While we’ve yet to venture onto an airplane with our kids, long car rides have become second nature for us. Our kids are now 3.5 and 2 (with another due any day now), and we often travel to visit family 2 hours away and 9 hours away. I’m happy to share what we’ve learned to make long car rides a little smoother for everyone, without relying too much on a DVD player. For really long trips, we do borrow a DVD player from our friends, but we still try to stow it away until everyone is desperate for a change. That being said, there are lots of ways to help your toddlers stay busy for hours in the car. If you’re traveling with toddlers for the holidays, here are some of our favorite tips:
… A Doodle is a big magnetic drawing screen with a slide eraser that clears the screen for endless mess-free coloring. We keep two in our car all the time, and our kids use them constantly even on trips to the grocery store.
… Water Wow Coloring Cards are pretty magical. Kids can color the pictures on each card, let them dry back to white, then color it all over again with the refillable water pen. Perfect for the car, my kids are obsessed. There are books for numbers, construction vehicles , animals, and more.
… The A to Z Magnatab helps preschoolers practice writing their letters using metal beads and a magnetic stylus.
… Audio CDs are great for kids. My mom gifted us with a CD set of radio shows my brothers and I had listened to when we were little. They’re a little hard to track down, but Google to the rescue! Jungle Jam & Friends, The Radio Show CDs and downloads are for sale on this site. The stories are quirky and witty with catchy tunes and life lessons. Adventures in Odyssey was another 90s childhood classic.
… Headphones for really long car trips help when you need a break from the kid-themed soundtracks. Most kid versions are volume-limiting, so you don’t have to worry they are blasting their eardrums accidentally.
… Before a big trip, I check out 20-30 library books for the kids. There are also a few books worth owning because kids can study the illustrations and keep finding new things: Busy Bunny Days, The Bear’s Sea Escape, In the Town All Year ‘Round, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever (which was recently updated and is totally worth replacing the version you read as a kid) and Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. See lots of library recommendations HERE.
… My aunt gave me the advice to never limit snacks on a road trip. It really does keep kids more content, quiet, and likely to nap. I pack a few of these snack cups and then keep refilling them during the trip. I’ve found that the element of surprise is important, so vary your snacks: raisins, celery, nuts, fruit snacks, pretzels, cheese sticks, and if you’re lucky some Chick-Fil-A nuggets.
… To pack all the kids’ gear, we have a couple matching tote bags from LL Bean. These hold a week’s worth of kid clothes and diapers, and the zip top means they are stackable. They are water-resistant, and I’m always a sucker for that army green color. We can use these bags indefinitely, unlike super kid-centric luggage.
… As I pull out the tote bags to pack, my kids like to pack a mini backpack of their own. I’ve found these bags become really entertaining to the kids on long car rides, since they rediscover their favorite little toys a few hours into the car ride.
Where are you traveling this year? If you have any other tips, feel free to add them in the comments. I love hearing ideas from other families. Since we have a December 15th due date, this is actually the first time in our marrige we will be in our own house for the holidays. It will be a fun change, and I’m excited to see the kids wake up for Christmas morning in our house with our tree. Wishing you all very safe travels on the road!