Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

August 8, 2023

Toddlers & Road Trips

By: Meredith Allen, OTD, OTR/L

So you want to take your toddler(s) on an end of summer road trip and you aren’t sure the ipad battery with survive the duration of your trip. So what do you do when the dreaded 1% battery light starts blinking or the kids are going stir-crazy? Here are some tips from an OT for travelling with toddlers:

  • Plan on taking breaks, at least every 2 hours, unless little Tim or Susie are sleeping. During these breaks, plan on walking around with them, or bring toys from the car to play with on a blanket outside. Plan on 15-20 minutes of movement prior to going back in the car. This is also a great time for a snack or playing “I spy”! One of my favorite places to do this is at a rest stop, or you can google a local park close to your location.  It is also helpful to let your child know when to expect a break or when to expect a longer period in the car- be clear and honest with them!
  • Come prepared with toys. I recommend putting a toy basket where your kid (s) are able to reach it. Below are a couple of good options for reachable toy baskets that you can find on Amazon. However, if you want to avoid another Amazon purchase, you can always use a laundry basket or cardboard box as a toy/activity holder as well!


Toys/Activities to put in your basket:

  • Favorite picture books or books that have physical textures. Audio books are also a fantastic idea. Here is a link to toddler friendly audio books
  • Favorite toys they want to bring. You can prepare for a car trip ahead of time by allowing your toddler to choose which toys they would like to bring (set limits ahead of time on amount of toys allowed!). This link has a bunch of lovely ideas for toys to bring for toddlers if you need inspiration  Also, bringing preferred comfort items (i.e. a stuffed animal or blanket) can make a car ride much more comfortable for little ones.

Note: If your toddler is sensitive to road noise, providing head phones with audio capabilities to listen to music or audio books is a great option. If sound is overwhelming with outside noise or siblings, noise cancelling head phones can be a great help! Below is one of my favorite noise-cancelling headphones for kids.


  • Remember to bring snacks and drinks for little ones in spill proof containers! This saves you time and decisions (and potential meltdowns) at McDonalds or the local gas station. One of my favorite snack holders is pictured below (perk: it also serves as great practice for fine motor skills) along with a great sippy cup for toddlers not yet drinking out of a straw. Consider bringing only preferred drinks and snacks to increase comfort for your toddler on an extended trip.

  • If you are potty training on your trip, a portable potty may be a great choice! You can choose between a toilet that pops up and comes with its own plastic bag to throw out when business is completed, or one that is still foldable, but works for kiddos who don’t quite fit on the big toilets yet.

  • If you have a child who gets car sick, it’s also a great idea to keep some of these bags (pictured below) stocked for emergencies! It may also be a good idea to travel with a cooler that has sprite or ginger ale to help upset tummies. Always check in with your pediatrician for ideas to help manage motion sickness prior to long trips.

  • Sunshades for the windows can also help mediate motion sickness and helps to keep direct sunlight out, helping little ones protect their eyes and have longer, undisturbed naps (parenting win).  You can choose from the typical black or grey shades, or find ones with child friendly designs (such as the one below).

Overall, long trips can feel like a lot for you and your toddler(s), but with the strategies above, you can feel more prepared and add some relaxation, creativity, and fun to your road trip.