Road Trips with Toddlers: Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Family Entertained

I have spent hours searching Pinterest for the perfect “Road Trip with Toddlers” pins.  I mean, we road trip a lot, so I’m always looking for the secret to making our hours in the car easier.  Most of the ideas are really nice, in theory, but for some reason, many of them just don’t work.  Either my kids lose interest in a matter of minutes, or I’m constantly climbing into the back seat to pick 10,000 things up off the floor of our minivan.  Yeah, not fun.

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Many of you have asked me what we use to entertain our kids on road trips.  I’m going to share the specifics.  Not dreamland busy bags that end up strewn all around the inside of the van, real things you can buy from Amazon and have in your hands in 48 hours.

1.       Interactive, noise-making (annoying) books – I get it.  No one wants to add more noise into the road trip mix, but for us, it is a must.  Even my 16-month-old will play with this book for a good half hour before moving onto something else.  These aren’t Dollar Store prices, but they are worth every penny. Here are our favorites:

  1. Interactive Dinosaur Book
  2. Leapfrog Book
  3. Christmas Book – yes, they love this one, year round
  4. Thomas Book
  5. Paw Patrol Book

2.       EasyXplorer Cooler – we never hit the road without this thing.  The top flips over and becomes a tray for all the little cars, dinosaurs and markers my Littles want throughout the trip.  It stays cold for at least 6 hours (maybe longer, but we max out at 6 hours with 3 toddlers).  There is a divider that easily velcros in and out so at least two of your kids can separate their food.  This feature alone saves hours of fights. It is completely wipeable, washable, hoseable, you name it.  It is the perfect kid-friendly travel cooler.

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3.       New Toys – I’m not talking about a Five Below bag of tricks that won’t keep their interest.  We always invest in a new toy or two before every trip.  The more buttons, lights, and knobs to explore, the better.  These work:

  1. Kid’s Laptop – we actually have one for each kid, and my kids still like to play with them after 7 road trips in 60 days.
  2. Mickey Reader – we read these books at home, but my Littles like to play with the electronic readers on long trips.
  3. Unicorn Toy – this may possibly be the most annoying toy ever invented, but it makes my kids literally laugh out loud.  They love pulling the tongue out over and over.  It is pretty hysterical and tons of time-killing fun.

4.       Snacks – not the healthy, hidden-veggie snacks you serve at home.  You need to pack every single kind of snack imaginable, even the sugary ones.  I think it is the boredom factor, but I can always stave off a meltdown with a cookie.  I told you, real-life suggestions only.

5.       Toddler-friendly Playlist – this playlist buys you a half hour of fun and smiles.  Kids can do all the moves from their car seats, and they seriously love it.  We call it the Gym Jam playlist because we were introduced to most of these songs at a local toddler gym class.  My Littles are constantly asking for Gym Jam songs.  If you have an older backseat rider, be sure they know the moves or can make them up.  It is a lifesaver!

*BONUS*       Planned Stops – OK, this isn’t something you can buy off of Amazon, but it is the most important tip.  We try and stop every 3 hours unless the gang is sleeping.  When we stop, we look for a restaurant with a play place attached or a local museum with a picnic area.  It seems like this strategy would add a ton of time, but trust me, it saves time in the end.  Since we started doing this, we haven’t had a meltdown or screaming fit, and the kids are always OK with getting back in the van.

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Real talk: if all else fails, we turn on a DVD, tablet or phone.  We do limit this option to trips over three hours long since we travel so often.  Sometimes, it is inevitable.  Try to download their favorite shows or songs before you head out.  The whole, we can’t get service, it is buffering thing just doesn’t work with a screaming toddler.

I hope these ideas help you on your next road trip.  Please let me know if you’ve found some things that work for your little one.  I’d love to add it to our bag of tricks.

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