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How to Road Trip with a Toddler: 9 Essential Tips

Updated: Jan 12

Breaking the mentality of: “vacation is just taking care of your kids somewhere different” on our first family road trip.

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Just last weekend we celebrated a statutory holiday in North America, Labor Day. For most people here, it’s the last long weekend of the summer and marks the return to school for students - and for parents dropping those students off.

Flowerpot Island, Tobermory
Flowerpot Island, Tobermory

We were lucky enough to get back from our first family road trip to southern Ontario, where we stayed in the Bruce Peninsula. It’s a beautiful area that’s a provincial park with beautiful coastlines, beaches, and breathtaking blue water. We were able to explore places like Tobermory where we did a boat cruise around a popular attraction called Flower Pot Island. Here’s a photo of Es checking out the naturally occurring rock formation!

We had a blast on the boat and learned that you can do backwoods camping on the island - we’ll be coming back next year to test our luck. We’ll keep you updated if we make it back in one piece!

Lions Head, Bruce Peninsula
Lions Head, Bruce Peninsula

We also spend quite a bit of time in Lions Head and Stokes Bay. It’s a quiet town with lots of nature to offer. I was lucky enough to have spent time here growing up. I’ve got memories of catching crawfish, exploring new hikes, and paddling on the Georgian Bay.

Stokes Bay, Bruce Peninsula
Stokes Bay, Bruce Peninsula

I was able to take my family where my late father was buried there, next to a beautiful farm and windmills. It was nice being able for my daughter and fiancée to spend time there and enjoy the same attractions I did when I was younger. From ice cream to sand castles, we had a fantastic time all around.

But of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows - I mean would it really be a family vacation without some tears? Besides minor arguments, only eating pub food for a week, and a few wrong turns everything turned out better than expected. Here's how we set ourselves up for success and how to road trip with a toddler.

9 Essential Tips on How to Road Trip with a Toddler:

  1. Strategic Departure Time: Plan your road trip around your toddler's sleep schedule. Early mornings or late evenings, around bedtime, are ideal. Avoid rush hour traffic.

  2. Pre-planned Stops: Make frequent stops every two-three hours for your toddler to stretch, play, and burn off energy. Plan these stops for meals, snacks, bathroom breaks, and overnight stays.

  3. Entertainment Arsenal: Pack a variety of engaging toys and activities that are easy for your toddler to handle. We finally caved and got her a tablet downloaded some of her favorite shows like Gabby's Dollhouse, Miss Rachel, and Puffin Rock.

  4. Avoid Small Pieces: Be mindful of toy selection; avoid small pieces that could get lost under the seats. We went with a Barbie, a busy board, and her tablet and we were ready to rock and roll.

  5. Moderate Entertainment: Offer one toy, activity, or snack at a time to maximize their entertainment value and prevent running out too quickly. Don't let them eat the whole bag of chips at once!

  6. Share Driving Duties: If possible, take turns with another caregiver being the passenger princess and spend time with your toddler, keeping the journey interesting for everyone.

  7. Motion Sickness Preparedness: Address motion sickness by cracking windows and encouraging your toddler to look outside. Make pit stops if needed and be prepared for potential messes.

  8. Expect Challenges: Understand that long car rides can be tough for toddlers, so be prepared for occasional whining and meltdowns. Lowering your expectations can make the trip feel more manageable. Have a positive outlook - it might not be perfect, but you'll be making memories that will last a life time.

  9. Efficient Packing: Organize your travel gear in an easily accessible bag or compartment to avoid rummaging through the entire trunk.

By following these tips, you can enhance the overall experience of your road trip with a toddler, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable journey for both you and your little one.

Stokes Bay, Bruce Peninsula
Stokes Bay, Bruce Peninsula

We were even able to squeeze in to see some of my family! My godfather Kenneth used to play the B3 organ for none other than Janis Joplin. He’s an incredible musician with lots of talent and he was able to teach Es a few things on the piano. He even brought me to see his “totally not girlfriend” who hosted all of us for coffee.

She had a beautiful garden full of flowers and vegetables as well as a koi pond that Es was absolutely enthralled with! A fun fact about Esmée: her favorite food in the world is tomatoes - she can’t get enough of the snotty inside of them. During our nice visit, we got to have cookies, coffee, and even some garden fresh tomatoes.

Stokes Bay, Bruce Peninsula
Woodstock, Ontario

It was a great trip and I’m so proud of my little girl for being so well-behaved on the trip. I can’t wait to come back next year and paddle even more, explore new beaches, camp on Flowerpot Island, and teach her how to fish! That’s a wrap on summer, here’s to a fun fall full of Halloween and basketball. If you like this article, consider supporting us today by subscribing to our newsletter. You’ll receive access to exclusive content as well as be the first to know about new articles and updates!

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