Are we there yet? Fueling up for long car trips with a verbal toddler

Hitting the open road with a young baby whose days were mostly spent sleeping may not have been a huge challenge, though there may have been a few tricky moments. Fast forward to a long trip with a toddler who’s becoming verbal, though, and the road can seem endless.

Still, there are places to go and people to see, and Baby will benefit from the adventure – and with a little luck, you could, too. Here are some tips for tackling a road trip without feeling like you’re running on empty.

Do your research

Planning the trip itself is just the beginning. Long before you leave, it’s important to start mapping out your journey. It’s a good idea to make stops every few hours so Baby can stretch their legs, which may be something to consider as you think about different routes. Seek out areas that have something kid-friendly to offer, such as a park or stretch of grass, or restaurants with play areas. This will allow Baby to blow off some steam after being cooped up in the car.

Safety first

Parents want their children to be comfortable in the car, but it’s more important to make sure they’re safe. Before leaving, double-check that Baby‘s car seat is installed according to the instructions in the manual. If you’re not sure if the car seat is installed correctly, or you’re moving to a different size, someone at the fire station might be able to help you out with installation, though not all firefighters are trained in car seat installation. It can also be helpful to research the laws in any different states you’ll be traveling through. While some allow car seats to be forward-facing at age 1, others will require rear-facing seats until age 2, for safety reasons. It’s also important to make sure you have a roadside assistance plan in place in the event of an emergency, and pack an extra car charger so your phone will be ready to use at all times.

Pack snacks

The last thing you’ll want part way through a long trip is to hear “hungry!” from the back seat and not have a snack to offer. Packing up a few of Baby’s favorite healthy snacks, then doubling the usual amount they would normally eat during the time you’ll be traveling is a great way to prevent that scenario. You won’t be able to predict things like traffic jams or detours, so it’s better to have a little extra to eat on hand just in case. Crackers, dried fruit, and snack pouches pack easily, keep for a long time, and make great traveling companions.

Keep busy

It may be tempting to throw on a DVD or hand over the iPad, but since prolonged screen time isn’t recommended at this age, it’s a good idea to have other materials on-hand to help pass the time. Mess-free coloring pages, sticker books, and travel-sized magna doodles will entertain them without giving them the chance to make a mess of the car.

Offer prizes

As Baby becomes more verbal, they will likely want to spend some of the trip chatting with you. Encourage them to use their words as you travel by asking them to identify objects they see out the window. Pack up a “reward bag” full of special toys and treats to offer them as a prize.

The idea of a long trip with a toddler can seem daunting, but if you plan ahead, you’re likely to avoid any major roadblocks. Bon voyage!
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