Keeping The Little One Happy On Our Upcoming Road Trip

When we flew to Denmark last year, I did a lot of reading on ways to keep J happy on the plane. We did okay, despite the fact that he didn’t get much sleep on either flight. However, he was entertained and pretty chill throughout the trips there and back, so I chalk those up as wins!

Now that we’ve started planning our trip to Ottawa, I’m again looking for ways to keep him entertained while we travel… this time, by car!

We make the drive from the DC area to Bristol, Virginia, to visit Tommy’s parents, and that takes us between 6-7 hours with stopping for gas, snacks, or to stretch. We were going to fly to Ottawa until we realized that it would only be 8-9 hours by car. If we can handle the drive to Bristol, we can go a little longer and make it to Ottawa, right?

We’re contemplating getting up super early/middle of the night-ish and heading out. One thing that we’ve learned on our car trips to Bristol is that once J is up, he usually doesn’t fall back to sleep, even if we get him up early. Too much to see out the car window, I guess! We’re wondering if getting up REALLY late/early will help him go back to sleep. Not sure. A lot of times, he will just stare out the window in a daze. I’m guessing because he’s wondering what is wrong with us – waking him up and sticking him in the car so early.

It’s kind of like the whole plane debate. Do you fly early during the day, hope the kid naps, and then arrive at your destination at night and immediately put everyone to bed? Or do you fly at night, pray that everyone gets some sleep on the plane, arrive in the morning and try to stick it out until nap time to keep things on schedule? (That was what we did in Denmark, with great success! We never missed a beat!)

If we get up at a more normal morning hour to make the trip, then I want to make sure we’ve got snacks and activities handy to keep him happy. I don’t want to give him a bunch of snacky-junk in the car, and I don’t want him to stare at his Kindle the whole time, either – although I’m not against him using it for part of the trip! It’s all about variety and switching things up! And we have a bit of a challenge this trip. We’re still potty-training. (He just turned three.)


J is a pretty healthy eater most of the time – he loves his fruits and veggies! But it’s kind of hard to eat fruit in the car. We’d probably have blueberries smooshed everywhere. Still, I’ll probably pack a bag with dry snacks (Goldfish, mini pretzels or cookies) that I can put in his no-spill snack cup and a cooler bag with snacks (fresh fruit) and drinks that need to stay chilled. And I’m sure we’ll be stopping for lunch and potty breaks… More on potty breaks later!


When we’ve flown with J, we loaded up on little toys (like from the $1 section at Target!) and then wrapped them up like presents to give him something to do. We’ll probably do the same thing in the car. He loves the Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper so maybe we can find a coloring book or something he can scribble in. I also plan on packing a couple of his gadgets, like his LeapFrog scribble and write tablet or his VTech laptop. I know they’re still gadgets/devices but at least he won’t be staring at his Kindle watching cartoons for 8 hours.

He likes magnets, too, so I might pack a cookie sheet and a baggie full of magnets from the fridge at home, too. That way he can work on his letters and numbers. Hey, I could even bring his LeapFrog Fridge Phonics set!

Since he’s a little older and can understand the idea of traveling a little better, I love the idea of putting some sort of travel countdown in the car. This family traveled with 4 kids and used this cute road trip countdown idea to tick off the hours. And awarded prizes each hour! If we do this, we could hand out snacks or a new present/activity each time we take off a counter. (Not going to lie… I think counting down might help me pass the time in the car a little better, too!)


The biggest change in our travel routine this time around will be that we’re in the middle of potty training. We ditched the diapers (and pull-ups)  during the day so we’re definitely not going back. But J isn’t 100%  in full-on “I gotta go pee!” mode yet so we plan on packing one of our mini potties and just stopping every so often to sit him down and make sure he pees. We have two piddle pad/car seat protectors at the ready and will make sure to have extra clothes within easy reach in case of accidents, but… Not sure what else to do there. Any suggestions????? Please leave ’em in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s