Tips for Traveling with Toddlers & Preschoolers

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers by Just a Girl and Her Blog

On Monday I shared some pictures from our vacation in beautiful Blue Mountains, Ontario. Everything was gorgeous and we had so much fun, but before we could get to the “good stuff,” we first had to conquer the 7+ hour trip from our house in Pittsburgh, PA to the resort in Ontario.

Let’s just say this was not the part of the trip that I was looking forward to the most with a two-year-old and four-year-old along for the ride. {And did I mention they hate car trips?}

I knew I couldn’t just throw them in the car and start driving, so here are some strategies I used to make the car ride {and the rest of the trip} go a little more smoothly…

{Yes, I know everyone is back from their summer vacations already. So just pin this, read it again before your vacation next year, and pretend my timing was really awesome. ;)}

Road Trip Countdown

I first saw this idea over at Suitcases and Sippy Cups, and I just had to make an American/Canadian version for our trip. I made signs with the names of five cities that we would pass through, including our destination, and hung them on a piece of yarn by Connor’s seat. When we got to the city listed, he got to pull down the card. This gave him an idea of how much longer we had left in our trip and kept the “Are we there yet?!” questions to a minimum!

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers by Just a Girl and Her Blog

To add a little extra incentive, I picked up some small “treasures” at the dollar store before we left, and if the boys had been on their best behavior, they got a little treat when it was time to pull the sign down. Some of the items they received were coloring books, stickers, mini monster trucks {their favorite!}, little plastic snakes, and glow sticks.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers by Just a Girl and Her Blog

Not only did this keep the boys excited to reach our next landmark city, but having new little trinkets also helped keep them occupied for a little while and helped them forget that we were on a long road trip.

Road Trip Box of Goodies

I knew the boys’ new treasures would keep them busy for a little bit, but we were going to be in the car for over seven hours, so I wanted to be prepared! I put together a little box of goodies to stash in between the Cs’ captains’ chairs so they’d have easy access to all sorts of fun stuff.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers by Just a Girl and Her Blog

Our box included their personalized clipboards with paper and crayons, books, including their Tag books and pen {with extra batteries!}, DVDs, and snacks galore– goldfish, mini oreos, fruit snacks, apple sauce squeezers, and more! I definitely bent the rules and let them have more snacks than usual, but they understood that it was a special occasion and wouldn’t be happening often! 😉

Also, don’t forget a garbage bag! I hung one behind my seat where it was out of everyone’s way, and we had so much less to clean up at the end of our trip because we had a central location for all of our snack wrappers, empty water bottles, etc.

Outfit Bags

This trick came in handy after we arrived at our destination. I know several of my friends swear by packing their kids’ clothes in ziplock bags by outfit, but I had never tried it until this trip. What a lifesaver! I simply put a pair of shorts, t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, socks, and undies in each bag, marked it with the boys’ names, and when they needed an outfit on vacation, we could just pull out a bag and it was all there waiting for us!

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers by Just a Girl and Her Blog

I may have even gone a teensy bit crazy {you can’t tell me you’re surprised} and also marked the bags with symbols– suns for daytime outfits and moons for pajamas. It may be a little over the top, but it was a big help, especially for Connor when he was picking his own clothes.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers by Just a Girl and Her Blog

The bags were still in great shape when we were done using them, so I was able to save them and stash them away for our next trip. Yay!

The one thing I wish I would have done differently with the Cs’ packing was to bring more outfits! I brought a few extras, but I had forgotten how much we change clothes on vacation, and it would have been nice to have more with us.

So those were three strategies that were a HUGE help for us this trip, but I know there are a ton more “vacationing with kids” ideas out there!

Do you have any tips for traveling with toddlers? Please share things that have worked for you in the comments so that we can all learn from each other!

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29 Comments

  1. Emily @ My Love for Words says:

    Great tips! We’ve gone to and from FL a couple times (two 8+ hr days in the car back to back), and the little surprise idea is fantastic. I just saw that plastic bag idea for the first time a couple weeks ago and think it’s genius! I’m tempted to organized my kids’ closets that way. 🙂 Pinning for our next trip.

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thank you, friend! I would like to think of a better way to organize my kids’ clothes at home, too. Con comes up with some *interesting* outfits when he’s choosing, and I would love to be able to find a way to help him improve his matching skills, lol! Sounds like a good project to work on! Hope you’re having a wonderful week!!!

      ~Abby =)

  2. Oooo… packing clothes in baggies? Now that’s a great idea.

    Our longest trip was to Disney when the baby was 18 months old and the boys were 4 & 7. By the end of the drive they were all covered in chocolate because I broke down and started tossing Hershey kisses at them!

    Take care!
    Ashley @ 3littlegreenwoods

    1. abbylawson says:

      Girl, you do what you gotta do! When I was looking at other bloggers’ travel tips, almost all of them said, “Throw the rule book out the window!” and I absolutely agree! Hershey’s kisses for everyone!!! 😉

      ~Abby =)

  3. Beth Anne says:

    Awesome ideas, Abby!

    I’ve never tried the zip-loc bag idea, but I could see that being so convenient once we have more than one tiny person’s clothes to pack. Also, Holden loves to rummage through a suitcase, so this packing method would make things way more toddler-proof!

    I’ve definitely done the little surprise idea. It really helps. Holden gets a backpack of “goodies/activities” and he’ll spend a good hour or two rummaging through it, playing, taking everything out. Then, when we stop, I pack it all back up, and he starts over as if everything is brand new. Too funny!

    I love your idea for city or landmark cards. Totally stealing that when Holden is a little older.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Beth Anne

    1. abbylawson says:

      He is really the cutest ever! I love the picture you emailed us– he loves his daddy! Hope you guys are having a great week. We miss you!!!

      ~Abby =)

    2. The Educational Tourist says:

      Great ideas! I use many of the same for our time on the road. I just posted some new ideas for keeping kiddos busy and happy on the road including scissor practice and letter practice – learning fun!

      Visit http://www.theeducationaltourist.com for tips on traveling with the kids.

      We should all buy stock in zip-loc!! I love using their bags to pack, too. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
      Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  4. now at home mom says:

    I love your ideas Abby, you are so organized and creative! 🙂 & yes I agree about the amount of outfits we need to bring on a trip with a little one, we have to change them all the time! 🙂
    glad you guys had a lovely vacation! 🙂
    & wish you a great weekend too!

    1. abbylawson says:

      Seriously! They were in at least 3 outfits a day! Crazy boys! Thanks so much for popping by, Ingrid! Have a wonderful weekend!

      ~Abby =)

  5. Carrie From Carrie This Home says:

    You’ve got some great travel tips here Abby! I’ll have to pin this for our next road trip.
    I’m stopping by from Inspire Me Please (#5 Bowl Licking Good Guacamole) Have a great weekend!

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thanks for popping over, Carrie! I’m headed over to check out your guacamole now–sounds yummy!

      ~Abby =)

  6. femmefrugality says:

    Wow! This whole post is amazing! I love the flags idea, and packing in ziploc bags! AND incentives? You’re superwoman. I’m convinced.

    1. abbylawson says:

      Lol! My kids would probably beg to differ, but at least the little prizes were a hit. Thanks so much for stopping by, Brynne!

      ~Abby =)

  7. Christy@Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer says:

    These are all great tips, Abby! I haven’t tried the ziplock bag packing idea, but I bet it is really helpful! My little man’s clothes get lost in amongst all of our clothes! Also love the flags with the cities!
    XO

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thank you, Christy! I usually pack my boys’ clothes in the same bag and was sick of them getting mixed up, too, so this was a good solution! It’s amazing what a few little bags can do! 😉

      ~Abby =)

  8. Stopping by from I Want Crazy! I love this post and these great tips! We are planning on taking a huge trip out of country at the end of November and this is such a great reference! Love the outfit packs! Such an awesome idea! Have a great weekend Abby!

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kat! Have a blast on your big trip!

      ~Abby =)

  9. Selene Galindo says:

    Awesome and useful tips, Abby! I’m loving the “outfit in a bag” one!!

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thank you, Selene! I couldn’t believe it took me so long to try that one! Definitely a keeper!

      ~Abby =)

  10. These are great ideas! We drive to Indianapolis a few times a year and it’s going to get harder as my son gets older. We’re going to need to try some of these tips!

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thank you, Lisa! Kids definitely make road trips more challenging, but definitely not impossible! Have fun in Indy!

      ~Abby =)

  11. Samantha @ Five Heart Home says:

    Oooo, these are great tips, Abby! You are always so organized. We are taking a road trip at the end of the month and I’m going to have to revisit this post beforehand. Pinned…thanks for sharing your awesome ideas!

    1. abbylawson says:

      Thanks for the pin! Have so much fun on your road trip!!!

      ~Abby =)

  12. JaneEllen says:

    Oh for those nice zip lock bags when my kids were little. No such thing then. No disposal diapers either til after youngest was born in 1970. It’s amazing what we take for granted now that we had no idea of then.
    Disposable diapers would have been really handy when the boys were little since they were only 16 months apart.
    Smart idea with the location flags. Did I see on with Erie, PA on it? My Dad’s Mom/StepDad lived in Sheffield, PA. The last time I was there it still had a dirt road thru town. It was an old mill town. The last time I was there was 1950.Yeah I know, that’s eon’s ago. I was 10 and we were moving to Tucson, AZ from Cleveland. We made a detour thru PA to see grandparents on way out.
    I’ve been very fortunate in my life seeing a lot of our country all over. When hubs was trucker I’d go with him every chance I got. We spent time in BC Canada and other parts. One time we went across from BC east to that big mall with the surfing waves. Another time we went up into Canada from Lake Champlain.
    I miss traveling with him a lot. He retired from trucking in 2004. Now we can’t afford to travel so guess it’s good thing we did what we did.

    1. abbylawson says:

      No disposable diapers?! Eeek! You are my hero for going through all of that with two at the same time! Wow!
      Yes, we live in Pittsburgh, PA, so we passed through Erie on our way up to Toronto! Sounds like you had some pretty fun travels yourself with your dear hubby. What fun memories for you guys! Thanks so much for stopping in, Jane Ellen! Have a great week!

      ~Abby =)

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  15. Hi!
    What an interesting blog, especially this post. My family (hubby and baby and ,myself) went to Block Island last August for a week with my parents, we are from CT. So we had to take a ferry and bring what we needed for a week. Although most of it was ok, i.e. the baby enjoyed driving around and being outside, we ran low on her formula and had to use a different brand for half the trip which meant she was really fussy overnight which is rare at home. I think if we could have done it again we could have brought more formula, to be safe. Lesson learned!!

    Luckily for babies it doesn’t really matter what they wear, especially in the Summer, so we just bought a lot of short sleeve onesies with only a few pants and long sleeved shirts. And of course we bought her sunhat and plenty of burp cloths. But yes…always bring more food than you think you need :-/

  16. Really good tips. Outfit bags are particularly helpful for smart packing.

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