Hello Mamas, are you one of those wondering how to survive long car rides with toddlers in preparation for your next vacation?
Let me share with you 12 helpful tips that we personally apply when embarking on a long car journey with our small kids aged 3 1/2 and 1 1/2.
We’ve already made a couple of long trips before, but with only one toddler in tow. It was challenging, but a long car journey with two toddlers is even more so!
But don’t be discourage Mamas (and Papas)! Surviving a long car ride with toddlers is definitely possible with prayer, planning, and a positive outlook.
How To Survive Long Car Rides With Toddlers
Surviving long car rides with toddlers is definitely possible, albeit challenging. Start by dressing kids with super comfortable clothes, then make sure to bring more snacks, don’t forget to bring water, and stop every 2-3 hours and let the kids move around. Moreover, don’t forget to have some plastic bags, too, just in case one of the kids vomit, and make sure Mama seats with the kids in the backseat for maximum supervision. A tablet is also helpful in entertaining the kids, as well as listening to children’s songs, playing with one of their favorite toys, and playing games with them. Don’t forget the first aid kit and plan an overnight stopover. Lastly, don’t expect your trip to be tantrum-free to avoid disappointment.
1. Dress The Kids With Super Comfortable Clothes.
I always make sure to dress kids in soft clothes, 100% cotton as much as possible. Denim fabrics or other similar are very uncomfortable for kids during a long drive.
In one of our shorter drives in the past, I dressed #1 in cargo shorts with bulky back pockets, and after a while, he was complaining that something is uncomfortable or bulky in his butt.
So, no more shorts with bulky back pockets for the kids when driving for long hours since that experience.
2. Bring More Snacks.
Snacks are a lifesaver during long car rides with toddlers. When they start to cry and be grumpy, they can just be hungry, and giving them snacks will easily solve the crying.
My husband always reminds me of a Catalan saying that says: nens petits, mals petits (which means small kids, small troubles) everytime kids stop crying after giving them something to eat.
So, make sure to bring some snacks and better if it’s healthy as much as possible. Non-perishable snacks are preferable because you don’t have to bring an extra cooler and won’t have the pressure of consuming them all to avoid spoiling.
I prepared a snacks bag with fruits, biscuits, breadsticks, and corn crackers. Then we just bought more in the stores where we did our mini-stops to replenish the bag.
Mama should not forget to offer snacks and water to Papa, too. The driver should also be pampered, as much as possible.
3. Don’t Forget To Bring Water (And Reusable Water Bottle, Too).
And it goes without saying that water should be given next after giving the kids some snacks. And they should be given water frequently to avoid dehydration, especially when traveling during the summer.
Bringing a reusable bottle is also convenient because you can just refill it at your next stop (given that the water is safe to drink).
We love our reusable water bottle from Decathlon because the tap also doubles as a cup which is very good for kids and it’s also a good way (albeit a small step) to practice low waste while traveling.
4. Stop Every 2-3 Hours And Let The Kids Move And Play.
Long road trips with toddlers can’t be done straight! You need to stop every 2-3 hours for the kids and for your sanity, too!
Driving longer than 2-3 hours straight with small kids is doable, but it also means driving with kids crying in the background. If you can deal with it, then you’re free to keep driving!
Everytime we stop, we let the kids out of the car and let them move around. On our recent trip to Asturias and Santiago de Compostela and on our way back to Barcelona, we took out the bicycle for our 3-year-old on our stops so he can ride a bit, and we let our 1-year-old walk around.
We usually stop for 10-15 minutes depending on the situation. If kids are a bit grumpy, then we let them move around a bit longer. And we also take advantage of going to the bathroom and asking our 3-year-old if he wants to pee before hitting the road again.
RELATED POST: One Day Tour In Oviedo, Asturias With Small Kids
5. Have Some Plastic Bags Ready Just In Case One Of The Kids Vomit.
This tip is something I learned the hard way on our recent trip to Asturias and Santiago de Compostela. We were already driving for 20-30 minutes from home and I told my husband that I had a feeling that I forgot something (which I usually say everytime we leave for a trip).
Then after just a few minutes, #1 said that he wants to vomit. I was getting nervous and I looked around the car trying to look for something. Luckily, my husband had put the huge beach towel on top of the biggest luggage, so I was able to reach for it. I put it under #1’s mouth, and he vomited instantly!
Then I realized that the thing I forgot is some plastic bags (that I was meaning to pack before). We stopped in a gasoline station for #1 to get some fresh air. My husband went inside to ask for some plastic bags and the woman gave us a couple of black trash bags.
#1 vomited again on our trip back to Barcelona and the trash bag saved us from cleaning the car floor. I learned the hard way to never forget to bring plastic bags on our next trip!
Over-the-counter tablets or oral solutions for motion sickness for toddlers are available in pharmacies. Just ask in the pharmacy and follow the instructions on how to use them.
It’s not a foolproof guarantee though, but it helps. We gave #1 an oral solution for motion sickness that we bought in a pharmacy in Oviedo, but he still vomited once on our drive from Santiago de Compostela to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
6. Mama Should Seat In The Backseat With The Kids.
This is what I always do on all our trips, be it short or long, or dad can be in the backseat, too, if mom is driving. But an adult should always be in the backseat to monitor the kids, especially if they’re still toddlers.
I have to constantly pacify the kids especially because #2 likes spreading his legs and #1 doesn’t want his brother to touch him. When #2 starts spreading his legs and starts reaching for his brother, an argument starts that usually ends up in #2 crying. To prevent it, I have to stop #2’s legs from reaching #1. Go, Mama, you are a good referee!
It’s also Mama’s role to make sure that the kids are given snacks and water and entertained when they start to get bored.
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7. Bring A Tablet For Entertainment.
Our Huawei tablet goes with us everytime we go on a trip. I make sure that I don’t forget it because it has saved us many times in the past from tantrums.
Though we try to limit our kids’ screentime as much as possible, it’s our last resort when all else fails.
If one of the kids doesn’t want to eat his food at one of our stops, we let them have some screentime of their favorite Leo el camion or cocomelon.
We don’t let them watch videos though when the car is on the move because I found out that they get dizzy (that can lead to vomiting).
8. Listen To Children’s Songs.
Instead of watching their favorite videos, my husband plays it on his phone and connects it to the car’s speaker.
But one time, the phone was within the kids’ view and they started to look at the screen, and after a few minutes, #1 said that he was dizzy. Since then, we make sure that the husband turns the phone down or puts it away from the kids’ sight, so they can’t look at the screen while the video is playing.
I’ll download the songs and save them on a USB for our next trip.
9. Bring Some Of Their Favorite Toys.
Bringing some of their favorite toys on a trip can go a long way. #1 always have miniature cars with him wherever we go and they entertain him a lot.
It’s still difficult to identify the toys that #2 loves the most, so I also bring 3-4 small toys for him.
Definitely pack some of your kids’ favorite books if they are into reading.
10. Play Games With The Kids.
You can play a lot of games with your kids inside the car like “what do you see”, “what do you hear”, or singing songs with certain words, high fives, peek-a-boo, etc. The sky is the limit!
#1’s favorite game is identifying the brands of cars that he sees! And it amazes us because just in one glance he can already tell the brand, while I need to see the logo first before I can identify it.
High fives and peek-a-boo are #2’s favorites.
11. Bring A First Aid Kit.
I have a confession to make: I didn’t pack first aid kits on our past trips and it made me feel like a bad mama. 🙁
The first time I packed a first aid kit was on our recent trip to Asturias and Santiago de Compostela following one of the tips I read on the net about tips for long road trips with kids. So I packed paracetamol for kids, ibuprofen for adults, and some band-aids and put them in one of the luggage.
It was an epic fail!
During one of our dinners, my husband parked the car and we were going to the street lined with restaurants. But on our way, there was a park and #1 ran to the entrance and fell! He got a cut on his knee with blood coming out, but we didn’t have the first aid kit with us. It was in the luggage in the hotel room!
Luckily, there was a pharmacy nearby and we were able to buy a betadine.
And in hindsight, I didn’t pack the betadine, so, even if I had the kit with us, it was useless. A band-aid without a betadine!
And I also realized how useless it was for me to bring paracetamol without bringing the thermometer! Arggggg!
Make sure to put the first aid kit in your car, or better yet in the stroller or in the bag that you always bring to make sure it’s available when the need arises.
12. Make An Overnight Stop.
An overnight stop is ideal especially if the drive is 10 hours or more. It’s good, so Papi (who usually drives) can have a good rest and have a good start to drive again in the morning. It’s good for the entire family.
You can have an overnight stop in one of the towns halfway through your long drive, book a hotel or hostel (doesn’t have to be fancy) for the night, and make a bit of tourism, too, before hitting the road again.
This is what we did on our trip back to Barcelona from Santiago de Compostela. It is an 11-hour car drive, but that is without stopping. But because we stop every 2-3 hours, so it takes longer.
We decided to make our overnight stop in Santo Domingo de la Calzada – a place that my husband had a very good memory of for its beauty when he was doing the Camino de Santiago by bicycle when he was 17 years old.
We stayed in a hostel in the center, had breakfast, and availed of a guided tour to see the beautiful and historic Church of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and back to the road again.
Then we stopped in Zaragoza to have lunch and finally arrived at our home-sweet-home at around 6 pm.
13. Don’t Expect A Tantrum-Free Trip To Avoid Disappointment.
Lastly, don’t expect that your trip will be smooth because it won’t be Mama! Long car drives with toddlers will always have tantrums, crying, and arguments. It’s what makes a trip more memorable. 🙂
Pray for more patience, grace, and a positive attitude.
More Tips For Surviving Long Car Rides With Toddlers
Looking for more tips as you prepare for a long car journey with your kids? Here are two articles with more tips:
Tips For Long Road Trips With Toddlers from Twin Mom And More:
And 40 Kids Activities & Essentials You Need For A Road Trip With Toddlers from Moms Collab:
Even if long car rides with toddlers are challenging, it’s not reason enough for us to get scared to try it at all. Instead, let’s have more long car journeys with our kids to give us more practice!
Go for it Mamas and Papas, we can survive it!
But, always remember Mamas that if a long car ride is not an option for your family right now, you can always substitute it for a staycation. It’s equally fun but less stressful than a vacation with small kids.
Have you tried long car trips with your toddlers? Do you have tips that are not on my list? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.