Planning a roadtrip with a toddler

We all know that traveling with a toddler is no easy task. I don’t necessarily think one mode of travel is easier than another because each one has it’s own pro’s and con’s. Recently, we did both a road trip down to Southern California and a flight to Seattle with a very active toddler. There are two main things about traveling with a toddler. The first being, when to travel meaning what time of day to travel given the kiddo will still need to eat, sleep, need diaper changes etc. The second being, how in the world do you keep those busy bodies entertained.  

Once you figure out the best time to travel it is so much easier to figure out what you will need to keep your toddler entertained because you will then know when naps, eating and changing times will fit in, along with the remainder of the time being play/busy/activity time. 

In this post we talk more about when to plan your road trip and what worked best for us! 

Traveling by car – 

A 6-7 hour road trip by car with a 22 month old requires a little bit of planning to ensure everyone is sane throughout the journey.  We decided it made most sense to leave such that we optimized nap times. This way we were both awake enough to drive (vs driving through the night) but we also did not have to entertain Toddler S through the whole drive.

Leave in time for nap time  – In our case, we hit the road close to 1:45 because this is when Toddler S generally falls asleep. In the car his nap is generally not as long as it is at home but we still get a good 1.5 hours and if we’re lucky 2 hours. 

Post nap activities –  We try to keep his routine the same even when we’re traveling. Now it’s usually close to 4PM. Once he wakes up from his nap we talk to him and let him look out the window for awhile. Then as we do at home, we offered him his post nap milk which we carried with us in a cooler. This kept him occupied for another 10 minutes or so. Then it’s time to pull out all the fun activities that I’ve packed for him. (We’ll talk about what those things were in another post)

Dinner break – The time after nap and before dinner is usually about 2 hours. Toddler S eats dinner at home at 7PM. Ideally, if you have enough to do in the car to keep the kiddo occupied just keep on driving until it’s close to dinner time (unless of course you need to break for a diaper change or stretching). We usually can keep going till about 6:30PM before someone gets restless (either kiddo or mommy from the non-stop entertaining). It works out perfectly since we stop, do a diaper change, give Toddler S some time to run around while we take our own bio-break, order our food and get situated for dinner. Generally ends up being a good 1 hour (sometimes a bit more) stop. After dinner, he also gets a chance to run around a little bit before we hit the road while we refill water bottles, clean up trash, fill gas and change him for bedtime. We’re usually on the road close to 8PM which is also his normal bedtime.

Post dinner – Once we hit the road after dinner, there is some more chit chat about our stop and our drive. Within another 30 minutes or so we are ready to do our bedtime prayers on the road and Toddler S will usually knock out. Then it’s a straight drive to our destination, in this case usually another couple more hours on the road. 

Arriving to our destination – If we’re staying with family/friends we let them know ahead of time that Toddler S will be asleep when we arrive. Fortunately in this sort of situation we are lucky to have family/friends set up the sleeping situation ahead of time. One of us will take Toddler S straight into the room where we’ll be sleeping and put him down, all lights dim or off to keep him from completely waking up. Other person gets to empty the car and set up the baby monitor. 

And there you have it…road trip from Northern California to Southern California in half a day with a Toddler, he’s still on schedule and we survived! 🙂 


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