During the recent December holidays, my little family packed ourselves into the car and headed down to my hometown, Nelspruit, for a break with the family. This wasn’t our first time travelling with our daughter, but it was definitely our first time travelling with a toddler. What a difference this was.
At her precious age of 2, she’s far more demanding than we anticipated and a mere 300km road trip felt like an eternity. From Nelspruit, we went off to the Kruger National Park for a relaxing bush break, but for this road trip, I had learnt a few things that made it a whole lot easier. I would even consider myself an expert, a connoisseur rather, of toddler distraction and by the time we did the long trip back to Pretoria, we had neutralised the toddler.
So how did I manage to improve our travelling toddler from a screaming tyrant to an angel. Here are a few tips to travelling with the Terrible twos:
1.Things to Pack
Besides the regular travel packing, please see the following items as important as any travel essentials (passports, visa, etc) that will help you avoid many disasters:
- Snacks: Pack your child’s favourite snacks in abundance. Road trips are not as exciting for toddlers as they are for you, so bring tons of snacks along to get them excited too. My favourite snacks to bring along are cheese puffs and dried fruit. In addition, bring along juice boxes or any drinks in small packaging.
- Diapers: I know it’s such an obvious thing to list, however, some toddlers are potty training at two and the road is not kind to potty training. If your child is not exactly fully potty trained, I suggest you pack plenty of diapers to avoid any messy clean ups.
- Plastic Bags/Brown bags: This is a cheap, useful organiser and trash system. You can use plastic or brown bags as a trash bag to throw away any trash build up in the car.There will be lots of this with a toddler. These bags can also double up and be used to organise your snacks, toys, diapers, dirty diapers, etc.
- Hand sanitizer: A travel-sized sanitizer is always required for clean-up after eating or changing a dirty diaper.
- Water: Pack drinkable water (quite obviously) but also pack extra water for cleaning. Some messes need a bit of liquid to clean them up.
- Pain and fever medication: Can you imagine having to deal with a kid who has a fever on the road? Me neither. So just in case, pack your doses of Nurofen or Panado to avoid the dramatic meltdowns.
- Diarrhoea medication: When you’re on the road, you may find your family eating a lot more takeaways and sometimes this food doesn’t necessarily sit well with our stomachs, especially the young ones. So, pack a satchet or two of medication to cure any diarrhoea episodes on the road and some re-hydrates to help with keeping hydrated.
It’s important to stop regularly when travelling with a toddler. Toddlers tend to get quite agitated when sitting in one position for a long time and they become restless. We don’t want the journey to be a nightmare. Stop at the gas/petrol stations along your route to stretch your legs and give the kids a few minutes to play and run around. This may also help to tire them out and take a long nap. Nap = peaceful road trip.
3.Travel during sleeping/nap times
This was a lifesaving trick for us. As our journey was approximately 3.5 hours, we travelled just around 12pm, right before our daughter’s nap time and she slept in the car for more than half of the trip. The motion of the car also soothed her and helped her fall into a deeper sleep which extended the nap a few minutes longer. A total win-win situation for everyone. When you arrive at your destination, everyone is refreshed and ready to holiday!
4. Schedule some screen time and pack a power bank
I am not against technology, but I do think a good balance is required between all the YouTube watching and actual play. So if you’re a screen time scheduler, like most moms, reduce the amount of time they spend in front of the TV, tablet, or any device in the days leading up to your trip and let them “binge” watch during the road trip. Keeping your child entertained in a confined space is quite tricky but this is where your all these devices help a lot. The videos or games shoved into one screen can provide plenty of entertainment without having to pack copious amount of toys/activities that’ll fill up the car to keep the little one busy. You can also download interactive and educational games on the device so that they can learn and play at the same time.
5.Travel with more than one person
I would advise that if you are traveling long distances with a toddler, try to find yourself an adult travel partner. If possible, another driver is a real bonus. The extra set of hands can help a lot by soothing an irritated toddler and handle everything else whilst you concentrate solely on driving safely.
6.Don’t leave on an empty stomach
Although you should stop along the journey, having too many stops increases the travel time. To avoid stopping too many times, everybody and I mean EVERYBODY must eat before they leave. This will limit the amount of stops to just bathroom breaks and driving breaks. Pack enough snacks and drinks to replenish.
7.Put on a fresh diaper before departing
To save yourself from the awkward diaper change in the car, just as you’re about to start the engine, slap on a fresh diaper on your child which should last you a few hours, unless other forces of nature take charge!
So whenever you are planning your next road trip, or on your way back from the holiday season, I hope these tricks will help you out to a peaceful road trip! Happy driving and always stay safe!