Surviving a Road Trip with a Toddler

Last week, my daughter and I drove from Austin to Houston to meet up with my husband who was there for work training.

It is no exaggeration that I spent the three weeks before this trip worrying about the drive down. And this is a three hour drive we’re talking about, here, not ten hours or multiple days of extended driving. I am clearly a road-trip wimp.

Happily, though, the whole thing went extremely smoothly, and I was astounded at how well-behaved she was.

A couple of things that seemed to really help:

1. Don’t expect it to be like a childless road trip where you listen to whatever you want, let your mind wander, and basically just enjoy the view. Low expectations are sometimes the key to happiness, are they not?

2. Pack snacks in different containers. The fact that she had her own bag of grapes or that the raisins were in a slightly-complicated tupperware seemed to make them much more fun (and they entertained her for longer than I expected).

3. A combination of new and old toys and books. At the beginning, she liked the new things she’d never seen, but after a couple of hours, she really liked having her familiar and favorite items.

4. A phone call. She is quite attached to my mom, and my mom is really good about talking to her on the phone (asking her questions, singing songs with her, etc). I handed over my phone, locked the keyboard, and let her talk to my mom for a good twenty minutes. Bless you, Grancie.

5. Children’s Music. I pulled out two CDs I’d gotten at a baby shower and never opened and sang along with her.

6. Cows. I have never felt so much love for Texas and the never-ending stream of cows along the highway. We spent a full thirty minutes looking for cows and then waving at them when they appeared. I was instructed to “look for tows on right, I yook for tows on yeft.” Okay, then, bossy girl. I’ll just look to my right here.

I know that lots of people do really serious roadtrips with their very young children, though, and everyone seems to survive. What are YOUR secrets for keeping your small child (relatively) happy for hours and hours in the car?

Child Sleeping in Car

You can read more of Janssen’s writing about food and books at Everyday Reading and on Twitter.

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