Having recently travelled to France by car with Amelia at the end of last month and haven driven across the country many a time over the past couple of years we have learned a few things about travelling with babies and toddlers. Gone are the days of having the windows down and the music blaring out full blast singing along to your favourite songs, now it's all about singing along to children songs and playing peekaboo behind the headrest.
Travelling to France was the first time either of us had driven abroad and we were both very nervous before especially as Andy had never driven on a motorway before being a new driver. Overall we had a pleasant journey and I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of my tips and advice for travelling on the road with a toddler.
Road trip safety
Before you hit the road there are a few things you should always ensure:
Make sure your toddler's car seat is properly secured, many car seats aren't installed correctly resulting in horrible accidents.
Pack a car emergency kit and flashlight incase you breakdown, bring plenty of water and also make sure your breakdown cover and insurance policy are both up to date.
If you're travelling abroad and not too keen on the idea of the long journey driving there why not look into hiring a car. That way you'll only have to drive when on the other side. Next time we go to Paris we're thinking of looking into car hire in France with Budget to take away some of the stress of travelling.
Must have road trip items
Wipes: Wipes are a must, they are great for cleaning mucky faces, grubby hands and surfaces or even as entertainment if you're desperate! My daughter loves to pull them all out of the packet and this usually keeps her quiet for a while.
First aid kit: Its a good idea to pack a small first aid kit just incase with plasters, paracetemol, calpol, and any other medication you may need for your child. Keep it in the glove compartment so it's handy.
Spill proof cups: If your toddler uses a sippy cup ensure its a spill-proof cup for the journey. If you have a toddler who likes to throw their juice around this will save you a lot of cleaning up to do afterwards, also if they were to drop their drink it would be all over the back of the car so it's always a lifesaver for us.
DVD player: If you don't already have one invest in a portable DVD player or pack the iPad. Don't allow them to watch programs right away, wait until they start getting fussy or bored and this should keep them quiet for a few hours. If your toddler will sit still and watch films no problem at all then maybe bring a few films and change them along the journey.
Story books: Books on CD are a great time killer, although can get boring for the parents. You could also read out loud to your toddler although books will take up more room than CDs.
Stickers/activity books: Stickers will keep toddler quiet for a while although be warned you may end up with stickers everywhere including the windows and yourself!
Travel activity box: Wrap up some new and old toys and place them in a box or bag so they can have fun unwrapping them and then playing with each toy along the road trip. If you have more than one toddler at each stop alternate the toys between them.
Road trip snacks
When on the road you want to keep messy food to a minimum. You don't want to find smeared yoghurt all over the back seat now do you? It's a good idea to pack portable foods which aren't too messy and favourites such as cheese string, crackers, apple, grapes, raisins, fruit in cartons, cheese sandwiches, crisps, rice cakes, cookies, puffed corn snacks, fruit bars etc.
No matter how prepared you are with snacks you'll still need to stop to eat, to avoid the extra cost of service stations, pack a picnic for everyone including plenty of sandwiches, fruit, savoury items and foods which you don't mind getting messy when not in the car.
In hot weather try not to fill your toddler up or feed them to keep them satisfied, young children can become hot very quickly and overfilling them with food can cause them to be sick out no where. It's always a good idea to ration food and also ensure they have enough fluids in them at all times.
Other helpful tips
Don't stress: Stay calm, don't let your toddler sense that you are stressed otherwise it can make them play up more. Get a good nights sleep the night before so you have a fresh head and can entertain your toddler when you have to.
Be well prepared: Make sure you're all packed the night before and leave as easy as possible. It's a good idea to work the road trip around their nap time or even drive through the night if you can.
Be prepared for a mess: Your car is going to get messy there's no doubt about that. Cover your seats with a plastic sheet or an old bed sheet so when you arrive all you need to do is take out the car seats and shake the sheets and you have a clean car once again!
Don't forget: Stopping will slow you down, but of course you will need to stop. Try to limit your stops but do stop for a good while to allow your toddler to burn off some energy. If your toddler is potty training or trained, don't forget to bring the potty and allow them to stop if they need to go. Place a nappy in the bottom of the potty to save you from having to go and clean it out each time.
Do you have any tips to share for travelling by car with a toddler?