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Day trips are how I’ve been itching my travel bug these last few months and I figured it was time I finally share my car must-haves for toddlers that I swear by!
This post is sponsored by Regalo Baby, however, all opinions and phrases are mine alone.
Car travel with toddlers
My three-year-old twins and I spend a LOT of time in the car. Between drives to and from dropping them off with their dad, and our frequent day trips on our own exploring the PNW, the car has become our safe place.
I share our day to day life over on Instagram, which includes a lot of that driving, and each time I get questions about HOW I make it work. Asking how the twins handle it, how I handle it, what my tips would be, or what my must-haves are. So here it is! I am finally collecting all of my best tips for car travel with toddlers inside of this post from how to prepare, what you need, and what activities make the trip go smooth!
My number one tip before we dive in, however, is to get those kids used to the car! I started right away. I took my newborns on drives around town or on the backroads alllll the time. I figured it would help them get used to car travel and honestly, I think that is a huge factor in our car success now.
But don’t worry. You are absolutely not SOL if you’re late in the game. We will get those toddlers of yours to LOVE car travel!
how to prepare for car travel with toddlers
If you’ve been around for a while, you probably remember me sharing about how anal I am with preparation. It is how I keep my anxiety down and limit any last minute struggles. When my twins were babies I would always bring in our day bag after any trip out of the house and refresh it right away so that it was always packed and ready to go. Nothing for me to worry about when I would already be struggling to get out the door with two toddlers with one pooping and one crying. Having the bag ready was my saving grace.
I do kind of a similar thing now. We don’t really use a “diaper bag” per say any longer, but I do have a car box. and I keep that thing STOCKED so that I am always prepared for car travel with toddlers. I share what all I keep in it in the “car must-haves for toddlers” section below.
Aside from having my beloved car box always ready to go, I also make sure myself, the kiddos, and the car is prepared first thing in the morning. Sometimes even the night before.
I am telling you. Preparation is your KEY to a car trip running smoothly. If you’re getting worked up before the drive, the kids will be angsty and in turn, make for a not so drive.
Preparing the car: pretty simple. Either the night before our car trip, or the morning of, I make sure everything is ready to go. Gas tank full. Any electronics charged. Phone charger/mount is in car. Masks (since we need those now!) stored safely. Car seats strapped in. Any bags/toys/etc that I might need for the day trip are packed in.
All of those things might seem simple enough, but making sure it is all done before you’re even preparing the kiddos to go anywhere makes for such a less stressful venture!
Next up, preparing yourself. Again, pretty simple. It’s all simple, it just takes some forethought.
Prepare yourself by getting dressed first thing in the morning, putting your shoes on, and making sure you know where your keys and wallet are. All of this BEFORE getting those kids ready!
Now for the kids. I get them ready LAST. I’m talking, they’re getting help with their shoes while I’m opening the front door to leave. I have found this to be helpful because at that moment they are very excited to leave and also, haven’t had a chance to take their shoes back off or change a million times. We are already scooting out the door and something about an open front door makes toddlers so happy!
car must haves for toddlers
Okay, so you know how to prepare for a successful trip, but what do you need for it?
Mama, I got you! And don’t worry, it’s not a hundred toys and messy snacks.
1. Car Box
I redo my car box all of the time, but essentially it is a bin that sits between my twins car seats that holds what a diaper bag would otherwise hold.
- change of clothes for each kid
- small garbage bag for garbage or soiled clothes
- simple snacks (usually a box of bars)
- music book for each toddler
- misc items needed for the trip (might be sunscreen, bug spray, or extra water)
2. Simple Activity Tubs
I have one rectangle food storage container for each of my toddlers. I keep it simple. They have a dollar spot Color Wonder drawing pad (aka, no mess!), toy of choice (monster trucks and dolls), and sometimes something like window clings or another small dollar tree item.
You’re going to need music of some sort. I have Spotify mixes for my toddlers that I play occasionally during our car trips, but it could easily be CD’s or some other means! But nothing quiets my toddlers down quite like the Frozen or Moana soundtracks.
This must-have is one I don’t see many parents share for car travel! My #1 of the car must-haves for toddlers is our Regalo Baby My Potty. I only have one potty-trained toddler, but let me tell you, a travel potty is an ABSOLUTE must have!!
I didn’t consider putting a travel potty into my car until we were on a trip down to Portland and my daughter had to go. So we pulled off and stopped at a fast food place just to find out the lobby was closed due to COVID restrictions. Thankfully she has very strong bladder control, so we are able to make it without an accident to a Target close by. But in that moment I realized how much I needed a travel potty!
I decided to go with the My Potty from Regalo Baby after having many great experiences with their products in the past. I think I have tried just about all of them. Their baby gates were the first products I bought from them after seeing so many amazing reviews, and from there I just stuck with them.
Regalo Baby has so many baby and toddler must haves that you need to check out, but most importantly, you need to try out their My Potty if you have a potty training/trained toddler! Not only is the toddler sized potty great for introducing littles to going potty and using the bigger potty, but its use in the car is all that should sell you.
TBH I have considered using it so that I wouldn’t have to go into a store with my toddlers just to use the restroom on a day trip. I won’t judge you if you do. Do as you please.
5. Last Resort, the Tablet
I always bring their fully charged tablets, but I make sure they are tucked away in my purse so that my toddlers don’t ask for them immediately on the trip. You’d be surprised about how many trips I don’t end up hand their tablets over at all by not showing or mentioning them at all!
best day trip car activities for toddlers
Okay so now that you’re ready to go and have what you need, what about tips for the actual drive?
Again, I got you.
Some of my favorite car activities for toddlers include:
- eye spy (colors, shapes, simple things)
- singing/counting (ABC’s, nursery rhymes, 123’s)
- play their favorite songs and sing in different voices
- cheap window clings
- play with activity boxes
- go wild on the tablets
- play music for yourself and hope they fall asleep
I hope I am not forgetting anything here and that the tips and car must-haves for toddlers that I’ve laid out in this post make for better car travel with your littles!
If you make up a simple car box or activity box, tag me on Instagram! @twinsandcoffeepnw
Safe travels mamas!