Car Travel with Toddlers


The trip is planned, the bags are packed, and your fingers are crossed for a smooth journey with your little one. Even with the best intentions, the change of routine coupled with sitting too long and the excitement of it all can result in an over-tired and frustrated toddler. Here are some go-to ideas to make your next road trip memorable for all the right reasons:


  • Take your time: Toddlers love exploring and inspecting, particularly in unfamiliar territory. Make sure you have a little extra time up your sleeve to allow for adventures, toilet stops and the occasional meltdown
  • Take a break sooner: Often we get so caught up in the destination, we forget about the journey. It can pay to take a break sooner to get some fresh air and plan out other stops, perhaps a look-out or a town with a playground. If you have an unsettled toddler, a stop every 1-2 hours may be on the cards
  • Pit stop fun: Have some bubbles or activities ready to keep the stops exciting and help burn up some of that energy. If you do choose to stop at a cafe to eat, have a fun box of paper and crayons on hand while the family refuel
  • Bring a favourite: A familiar toy, book or blanket will help settle your toddler with the comforts of home. If you are travelling with someone else, it can be a good idea to have them in the back seat with your little one to keep them company
  • Songs and audiobooks: From about age 3, children can follow more complex story lines, which make audio books a great option to pass the time together. If your little one is under 3, a few good music albums of children’s songs to sing along to can do the trick.  Check out your local library for free CD rentals, or link your mobile device to the car speakers to access downloaded kids tunes.  Listening to songs or a story will engage your toddler and help to keep them calm on the journey
  • Pack a picnic: Eating along the way is part of the road trip experience.  Equip the family with some healthy lunch and portable snacks in a chilly bin to enjoy at the pit stops or along the way
  • Observation games: We are graced with beautiful scenery in New Zealand.  Tune your toddler in to the surroundings pointing out landmarks of interest.  You may decide to either create your own or print off a ‘road trip scavenger hunt’ from the internet to keep their eyes peeled for animals, buildings and vehicles throughout the journey
  • Keeping their hands busy: An interactive activity such as puppets or a box with some figurines can keep them amused for part of the journey.  Packing strategically is key to have everything at hands reach
  • Just in case: For those no fuss ‘whoopsy’ moments; wet wipes, a damp flannel in a sealable bag and a basic first aid kit will come in handy.  Your toddler may like to play doctor and apply a sticky plaster with their favourite toy too!
  • On road screen time:  Depending on the length of the trip, you may wish to have some digital educational games or a movie on hand, which may be helpful for the last stretch when patience is wearing thin
  • Celebrate at the finish line:  Praising your toddler with how well they travelled, highlighting their achievements will help them understand what’s expected for the next trip… the journey home again!

Car travel with toddlers