroller. Strollers come in handy for tired babies and toddlers who need a break or a nap. Some strollers lull them right to sleep which helps if you’re out during nap time.
However, strollers can be large and clunky. You may not have a lot of space in your vehicle for a stroller. We recommend getting a sturdy umbrella stroller for these situations. Umbrella strollers are lightweight, compact, and often fold up in one step. That’s why they make the perfect travel stroller. Find one with a sun canopy and large storage basket and you’ll be set for walking around all day. If you have two young children, consider buying a double umbrella stroller.
If you plan to be out with your stroller at Disney, make sure you check out the Disney blog for specific tips on navigating their parks. There’s a lot of special considerations to keep in mind!
Once you get to your destination, you’ll need to figure out how to get your children to sleep in an unfamiliar environment. Some hotels have cribs you can use, but you will likely have no way of checking on how well they meet current safety standards. You also don’t know how comfortable they’ll be. You could try sleeping your child in bed with you, but that may result in less sleep for everyone.
If your child is used to sleeping in a crib, a travel crib may be your best bet. Travel cribs, often called play yards or pack & plays, are lightweight and fold up compactly. They make a great place to both safely play and sleep. If you own a travel crib, you could have your baby nap in it for a couple weeks prior to traveling, and they can get used to sleeping in it. When you go on vacation, sleeping in the travel crib will seem normal to them.
If you plan to spend hours on the road, in an airplane, or using a stroller, you need snacks. You should try to pick something that’s not messy and requires little or no preparation. You don’t want to constantly sweep up crumbs! You also want to make sure you’re not filling your children with too much sugar or processed food, as that can cause moodiness and tantrums later on. Here are some good snacks to bring – you’ll need a cooler for some:
- Cheese cubes or string cheese
- Whole grain crackers (add peanut butter)
- Carrot or celery sticks
- Dried fruit chips
Ideally, you’ll want to limit snacking if it causes your children to drink a lot. You may not always be able to stop at a bathroom, and young children are notorious for needing a lot of bathroom breaks as it is.
Toys, Tablets, and Movies
Road trips and vacations are the perfect time to allow your children to do some fun activities they may not normally do otherwise. If there are special toys they don’t get to play with often, bring them as a distraction for the ride. While you may like to limit screen time at home, now is a good time to let them watch as many movies as they want or play a favorite game on your tablet. You can always go back to having limitations once you’re home again, but this might prevent meltdowns and help you peacefully travel to your destination.
Traveling with kids is never easy, but surrounding them with familiarity and their favorite items can really help. Allowing your child to relax with as many of their own items as they can will go a long way in staying tantrum-free on your next vacation.
Who’s the Writer?
Jenn is a blogger for Mommy Stroller, which focuses on helping parents figure out which stroller and baby gear they should get. The blog was started by Evelyn and her husband, Paul, who both decided to blog about baby gear after the overwhelming feeling they experienced when trying to pick out their first stroller. Both of them enjoy spending time with family and friend, live music and going on jogs with their kids (in a stroller).
For detailed baby gear guides, stroller reviews and anything and everything stroller-related, check out Mommy Stroller! You can also connect with the Mommy Stroller crew on Pinterest and Facebook.