Appropriate traveling advice obviously depends on the length of your car journey and the age of your child! But here are some tips I’ve gathered from traveling with a toddler on the road and using hotels:
#1 Bring 1-2 spare changes of clothes
You really never know when you might need these, so it helps to be prepared. We’ve had our experience with unexpected toddler vomiting in the car. It can be useful too if your child is just about potty trained. Potty accidents can still occur! Our toddler is pretty much potty trained, but we still find it helpful at times to put the diaper on for long car trips, since sometimes it can be difficult to find a place to stop to use the toilet.
#2 Choose layers for your toddler
This is not so much of an issue in summer time, but more for the colder seasons. Dress smart by bringing layers that can be easily removed or added on when it’s time to get out of the car like jackets and vests. It can get hot in the car or sitting in the car seat, but be much colder/windier outside.
#3 Bring 2-3 spare plastic bags!
These come in useful as garbage bags, vomiting bags or to put soiled clothes/shoes. Especially for those unexpected vomiting/diarrhea moments!
#4 Be clever about food
Pick items that won’t fill up too much but take a while to eat (helps kill time on the road), and are still age appropriate for your child. For example for an older toddler, you might be able to bring some grapes on the vine, mandarin/satsuma oranges, rice cakes, raisins. If the toddler is able to, let him/her figure out how to pluck the grapes off the vine or peel the orange (under parent supervision of course!). Mini wrapped cheese rounds or cheese sticks are also good options if you aren’t going for a long trip and can use cold packs to keep these foods cold. For an older infant or young toddler, what I’ve found works is to carve small amounts of banana using a spoon from a banana and feeding it slowly to the child…
#5 Pack a bit extra – food
These come in useful for those unexpected (long) car jam moments. Choose foods that are child and adult friendly such as bagels, granola bars, bananas, dried fruit and grapes. Grapes are also helpful for keeping the driver awake!
#6 Pack less – toys
You really don’t need to bring too many toys; there will be plenty of distractions where you are going, and you can always buy a small fun child-friendly souvenir or two along the way if needed. I always end up using only about half of the toys and other entertainment items I’ve brought.
The key is a small variety so it feels ‘fresh’ in terms of different activities to the child (e.g., 2 thin new books or library books, an old toy friend she hasn’t seen in a while, stickers, a slinky, paper/crayons to draw on or a magnetic board, a tactile toy or 1-2 new toys from the dollar store). An Ipad or tablet computer is useful for playing movies, music, games, videos, show past photos taken. If not, a DVD player can be an alternative. My toddler also often enjoys listening to children’s music or language CDs played during car trips.
#7 Bring a small sponge and a bit of dish detergent in a small travel bottle
These come in very useful when you need to wash your toddler’s dish/utensils or sippy/travel cup, and if you’re buying back food to eat in the hotel room.
#8 Sleep smart
If you going to a hotel/motel, it often helps to bring your playpen (unless the hotel can provide a crib or playpen); everyone will likely get a better night’s rest. The toddler has a familiar place to sleep and you get more room on the bed to yourself.
#9 Drop the booster seat
You can bring a booster seat if you want, but this is not really needed if the child is at least 2 years of age. Why? This is because most restaurants provide booster seats or high chairs. Also, in the hotel room, you can use a pillow in a hotel chair to create a makeshift booster seat (it works!).
#10 Find a hotel with the right amenities
You’ll definitely want a decent sized fridge (not a bar fridge) and a microwave in the hotel room. These are so useful and money saving as you can then have the option of buying in from the nearby grocery store to have a simple meal, as well as store milk and other essentials for breakfast. At times we’ve enjoyed having a hotel room that comes with a small kitchenette area. It’s an additional plus if the hotel has an indoor pool too, if rainy stormy weather hits during your vacation!