Starter Mom: Toddler Travel Tips

by Nicole Loughan

travel with kids

Summer is officially here. For many people it means time for summer camp or to join a swim club like Fanny Chapman. Not in my house. Summer for us means it’s time to hit the road for our annual trek to the mid-west. We have gone on this trip every summer for eight years to visit relatives. We have learned a few tips along the way to make traveling with babies and toddlers a little more bearable. Read on to see what we do to keep road trip disasters to a minimum.

Keep the ink on the page – Unless you like multi-colored stripes on your upholstery I recommend buying Imagine Ink booklets for the little kids. These books included markers or water pens which don’t leave marks on anything except the Imagine Ink paper. The water pen ones are great for little kids 3 and under, as they are reusable and work well regardless of accuracy. For older kids try the marker versions they are more accurate and take a little longer to do.

Got Milk – A regular gallon of milk and cups can be a bit of a disaster. I tried it once. The gallon took up the whole cooler which was annoying, but that wasn’t the bad part. Let’s talk about the aftermath. You have to find a place in a rest stop to rinse a milky cup and that’s going to be the bathroom sink. You are still going to get that spoiled milk smell because you can’t exactly soap up a cup in a rest stop bathroom. Instead opt for shelf stable milk and use a small cooler to keep them chilled until it’s time to drink, though the chilling is not required. We prefer the Horizon brand of milk for taste. Horizon milks are typically available in stores for under $1.00 a piece, but when purchased in a rest stop can cost more than $2.00. We also purchase a few Juice boxes and keep a rotation of milk and juice in the cooler.

Kid FoodKeep Cool – We used to pack a hard-side cooler for our snacks, but it took up too much space in the car. I use a Thirty-One brand soft side cooler and love it. There are other brands of soft sided cooler available at the store, but my Thirty-One seems to hold the cold in longest and be the most resilient. I also prefer it because it is easier to sling over my shoulder with the other bags I have if I need an extra hand. It does not cool as well as a hard side cooler, I typically get about ten hours out of it using two ice packs.

Make a designated travel bag – I don’t know what it is about trips and tummy troubles and headaches, but we seem to always have them. I always pack one gigantic bag with an extra change of clothing for everybody. It also has medication, drinks, cash, my phone and wipes. I learned to keep spare clothes after one blowout left me covered in scat trying to wash it out in a restroom bathroom with paper towels and auto shut off water.

Secret stash – My personal favorite travel item is a big bag of trail mix. I don’t go on a trip without it. I occasionally share, but my kids and husband have been known to eat all of the M & M’s and Almonds out of the bag, leaving me to choke down dry peanuts and raisins. If you have a favorite item, such as chocolate, store it under your seat to keep it from prying eyes. It will melt if left in the trunk. I know this from experience.

Listen up – Audiobooks are a must for us. They don’t necessarily have to be kid’s books, especially with toddlers, but we seek out clean audio to listen to while they are awake. Classics are good for this like Jane Austin or Charles Dickens. If your kids are old enough to listen along they might like “Holes,” “Where the Red Fern Grows,” or “Anne of Green Gables.” When the kids doze off my husband and I enjoy the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Childs. 


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