The Winning Trifecta for Road Trippin’ With Toddlers

In the words of John Hannibal from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  And this MLK weekend was to be no exception.  The kids and I were headed to Indy to visit family.  I planned it perfectly.  The drive is an easy 5 hours without stopping.  I was going to leave at 7pm, arrive at midnight.  The kids would fall asleep shortly after departure, leaving me alone with the snack bag and my killer road trip playlist.

In typical Ohio fashion, the weather was uncooperative. It was 60 degrees and raining the day before I left.  The day of our trip the temp would drop 40 degrees and that rain would quickly turn to ice followed by a blizzard.  Icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility would put a serious damper on my drive.  My husband and I got to thinking that I probably shouldn’t be on the road so late at night alone with the kids in such rough driving conditions.  We decided I’d leave at nap time instead.  This is not the end of the world, the kids will sleep for half the drive.  I won’t make it through my entire playlist and I’ll have to share the snacks but this is still manageable.



As the forecast continued to rain on my parade (quite literally), We decided we needed to get out of town much earlier than planned.  I needed to leave first thing in the morning to avoid the worst parts of the storm. How I went from a quiet drive with my favorite tunes and plenty of chocolate to myself, to a drive where every everyone would be awake and needing something I’m still not sure.

I’ve gotten a few messages asking how I prep for a successful road trip with two 1-year-olds and an 8-year-old.  Here’s my winning trifecta:



ORGANIZATION.  The last thing you want to be doing is trying to remember where you put something in its moment of need.  Know where everything is and have a purpose for where you put it. I have a cold bag, an electronic bag, a shoe bag, you get the point.  Every bag is packed intentionally and placed in a strategic location in the car.  For instance, our blanket bag goes behind my seat.  When it’s nap time, Cam can reach it and pass them out. Since I was traveling solo, I needed to have everything in its place and within my reach.  I use a laundry basket filled with everything I might need: snacks, DVD’s, sippy cups, diapers, wipes, chargers, and toys + books for my twins.  I keep it on my front seat so I can access it at any time. Since I’m driving, I don’t want to be messing with zippers and searching in a bag I can’t see.  With my basket, I can see where everything is and get to it easily.


ENTERTAINMENT.  Before every trip, I always grab a couple of new toys/activities for the kids.  For Cam, I hide them in his backpack so he finds them periodically throughout our trip.  Cam’s old enough to manage his own belongings. I have found that with the twins they get overwhelmed by the choices and end up not wanting anything.  So with them, I pass them an item/activity one at a time.  When they finish with that one, I’ll give them something else to do.  I resist the urge to give them anything new until they have exhausted what they are playing with.

My car has a built-in DVD player, which is great for Cam but the twins are still rear-facing so it doesn’t help them.  This trip I used my laptop as a DVD player and set it between their two seats (see the video below for more details).  We usually hit the library before our journies to get some new movies.  New movies can be dangerous with little ones.  I haven’t quite figured out the secret as to why they’ll watch some movies and others can’t keep their attention.  So I bring some new movies and some of our favorites too.


SNACKS. Duh.  Who road-trips without snacks?  A few things to consider when shopping.  Avoid things that are messy, sticky, melty.  Because I was traveling by myself, I can’t reach back and clean hands and mouths.  There is, however, one exception. I always have a reserve of lollipops should I anticipate a melt-down of some sort.  Yes, they end with sticky hands but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I use snack bins and cups to divvy up goldfish, pretzels, and things of that nature instead of letting them eat out of the package.  This way I control the quantity and if we have a spill, it’s not the whole box.

I didn’t want to have to stop on this 5-hour treck, so we ate our lunch in the car.  Depending on how long your drive is you may want to consider packing your meals or going through a drive-thru.  Eating in the car eats up time. And when you’ve got little people, every minute counts!   There are a lot of tips out there that would say stop a lot, let them stretch their legs, but I’d have to disagree.  I’ll stop if it is needed, but if everyone is happy and entertained I’ll keep on pressing on. The less we stop, the sooner we get to where we are going.  We didn’t stop on either leg of this journey and my kids did amazingly well.


Here’s a quick video of our weekend with some of my favorite people. I’ve never met people like this.  They are people who walk in as others are walking out.  People who love my kids in the best way.  They are people who speak truth but walk grace. People who lean in when life gets messy.  They are people who encourage impulse buys for tickets to see Shania Twain in Nashville (yep, I’m going!).  People who always have chocolate ready for you. They are people who show up, no questions ask. People who love with all they have.  I hope you know people like this.  Here’s to life-long friendships and friends that turn into family.








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