I vividly remember summer road trips when I was a kid. The first one I can recall was when I was four years old. My mom and grandma drove my two sisters and me to visit our great-aunt in Miami, Florida. It was just a wee 18-hour drive from Illinois, which was thankfully spread across two days. My two sisters and I piled into the backseat of Mom’s Ford Granada and had to keep ourselves busy. One vacation treat we always got was a new Barbie doll, but of course the novelty quickly wore off. So we would color in Barbie coloring books, play travel Connect Four, play a version of I spy, catalog other cars’ license plates in hopes of seeing one from each of the 50 states and gesture at truckers to get them to honk their horns.
I like to think Nora will do some of those same things on our road trips in years to come. We already attempted I spy on our last road trip, and that lasted for about three minutes. Luckily I had plenty of other ways for her to pass the time in my arsenal of Mom goodies.
Before we take a road trip with Nora, I pack up one reusable shopping bag full of stuff that I think might entertain her for some period of time. A trip down the dollar aisle at Target is a great place to find cheap things for road trips, but a lot of those items are geared towards older kids, and Nora’s only two. On our recent 14-hour road trip to Illinois, I was very thankful to have packed these six road trip must-haves in my Mom bag:
- Crayola’s Color Wonder Color & Go set is recommended for ages three and up, but Nora did just fine with it. If you’re unfamiliar with Color Wonder, the magic is that the markers only color on Color Wonder paper. So no biggie if the uncapped marker falls on the car seat, or your child is like Nora and likes to color all over herself/himself. The yellow case is perfect for travel, as it fits perfectly on little laps and has two clips to hold the paper in place.
- The iPad is reserved for long road trips, otherwise Nora would want to watch The Wiggles every time we drove to the grocery store. We make sure it’s loaded with plenty of videos — namely, The Wiggles and Sesame Street — and fully charged, then we pop it into this iPad headrest mount holder. Although the holder is designed to be mounted on the back of the front seat headrest, we used to jimmy it on the backseat headrest when Nora was still facing backwards in her infant car seat.
- Find the least offensive children’s music that you’ll be able to stomach for hours on end, and load up the iPod with tunes. Do yourself a favor and steer clear of Nora’s current favorite, Music Together’s Triangle Song Collection. Surprisingly, there is some children’s music out there that doesn’t make me want to jab my eyes out with a hot poker.
- … and when your kiddo’s tunes are just too much for you to take any longer without steering the car right off the road, pop these Kidz Gear headphones on her/his little head and enjoy the silence, or your own tunes. I found them at Target and we just used them for the first time. KP was skeptical but Nora thought she was pretty cool. Plus, there’s a volume control switch so you don’t have to worry about your child going deaf.
- It seems like a no-brainer to pack snacks, but I’m always surprised at the parents I see on airplanes who haven’t packed snacks for their kids. We try to be healthy, but rules get bent greatly for road trips. Nora is partial to these Earth’s Best Sunny Days Snack Bars.
- Stickers are the ultimate two-year-old treat, I’m learning. And they’re harmless, mostly. We learned that the stickers from Nora’s Sesame Street coloring book could essentially double as duct tape. We learned this after she covered her legs with them.
You don’t have to do or buy anything elaborate to keep your toddler entertained while on the road. Have options so that she/he can mix it up every so often, and if all else fails, a stop to stretch the legs and breathe some fresh air always seems to help everyone in the car.