Traveling with toddlers (or kids of any age) is a real science. You can’t just jump in a car and hope for the best. It takes a lot of strategic planning. Since I’ve been traveling to Pittsburgh and back from New York City about every other month since Max was born, I have a lot of tips and takeaways to help make the long distance car ride much more enjoyable for everyone.
1. Have entertainment.
Max is currently obsessed with his iPad. I try not to let him use it too much at home, but when on the road, it’s a great way to keep them busy. I also try to make sure they have something EDUCATIONAL.
My favorite: PlayKids. This app has it all – games, videos, “books on tape” – and they all work WITHOUT wi-fi. The app is filled with over 200 videos, shows, stories and educational games that are constantly updated to provide full entertainment for kids up to 5 years. The most famous and loved characters of the world are here like Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat, and Heroes of the City (one of Maximo’s favorite!). You can download all your favorite videos in advance, and have them all hosted on the app so they’re ready to play even during those really remote patches of highway through the middle of no where. Available for Apple and Google.
2. Pack light.
Traveling with kids can test your limits on packing. You’ll find yourself bringing their entire room of clothes and toys, but be realistic. You can’t fit all of that into the trunk of a car let alone a suitcase for a flight. Pick clothes that are easy to pair and match with other items so you can mix them up, and only bring a few key pieces.
My favorite: Cute, one-of-a-kind tees from Littlebean Threads. These simple and cute tees are versatile, and unique so your child will still look chic while traveling for hours on the road.
3. Have a plan
Pittsburgh is about six hours from New York City. I try to leave about an hour before Max takes his nap so he’s had some time to run out his energy in the morning, before sleeping the first leg of the trip in the car. This makes the first part enjoyable as the kids get a nap, and parents get quiet time, or can listen to their own music for once. I stop half way in for a lunch break, usually at a place like Chick-Fil-A that has a great (and clean!) kid-friendly area and food options so he can again burn off some energy before the last couple hours in the car (which are usually occupied by the iPad).
Always plan in advance for a hiccup. Whether it’s a weather delay in the airport, or a flat tire on the side of the road (they’ve both happened!), be prepared in advance in case of the worst. That doesn’t mean you have to overpack, just “prep.” If you’re driving in the winter, make sure you have a blanket in the car. If you’re flying, make sure you have something to entertain them in the airport. Have a change of clothes available just in case of an unexpected vomit. (this TOO has happened! – I recommend getting off an exit and using a hotel bathroom – they’re clean and usually totally understanding of the situation. Plus they’ll have an extra garbage bag to throw those smelly clothes in to block the smell until you get where ever you’re going).
This also includes food. Traveling usually means not a lot of heathy options – if any at all! You don’t have to bring full meals, but you’re going to wish you had some simple snacks like a banana, peanut butter sandwich or crackers when the baby starts yelling, and the next exit is 20 miles away (that only has a sketchy gas station!). Also, ALWAYS have water on you – for emergencies. If someone is thirsty, if you break down, or if you have a messy accident, water will always save the day.
Win a six-month subscription to Playkids for your next adventure (also GREAT for underground travel on the NYC subway), and your own cute new tee from Littlebean Threads!