Most of you either know or can at least imagine how awful travelling with a toddler could be. Fortunately, we have a curious little girl with a taste for car snacks (who doesn’t…amiright?!), books, and other entertainment that’s easy to translate into car activities appropriate for toddler travel. As she gets older, we’ll add to these activities with more age-appropriate things to do! (Busy bags…we’re coming for you!)
On the average work day our one year old, Kaya, is in the car with me for two to three hours commuting back and forth from her school to home. That’s a LONG time on the day to day to be in a car for someone that young!
Beating boredom is a MUST and as her mother, I must play along and facilitate or we’d have tantrums spilling over the whole time.
Since her dad has taken on a job in the Dallas area, our time on the road has tripled if not quadrupled.
Her patience is starting to wear thin, but it’s all about planning and how to handle getting from Point A to Point B. She’s getting more used to being in the car, but I also don’t want her childhood to be just looking at treetops passing by.
Here are some of our “go-tos” on what to bring along and some games that even a one-year old can get behind!
Toddler Travel Must Haves
First things first…I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend a small investment in the following car equipment for your baby on-the-go:
- A Reliable Car Mirror
The one we have was only $14 from Amazon and a kind soul bought it off of our registry with them for our baby shower. This thing is AWESOME and definitely put my mind at ease during those first few months as a new mom, you know…just making sure she was still breathing.Now I check it every so often to see if she’s sleeping (my cue to change the music to classical or lullabies on road trips or if she’s awake back to kids songs!).
We also play a one sided version of “Peek-A-Boo” using this mirror!
She usually has a blanket (this is the one we use) with her on trips. More often than not, she’s making eye contact with me through the rear view mirror.
When I catch her eye I say “Where’s Kaya?!”
She covers her face and she’ll says “TEETABOO!!!!” and laughs and laughs and laughs. Sometimes I miss the big reveal because, you know…driving and all. But she’s happy! This usually buys us 15 minutes or so…
One thing I forgot on my “prep list” and Baby Registry were car window shades. I immediately ordered these shortly after Kaya was born and only after I realized…
“Hey! She probably doesn’t like the sun in her eyes either!”
This is really just a helpful tip on adding to your registry and don’t forget like I do!
3. Car Seat Toys (if your seat allows)
Our first car seat we had was the traditional infant carrier/stroller combo. We originally were going to go with a hand me down from my sister, but who knew these things can expire!? It was the day before we were to bring Kaya home and we found out our first choice wouldn’t work. They wouldn’t release her to us from the hospital because she was a preemie unless we had a new seat rated for babies under 6lbs.
We weren’t in too much a bind after a moment of freak out then realizing that the stroller my Aunt and Cousin gave us actually included a car seat rated for Preemies! (whew! Stroke of Luck there!)
We loved this Baby Stroller and Car Seat Combo while she was small enough to fit!
One of the great things about infant carriers is using the arm bar to hook awesome Car Seat toys onto!! The ones below aren’t EXACTLY the same ones we had, but they ARE very similar!
Now that she’s getting older, we’ll be looking into Car Seat trays and more age-appropriate toys. She still loves playing with these and looking at the books even though they’re a bit young for her now.
4. Car Seat with Cup holder
From the last point…I’m sure you can tell that, yup…she outgrew the infant carrier. As much as we tried to keep her our small, teeny-tiny baby…the kid grew. We were practically dragging her seat on the ground with her in it while dealing with our denial that she was too heavy to keep toting around like this. This was definitely not the chicest of toddler travel picks.
Seriously, she was 20 lbs before we switched her…imagine that coupled with the HEFTY weight of a carrier on its own! Our arms were BEEFY!!
Fortunately, I found an awesome car seat that went with the interior of my car (yup, I’m picky and in sales…no client wants to sit next to a stinky, crumb-infested, non-sleek looking seat!)
Knowing that as a family we travel a lot, I wanted something that would grow with her that I wouldn’t need to change out every year like the infant carrier.
Enter…Eddie Bauer XRS 65 Convertible Car Seat. Probably the most affordable car seat I’ve ever seen for a pretty good looking (and SAFE) ride! We’ve been very happy with this seat and haven’t had any complaints from its passenger! 😉
5. Neck Pillow…yup…seriously
A few car seats come with these, but my boss is awesome and gave Kaya one for her birthday this year! She LOVES it. It makes sleeping so much more comfortable for her (I’m sure!) A toddler travel must!
What to Pack!?
Now that we’ve gone through the essentials for baby and toddler travel equipment, let’s take a look at what we pack and some ideas for car activities!
Pack a cooler, load their diaper bags, stash Tupperware cups in cup holders for snacks!
We ALWAYS ALWAYS bring a cooler with us (we use a 30 can zipperless cooler with a shoulder strap, like this one)
In it we pack:
- Whole Milk
- 100% Juice Boxes
- Go-Gurt Low Fat Yogurt or another portable yogurt
- Fresh Berries
- Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers or a cracker/salty snack
- Organic Vanilla Wafers (seriously…SO much better for your kiddo than “nilla”)
We also use these awesome little throwaway cups to stash easily accessible snacks when you’re on the move. Ideally, yes…we’d pull over and enjoy a snack at a beautifully landscaped rest stop…but let’s face it, they don’t exist anymore.
Sometimes you just gotta reach in the cup, grab a wafer or Goldfish, throw your arm out of socket behind your seat while keeping your eyes on the road and hope you make contact with tiny fingers grabbing at their prize! Toddler travel, amiright?!
Our household has a love affair with books and fortunately for us, it’s been passed down to our daughter! We both started reading to her while I was eight weeks pregnant with her. I’m convinced that the consistency of reading to her daily throughout pregnancy and in infancy has helped foster the appreciation going into her toddler years. This is SO helpful for toddler travel as well, since she’s into flipping the pages while we drive.
She’s at the stage where she is starting to “read” with inflection and passion in her tiny voice with babbling words. It’s adorable! How many of your kiddos do this!? It’s so fun to witness!
Here are some of our favorites right now!
What could be more fun for your kiddo than singing car songs!?
Dig DEEP into your past and I’m sure you’ll remember a few. If not, here’s a list to get you started and a CD that we have on loop (in case our Spotify is…spotty)
- Baa-Baa Black Sheep
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- The Wheels On the Bus
- Catch A Falling Star
- Old MacDonald
- I’m a Little Teapot
I’ll be honest, it took my dad gifting Kaya this Toddler Favorites CD for Christmas this year to remember a lot of these. It’s been a HUGE hit with her! Repetition is GREAT for her age!! It helps with flexing those memory muscles! (Both mine AND hers!)
My NEW FAVORITE song…that I have to listen to at least 5x, every time… is “Little Red Caboose/Down By The Station” ….um, both Neil and I JAM OUT with this track. Kaya squeals every time it comes on. The verdict is still out if it’s because she also enjoys it…or if she’s already embarrassed by us…
I hope this helps you on your travels a bit or with gift and registry items! We’ll add to it as she gets older, but these are definitely our “go-tos”! All affiliate links and product recommendations are what we personally use and can vouch for!
What are some of your family’s toddler travel tips!! I’d love to hear!!