Last week I told you that we went to the beach last month. (I’m so behind. I know this.) I also mentioned that I braved the road trip with the toddler all by myself. Traveling with toddlers is something that makes me so nervous. On the way to the beach, my mom drove separate and was around to help out when we stopped for lunch and any gas stops we had to make. That was a nice touch. Coming home, though, it was just me. I had thought it through before our trip and I planned for so many scenarios that I thought we would be dealing with.
The thing that helped the most was that we changed his car seat to be forward-facing just after he turned 2. Best decision ever. He can see more and I can easily hand him things if necessary. (I am a big advocate for extended rear-facing car seats. We turned our seat around when it was better for all of us. No judging, please.) Here are a few other things that helped us:
1. I kept a basket of toys in the passenger seat next to me. Any time he needed a book or a toy that lit up/made music, I could easily hand it to him.
2. I planned for stops every 2 hours.
3. I made sure we were driving during nap time. This was huge.
4. The iPad was our saving grace. When he bored of the toys and books, I handed him the iPad and he was able to play his Sesame Street apps on it. I downloaded a new Elmo numbers app for him, so he had something new to explore. It just so happened that the apps were 99 cents for a weekend, and I bought it during that time. The iPad not only kept him busy, but I knew he wouldn’t fall asleep while playing it and he would eat lunch when we stopped. If he fell asleep before lunchtime, I just knew we were in trouble.
After lunch, he played with the iPad for a little longer and when I knew he was going to be ready for a nap, we stopped to use the restrooms and I took the iPad away (out of sight, out of mind, you know?) He fell asleep within 5 minutes and slept for over 2 hours until we pulled into our neighborhood!
I realized on this trip (something I had been thinking about and figuring out for a while, really) that there are few fast food restaurants that are completely accommodating for parents with toddlers. Wendy’s restaurants NEVER have changing tables in their restrooms. The stalls are too small for a toddler to stand in there with you. McDonalds’ restaurants, surprisingly, also don’t have changing tables. So when it came time to stop for lunch, I had searched for Chick-fil-a on my phone (when we were at a gas station.) Reasons I chose Chick-fil-a
1. My toddler will eat their food. He loves their food. (And so do I.)
2. The staff are trained to be exceptionally friendly and they will carry the trays to my table for me.
3. They have changing stations in their restrooms. And space that I could also use the restroom and he wouldn’t be in my lap.
4. See number 2. They also came back to check on if I needed refills or anything extra. I didn’t have to lug my toddler back to the counter to grab ketchup or napkins.
We made it through a 6-hour car trip with no meltdowns, no tears and very little stress. I couldn’t believe it.
What tips do you have for traveling with toddlers?