Road Trip Essentials with Babies & Toddlers

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

We have thousands of miles of experience on the road with babies and toddlers.  When Layaan was a little less than one, we took a five week trip across the USA starting from New Jersey to California and back.  Muhammad’s first road trip was a 14-day trip around Turkey when he was only three months old!  This past summer, we spent most of it exploring Brazil either by flying or driving between cities.  Here are some things to prepare and bring along to keep them entertained, happy, and everyone from going completely crazy!

Snacks, snack, and more snacks!

Nothing sends a jolt of panic through me than when my stock of snacks is dwindling. Listening to kids whine endlessly about how hungry and thirsty they are is torture.

I really like how easy yoghurt, fruit, and vegetable pouches are for little ones, but I have to admit even they can get messy.  I usually save the wet snacks, including actual fruits that have the potential to make everything around sticky and gross, for the times I can closely monitor the kids.  My favorite snacks are dry snacks such as goldfish, pretzels, raisins, etc.  Even if they are thrown around everywhere, they can easily be cleaned up.  Lastly, our drink of choice is always water in spill-proof cups like our favorite one below.

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I suggest divvying up the dry snacks in mini ziplock bags for each child.  I would try to spread out the snack distribution considering the number of hours on the road.  A final tip on this topic, keep some sugary sweet snacks on standby for when the kids really start acting up.  You’re on vacation, so it’s okay!

Books

For six month to two year olds, I suggest one to two board books, one of them being a touch and feel book.  You can read the same books over and over again and they will be happy.  Layaan learned how to say her first couple of words from the books we kept re-reading on our first road trip with her.  For older toddlers, a few picture books are perfect.  If I have extra space, I like to squeeze in vocabulary board books, such as animals listed with pictures and labels.  When the kids need a little extra attention, I move to the backseat and read them a few stories and give them some mommy time.

Coloring, Busy Bags, & Other Activities

I think having a couple of pieces of chalk, crayons, markers, etc. are must haves.  For one year olds and up, one of our favorites is Crayola My First Crayola Dry Erase Activity Mat.  For older toddlers, you can get the doodle pages that come with markers that only work on the special paper or you can purchase a travel-friendly dry erase board.  Some of my recommendations are pictured below.

Busy bags are the best creation ever.  There are simple activities you can prepare, organize neatly, and keep your children preoccupied for hours.  Materials can be found in one trip to the dollar store or any discount store.  Since there are so many ideas on Pinterest, and I feel my ideas would just be repeating what is already out there, I decided to share my favorites, Portable Activity Kit and 10 Easy Busy Bags.

Songs

Songs keep my little ones happy for long periods of time.  Layaan would have me sing for what felt like forever on our US trip.  For Muhammad, it always works when I start noticing him coming close to breaking down in tears.  I suggest creating a playlist ahead of time, you will be so glad you did!  For Arabic songs, I suggest Little Thinking Minds, and for English, The Best of The Laurie Berkner Band.

New Toys & Games

Before I started traveling with my kids, one of the best tips I got from another blog, I can’t remember which one, was to keep on hand new toys and games.  You can get a few things from the dollar store or $1 section of Target.  The new toys will be exciting and fun.
I invested in a few travel friendly toys, and take them out only when we travel.
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For infants, new car seat toys, my favorites are from LaMaze, and finger puppets are perfect picks.  Here are a few more options.  For older toddlers, I really like these Magnetic Blocks.  So easy to pack up, do not take up much space, and provide plenty of open-ended play.  One of my favorite list of recommendations is linked here.

iPads & Other Electronics

I do not whip out the iPad until I have exhausted everything else.  It usually comes out towards the end of the trip.  Muhammad, unlike Layaan at his age, does not care for it at all.  This is my saving grace when both are reaching their limits and want my full attention.  I can get Layaan quiet and entertained for long enough to calm Muhammad down and take care of his needs.  My favorite Arabic app is also from Little Thinking Minds.  It is expensive for each story, but you get plenty of videos, stories, and songs with each purchase.  Another favorite is Arabic Learning for Kids.

Happy Travels!  Please comment with other suggestions, or if you found any of these helpful.

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