5 Tips for Toddler Road Trips

Is anyone mad enough to even consider a camping road trip with a toddler?! Having just got back from a 17-day trip across New Zealand, here are some lessons learned….mostly the hard way!

1. Organisation is the key to your sanity. Knowing where things are in jam-packed car will make the road trip and holiday go much smoother. Keep the glove compartment topped up with essentials as it will become your treasure trove. Think: ‘What might I need urgently when hurtling along the highway that I won’t be able to find by rummaging around in the back seat?’ E.g.  snacks that won’t melt or go mouldy (like rice cakes and crackers for Sophia, and cereal bars for us), wet wipes, sun cream, dummies, teething gel and CDs (normal grown up music, not kids songs that will cause you to go insane on your road trip) . I kept the nappy bag and lunch food in the front seat foot well with me so that everything was accessible whilst Jeremy was driving.

2. Naptime is not just for the little one. When Sophia was a new born everyone told me: ‘Sleep when the baby is sleeping’ and the same goes for toddler naps on holidays. Use them wisely! It may be the only ‘you’ time you get that day. We tried to time Sophia’s naps with driving so that we could cover a lot of miles whilst she was settled. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. One day she fell asleep just as we arrived at the beach, so we napped right beside her on the grass bank and enjoyed some sunshine…zzz

3. Maintain realistic expectations of what your toddler can handle. We were guilty of trying to carry on at our usual road trip pace, with a few extra rest stops, whilst our toddler had full on melt downs along the way. It must be quite boring sitting down and staring at the back of people’s heads when you’re becoming increasingly mobile. We tried to time our biggest chunks of travel with naptime then when she was awoke, we pulled over to stretch our legs at the adventure playgrounds that seemed to be in every town. On one spectacular toddler-tastic occasion, namely NYE, Sophia had a 2-hour melt down in a Auckland’s fanciest restaurant…on the 53rd floor of the Sky Tower… I blame it on teething, but the poor wee pet might just have uncomfortable in her $5 stroller (which we bought last minute as her pram didn’t fit in the car with all the camping gear). On another occasion she had a melt down on a 4-hour boat trip as I think she wanted to swim with the dolphins that she could see…there is no escaping the screams of a toddler who doesn’t get their own way against the strong-willed parent who just won’t let them jump overboard.

4. Improvise. We managed to totally over pack the car and squeeze in loads of stuff that we didn’t need or use. When it comes to packing and unpacking a car, less is more and means you can get on with the travelling instead of ramming everything in. We stayed at campsites, motels and in cabins as well as an Air BnB and friend’s houses so had to be flexible and improvise. Every night was different. We didn’t manage to fit some of the essentials into the car, like the pram, travel cot and a ‘portable baby bath’ (aka a washing up bowl!), so we improvised, kept a sense of humour (mostly) and had a fun time in the process. Road trip motto: Go With The Flow.

5. Travelling with friends can mean free babysitting! We met up with and travelled with six friends for the majority of our North Island road trip. Firstly, it was brilliant fun and secondly, we had plenty of extra pairs of hands to help with Sophia. We even had an evening out whilst she was looked after back at the campsite. Sophia had adopted them as extra grandparents, aunties and uncles by the end of the trip and definitely enjoyed being the centre of attention, as well as the most photographed toddler in town!

Items We Could Not Have Travelled Without:

  • Bumbo multi seat for meal times and sitting still in one place!
  • Travel cot
  • Baby carrier
  • Stroller
  • Micro fibre towel- dries quickly and can double up as a blanket
  • Fold-away play tent for shade
  • All-in-one snowsuit for chilly evenings and mornings
  • Camping fridge for keeping milk, beers and baby food cold
  • Dry shampoo, just in case you’re too busy chasing a toddler to wash your hair (!)

Have you travelled with a toddler? Share your pearls of wisdom with us 🙂 We would love to hear any travel tips from you in the comment section below.


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About tripleespresso2go

Jeremy, Katie and Sophia are a family of three from the UK who have a passion for travel, good coffee, music and photography. They are currently based in Penang, Malaysia. Follow their adventures as they taste the finest coffee and photograph their way around the Asia.