Road Trip Survival Tips for Kids Ages 1-5

Embark on a stress-free road trip with young children using these survival tips tailored for ages 1-5, as this insightful post provides practical advice and creative strategies to ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience for both parents and little ones.

“Over the river and through the woods!” If you will be packing your little ones into the car for a road trip, we are here to make it fun for the whole family! No need to dread car trips with toddlers. Whether your trip is twenty minutes, several hours, or even a few days, with a little planning, you may actually start to look forward to taking car trips with your kids! While these aren’t fool proof, being better prepared will help you mentally prepare and give your kids something to look forward to.

1. Pack snacks. Think about food that won’t be super messy and won’t make you upset if it falls to the deepest depths of the car seat. Some people suggest healthy snacks and that’s a great goal but also think survival and fun.

2. Dress for success. Layers, blankets, socks, flip flops for travel stops. Think about your child – do they usually get hot or do they say they’re cold? Do you or your significant other need the car hot or cold to comfortably drive? Dress accordingly!

3. Plan for disaster. Like minor disasters – diaper blow outs, spilled water, ill-timed puke, cuts and scrapes. Towels (cloth and/or paper), wipes, lots of diapers, a puke bucket/bag, and easily accessible changes of clothes are clutch and will help you keep calm and drive on.

4. Time it right. We always try to plan our trips around meals and sleeping. Driving while kids are sleeping is quiet bliss, almost meditative, and you can listen to whatever you want on the radio.

5. Make every rest stop your playground. Balance on curb stops. Throw the ball on the sidewalk. Write messages to fellow travelers with sidewalk chalk. Have a yoga session on the grass. Stretch on the benches. Getting your kids moving when you stop will help them get the blood flowing and be set for another few hours of sitting.

Sound storybooks provide interactive fun and build matching skills.

Kids can reveal the pictures using pens or water pens. This is great for practicing holding a pencil and moving it across the page. Just watch kids don’t empty the water pens!

Tired of all those noisy games relatives get your kids? Get them out of your house – they are perfect for the car!

Having an assortment of games that kids can choose from makes kids look forward to car rides! Balls are always fun if you stop at a rest stop or park.

6. Potty to go! Pack a travel potty and make everywhere a bathroom! Multiple options here, plastic bag liner, wipes, our go to is to put the goods into Ziploc bags and dispose at the closest possible trash can. It sounds gross but when your three-year-old has to go on a deserted backroad with no bathroom for miles, you will be thankful for your own personal porta-john.

7. Listen to things your kids will love. Fun music that they can wiggle dance to. Audio books that they can follow along with a physical book (we love the ones based on movies because the kids know the voices). Did you know there are podcasts geared towards kids?

8. Think about seat placement. This goes for adults and children. Sometimes you need the navigator to ride shotgun for safety and practicality. Sometimes you need an adult in the back for entertainment purposes. Kids can either be placed apart or close, whichever works for your kids.

Lift the flap, touch and feel, and tracing books help kids learn how to navigate books independently. They also are surprising! What’s behind that flap? Just make sure kids won’t rip – or have lots of packing tape on hand

My son had a speech delay and we used to use this all the time. I would ask him to find a letter or ask him what a certain word started with, he would press it, and I could hear his answer while I was driving. I attribute him knowing his alphabet to car rides and toys like this one.

Search and find varies by age and assists with visual discrimination. A lot of the younger search books also serve as matching practice. The older ones often have challenges once you find the main character, or as my kids say, “Wardo.”

Stringing activities help with fine motor skills and motor planning.

9. Play those fun car games you played when you were little. Find words that start with different alphabet letters. Road bingo (they sell these boards or print one off of the beloved Internet). License plate spotting. You could incorporate intraverbals if your child is receiving ABA therapy. Or here is the start of the story, let’s take turns creating it! I’m thinking of something that’s yellow. I spy something that’s a circle. Their responses will probably get everyone laughing.

10. Prepare some fun activities. If your trip is longer, dole out the fun gradually. Maybe one toy or fun item every half an hour so they really engage with it and enjoy it. Need some ideas? We’ve got you covered.

11. When all else fails, put your phone or device in one of those nifty holders that clips onto the head rest and tune into Disney Plus or Blippi or your kids’ favorite guilty pleasures.

These liquid motion bubbles and water games areas old favorite made new. They help with hand eye coordination, and are just plain fun! Make sure the water can’t be easily emptied by curious toddlers.

Activity books can vary with age/ability level.

Sound storybooks provide interactive fun and build matching skills.

We hope all your future travels are free and easy! Have your own travel tips that could help your fellow parents preparing to road trip? Share them on our social media with #grAHAamMoment #ABAcanhelpwiththat

Looking for a little extra help? Find out more about what we can do for you by contacting us here!

Photo credit: Jack Miller, age 4, and Stephen Miller, age 3

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