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ASK THE 0-3 TEAM: Tips for traveling with toddlers

on July 08, 2014 10:50 AM

Question: I am planning on taking a long road trip by car with my young toddler. What advice do you have to make the trip more pleasant for all?

Answer: When traveling long distances by car, it helps to plan your journey well. If you are taking a route that you have not traveled before, make sure you familiarize yourself with directions or maps of the route to avoid unnecessary backtracking.

If you are opting for a route that you have traveled before, make sure you allow plenty of extra time to complete the trip, as you will most likely be making plenty of stops along the way.

Generally, a trip that used to take you six hours may now take eight to nine hours.

In the hot summer months, it is important to keep hydrated and the same goes for your children, so bring plenty of water.

Many people don’t realize that it is possible to get sunburn even when you are inside the car. Put sunscreen on your children, and layer more on periodically. Have a hat ready for when you get out of car and always carry a jacket in your bags just in case the temperature drops suddenly.

It is also important to check that your car is safe to travel and that your children all have approved child restraints. Make sure that your car seats are installed properly. Few children like being strapped into a car seat for a long period of time and one of the advantages of traveling by car is that you can stop to let your toddler run around on the grass, or feed and change your baby.

Never leave your child unattended in a car.  

A few toys might help to keep a toddler calm on a long car journey. Perhaps put a few little things into a backpack and hang it over the headrest of the front seat. Then your child can reach the backpack from his/her car seat and enjoy digging around in it for “treasure.”

It is important to keep loose objects in your car to a minimum. It also helps to keep a supply of food on hand. Think portable finger foods that are non-messy. Crackers, dried fruit and muffins are nice and easy. 

When traveling with a young baby, try to stick to his/her routine where possible.

When planning in advance, think about where you will be able to find facilities to change baby and heat bottles/food if necessary.

It may be possible to change baby on the back seat of the car if necessary and carrying a thermos of hot water means that you are able to heat bottles and food if you can’t find somewhere to stop. 

Some parents find that it helps to travel at night where possible, so that their children sleep most of the way.

If you are planning on traveling at night, it might help to maintain your child’s bedtime routine prior to getting in the car. For example, bath, pajamas, story and bottle and then get into the car. This offers a sense of familiarity and might help him/her to settle more quickly.

Submitted by Jocelyn Debick Jocelyn is a mother of three teens and is the Children’s Services Associate Director at accessAbilities Inc.

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