Travelling with a Toddler…the good, the bad and the ugly!

Blessed.  I am so deeply blessed.  This winter I was lucky enough to get to escape the never-ending Manitoba winter and head south for a couple weeks with my hubby and two year old son.  We planned a 3 day (one way so 6 days travel total) road trip down to visit my parents in Texas and I knew that I needed to be extremely organized and ahead of the game in doing so!  Here’s what I did to get ready for an extremely long amount of quality time in the truck with my kidlet and what worked the best and what was the hardest hurdles!

First off, if you’re planning a trip with young kids (or even just with adults really) I cannot say enough good things about the Utility Totes from “thirty-one”.  They literally saved my life!  I have two of them which I packed to the max and placed on the backseat floor for easy access.  I bought a few plastic baskets from the dollar store to place inside of them to keep things sectioned off and organized.  One utility tote held snacks and the other activities for my youngster.  I was able to keep things super organized and in tact for the entire trip with this system!


I also bought a canvas basket organizer to use for our diaper changing station necessities.  E isn’t potty-trained yet so I wanted to keep wipes, diapers, paper towel, hand sanitizer and hand lotion at my fingertips so that we could easily grab what we needed for bum changes at our fuel and ‘stretch’ stops!  If your child is still in diapers when you travel let me tell you, you have to change their bums a lot more frequently than you would at home…we learned that quickly…oy!


After a lot of research looking for “the perfect” carseat lap desk I decided to make my own for E.  I sewed a small pillow case, stuffed it with batting and glued strips of velcro to it and to a cookie sheet. (I wanted to be able to remove the pillow for washing!). It worked so well.  It was firm enough to play tractors on, to color, to eat his meals and snacks and to read on.  Things I had read about a lot of different styles of lap desks online stated that they were too flimsy and that the children weren’t able to do any activities on.  This homemade version ended up being so much cheaper to make and worked perfectly!


I bought a container at the dollar store that had a lid and a handle and threw a bunch of small plastic garbage bags in the bottom of.  We used this as our garbage can, removing the full bags to dispose at truck stops and then refreshing with a clean bag from the bottom.  This system was so simple yet so essential.  It kept the truck clean and organized!


Onto Activities…I knew that I would need to have quite a few new and interesting items planned to peak and keep my little’s interest for the long trip.  We also have a tv and DVD player in our truck (hello millennials…) and we packed some Disney movies along with Paw Patrol and Curious George videos.

Some activities that I packed that were a hit were:

  • Search and Find Books…the best!
  • Tractor reference Books (including the ever popular Market Book and Auction Books)
  • Story Books
  • Coloring Books with Crayons and Markers..the ‘color wonder’ type a friend gave us were awesome!
  • Sticker Activity Books
  • Re-usable Sticker Boards (Melissa and Doug)
  • Small Tractors (I kept them in a clear ‘lidded’ container which I wrote which items we packed onto the lid so I knew what needed to go back into the box when cleaning up)
  • Whiteboard and Markers

Activites that I packed that were a miss for on the road but great for when we reached our destination:

  • Lego (really tho, what was I thinking for planning this for a car activity??!!)
  • Travel Games (Trouble, Pack of Cards, Dominoes)

I packed a couple small soft-sided coolers for the refrigerated items and had plastic plates (some with divided sections for E), plastic cutlery and one sharp knife to use to use for cutting up fruit etc.  The small snack cups with rubber, split lids came in so handy for passing snacks to E and for other things like holding markers.


Snacks that we enjoyed on the road:

  • Protein balls
  • Mini muffins
  • Hummus and Veg
  • Crackers
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Gold fish crackers
  • Cookies
  • Jerky
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Licorice
  • Fruit, apples and grapes
  • Buns with Sausage or Chicken Salad
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Lots and Lots of Water Bottles (Frozen to keep the coolers cold and a large case left room temp.  We would refreeze the cooler packs in the hotel at night) Another thing that works GREAT for keeping your coolers cold is filling empty box-wine bladders with water (just press the spigot button and let water run into the bag) and then freezing them.  This genius idea was brought to us from my parents when we arrived in TX!

We also let E pick out a treat a few times when we stopped at gas-stations.  This was such an easy activity for him that made him really excited and passed the time before and after the stops in the truck.  He’d plan what he was gonna pick before we would stop and slowly devour his “treat” after! And let me just say, let your kid pick the ‘sour patch kids’ even though they are 100% sugar…the faces you get from your little one add hilarity for miles!!!

My little guy has a special blanket and loves his stuffed animals so were sure to pack a few of them for quiet time and if by chance he’d nap.  We also were sure to dress him in comfy clothes and halfway through the trip I even put a plush blanket behind his back in the carseat as he was getting red marks on his back.

He really was a champ and travelled great.  There were a few times where he was cranky from being trapped so long but we’d try to stop and do some stretches to avoid this.  I found that an 8hr drive day was the perfect amount of time (we did a couple much longer days which were hard on all of us).  My biggest advice is be organized.  Have things your child loves to do and get creative with road games (there’s tons of great ideas online for older kids too)…pointing out landmarks, special vehicles (like tractors if you have a farm-nut like us), lights and landscapes.  At two (nearly three) years old E was kept interested in his surroundings.  And when all else failed we would watch “Sing” for the 8th time!! And be flexible!  Your little one is on holidays too…so with that said, we let E have much more snacky food than he normally gets, he got to have juice boxes, special little treats and a happy meal or two from mcdonalds (or old mcdonalds as he calls it) and strict routine was kind of sent wayside (although we did stick to nap time once we arrived at our destination and tried to keep him on point with mealtime eating…bedtime on the other hand was a bit of a disaster!!)


(Checking out the sunset with Noma and Bubba.)

I have to say travelling with a child is immensely gratifying.  I’ve been to TX a bunch of times but travelling with a little one means you are ‘forced’ to check out new locations and kid-friendly spots which ultimately bring out the kid in everyone.  We had an amazing vacation and I’m still reminiscing hard about the memories we made.  Here’s hoping this trip went well enough that hubby will want to take us back again soon (like next year soon??!!). Blessed.  Grateful.  Refreshed. And ready to tackle the rest of this Manitoba Winter! (Although spring is welcome ANYTIME!!)


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