How We Road Trip with a 2-Year-Old

With the holiday season in full swing, I imagine there’ll be lots of traveling going on.  For our family, it’ll be just the opposite.  We spent Thanksgiving here in North Carolina, and we’ll be doing the same for Christmas and the New Year as the countdown to Baby Number 2’s arrival begins.  That being said, before we started slowing down, our move to this side of the world has allowed us to do lots of traveling up and down the East Coast to see family.  In fact, over the course of the last few months, we averaged about two road trips per month, so I thought I might share how our family plans and executes a road trip!

First things first, we usually begin with lots of excitement!  After all, road trips can be tons of fun!  However, with a toddler, they certainly do require some planning.  So, about 1-2 days before the trip, depending on how long we’ll be away, I usually begin cooking and preparing Micah’s meals.  I know I sound like that crazy mom, and I probably am, but yes, I do in fact bring food for him to eat for the entire trip.  In general, I try to keep his diet as organic, plant-based, and full of as many whole foods as possible.  It’s usually hard to find that when we travel, so in my mind, it’s just easier to pack his food.  In order to minimize the number of containers and lunch bags we have to bring, I usually try to ensure that what I cook is a one-pot meal or something that can be easily paired with a side, like brown rice, when we get there.   I’m often asked how long I’ll keep this gig up, because to be honest, it can be quite time-consuming. And with another kid on the way, I know the energy this task requires will only increase, but for now it’s working for us, so I plan to keep it up until I can’t any longer.

Now, the biggest key to the success of our road trips is to plan them for when Micah is sleeping.  This allows us to drive without having to stop for anything other than gas or the occasional potty break (I’m a pregnant woman, what can I say? 😜) For shorter trips, we typically plan them around his nap time, since he naps for about 2-3 hours.  For longer trips, we drive throughout the night.  In either case, we usually head out an hour before it’s time for him to go to sleep, allow him to eat his lunch or dinner in the car, listen to songs and talk with him, all before stopping to allow him to pee and get ready to sleep.  We LOVE this portable potty that he can use in the car.  It comes with a disposable liner that you can just toss in the trash afterward, and then it just folds away when you’re finished. For Micah, he has his sleep routine down-packed, so we just say a prayer with him, turn on his portable sound machine, hand him a blanket, and he does the rest.  As an aside, we’ve found a back-seat mirror and car window shades to be super helpful. The mirror gives the ability to peek back and check on him while we drive, and the car shades help to minimize sun or street lights as we drive.

Our little road tripper!

As for us, at this point, hubby and I usually settle in with either dinner or lunch (if I’m feeling inspired, I make food for us too, but more often than not, we buy food on the road 😂), then talk and catch up on things for a few hours.  It’s a special time for us because we often do our best dreaming, planning for the future, and relationship/spirituality check-ins on road trips.  We’ve found it to be a great time to bond and reset as a couple.

Usually, DJ does an awesome job of driving and prefers me to rest on these trips (especially while being pregnant), but I do my best to stay up with him, drive if I need to, or at the very least, find some interesting TedTalks or sermons for him to listen to, so he can stay awake while he drives (Boring? Yes we are 😜). However, sleep typically gets the best of me, and after a few hours of talking or listening in to whatever we’ve chosen, I’m ready to grab my pillow and blanket (another road trip must), and join Micah in dreamland.

When we’re traveling through the night, we usually arrive at our destination close to 2 or 3 AM, so one of us will sneak out of the car, set up Micah’s pack-and-play, then usually DJ will bring him inside and set him down to go back to sleep.  And that’s it! That’s how our family road trips.

Thankfully, with this strategy, our trips have all been uneventful and boring, allowing us to have all the fun in the world once we arrive at our destination.  If you have any suggestions for road tripping with a toddler, I’d love to hear your approach!  Let me know in the comments below!

For more on how we travel, check out “Bahama Mama & Papa: Traveling With a 3-Month-Old.”

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