Surviving a Toddler Road Trip

Let me be the first to say, I’m not what you’d call tech savvy. It’s a little embarrassing considering our office is prime with innovators, forward thinkers and straight up geniuses when it comes to getting things done better, faster and cooler.  My response when someone says, ‘have you tried this app yet?’ is often, ‘nope.’ It’s not that I don’t love technology or use it to my full advantage in the workplace, it’s more that when I’m home, I’m unplugging and just living a bit old school. The most used apps on my phone after 6p are Netflix and Sling and if we’re being completely honest, Sling is still a bit mysterious to me.  Why is any of this relevant to road tripping? Well, I just took a long weekend and a 20-hour round trip ride with an almost 2-year old technology free and have lived to tell the tale.

This weekend we packed up what felt like everything J owned in my Nissan Cube (best road trip car ever, by the way) and headed west to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for my cousin’s wedding.  When we first got the invite it was no question that we were going and the best option was for us to drive. It’s about 580 miles/8-hours one way in the car with minimal stops. J woke up at regular time Friday morning, we got him a bath and hit the road.  Lessons learned from a road trip survivor:

  1. If the kiddo wants to take the vacuum, let him take the vacuum.  J is obsessed with cleaning and often wanders the house with the vacuum attachments saying, ‘voom voom’ this was a no brainer in the morning as we packed him in and it kept him entertained for literally 2 hours.  I hate vacuuming and can only be entertained by it for about 10 minutes, so this was truly herculean to me.
  2. Bring a solid toy rotation.  As you can imagine based on my initial confession, we are not flush with technology in our house, no iPad/tablet to keep J occupied on the ride, so we relied on swapping toys when we stopped and making sure there was enough within arms reach.
  3. If the food is disappearing too quickly, it probably isn’t getting eaten.  In addition to toys we also brought some toddler road trip snacks – pouches, fruit/veggie gummies and puffs.  We haven’t made a habit of letting J eat in the car, but figured a change up for this trip would be a good idea and we’d keep a close eye.  I filled up his little cup with puffs and he kept asking for more. I thought – man this kid can put ‘em away…then we stopped for dinner and I found a pile of them under his leg in the carseat. Drats.
  4. Never underestimate the power of the PB&J. When we were packing up we made a last minute decision to make two PB&Js for the road.  J is selective when it comes to lunch/dinner meals and is pretty much on a solid: Nugget, Grilled Cheese, PB&J and Hot Dog rotation.  Not for lack of trying other foods, just for lack of wanting anything else. Those two sandwiches got us out of major jams throughout the weekend and ride home, shockingly he was nuggeted out and welcomed them with big bites.
  5. Timelines are out the window.  When it was just the two of us an 8-hour drive would be easy peasy, load up on snacks, use the bathroom when we stopped for gas and just press on.  With a little one (and being 25-weeks pregnant) our 8-hour ride turned into 10-11 hours. We stopped for lunches and at rest stops with parks and just took some time out to stretch his (and ours) legs and burn off some energy. Knowing we didn’t have to be anywhere at a specific time helped to just enjoy the time out of the car and in it.
  6. Be cool.  It was easy to get frustrated when J started to crab a bit in the car, but after imagining what it must be like sitting backwards with just the stuff other people hand you and constantly talking into a mirror it was much easier to sympathize and appreciate what a little champion he really was.

It was a long trip, but we made it!  I think before we do it again we’ll probably take a few shorter trips to get J used to the car ride, but knowing what worked (and what didn’t) after this time around I think we’ll be much more prepared for next time.


Erin Kasch

Erin is a Professional. Wife. Mother. She’s driven by her family, friends and a desire to put good out into the world. On the occasion that she has more than a minute to spare between work, momming and meal prep Erin likes to sew, bake and think about what would look great with a coat of chalk paint (she has yet to complete a single project).