The DIY Road Trip Survival Guide For Family Travel With Toddlers

Trish ~ Labor Nurse Mama
June 3, 2019

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc and it's advertiser. All opinions are all mine alone! #AnytimeIsPickleTime #Collectivebias

Why I am here and who I am:

Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society, a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!

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Listen, I am a mom of seven. Yep, Seven. I have seven kids and I am proud of it. Most of my kids are adults, but I do have a teen and a toddler left at home!

In fact, not only do I have a toddler son, but I also have a toddler grandson, who is my oldest son's son! Fun and interesting fact about me, I had Ian young, and I had Greyson, old! But that's beside the point.

Tips for planning family travel with toddlers is the point. Anna and I are headed out on a road trip with two toddlers boys and a teen. Hey, that sounds like a movie title doesn't it? Or a horror flick…..

This mom right here has an abundance of experience traveling with toddlers. Like more than you can even imagine. I have driven to and from the East Coast to California over five times! 2200 miles in a car with a toddler is like getting my BSN in family travel with a minor in psychology.

Like I said before, I have seven kids, which means chances are high, that on each trip, I had a toddler in the car.


I consider myself a road trip expert.

So sit back and let me guide you through my top five tips for traveling with a toddler. My tips are good for a short trip, like the one we take regularly to Chattanooga or long drives across the country!

1 | Plan the Trip

I map out the trip from A to B. I plan ahead of time for every detail I can think of. Okay, I admit I love to plan and organize things. It makes life easier.

I look at the route and plan when I will leave, where I will stop, and how long I will drive each day. Planning for your family travel with toddlers in tow makes everyone's lives easier when your travel date arrives. (I also pack days ahead of time, after making a packing list!)

I plan the following when traveling with kids:

  • What time we leave on our trip
  • Where and when we will stop for breaks
  • Activities for the kids
  • Snack for the car
  • Meals for the breaks
  • Who drives and when
  • Hotels or Airbnb
  • Where to buy our surprise gifts for the drive home
  • What to pack for each family member

I know, I know, I am OCD but planning makes my life more manageable! Try it out and see what you think.

2 | Buy Snacks

I do not like to stop at fast food. No thanks! I mean I am not against fast food, it's just that I have a few food rules on trips.

    1. No chain restaurants. Only locally owned!
    2. Prepare and bring our snacks.

I am all for planning snacks that I choose before hunger settles in my car, my toddlers become little monsters, and I make rash food decisions.

I shop for our snacks at Publix. So when I had the chance to check out Mt. Olive's pickle pouches which are a new product at Publix, I was all over it. Especially since pickles are pretty much an obsession in my house.

I headed to Publix and found the Mt. Olive Pickles (in their new convenient packaging) with all the other pickles in the condiments/pickles aisle!

(By the way, right now you can save on Mt. Olive pickles at Publix with this coupon. Offer ends on 6/15, and the coupon expires 6/30)

The handy little pickle chips and the petite pickles come in small pouches which make them a terrific snack for traveling with toddlers. The pouches are even resealable. Not that my kids will utilize that feature, cause they believe in leaving no pickle behind.

They do have pickle juice in them, so be careful when opening. My kids drink the juice, which they get from their father and not their mother. I think that is pretty nasty. But to each his own.


I bought some cute pre-printed lunch bags and labeled them with our names. The cold items will go into my travel cooler, which I always bring on trips. I store all snacks and activities into these 16 x 16 plastic storage bins and throw them in the car for easy access.
Back to snacks, here is what I am packing for our Texas road trip:
  • Bread & Butter Chips (Mt Olive Munchies)
  • Kosher Dill Chips (Mt Olive Munchies)
  • Kosher Petite Dills (Mt Olive Munchies)
  • Pretzels
  • Cheese
  • Fruit (bananas, apples, cut grapes, and papaya)
  • Squeeze pouches
  • Granola Bars
  • Trail mix
  • Goldfish
  • Animal Crackers
  • Sweet potato chips

At our ‘stop and wear out the toddler' breaks, I plan to make a family favorite with our Mt Olive Munchies ( the chip-style). You take a pretzel, a pickle, and a slice of cheese! I prefer cheddar, but they are so yummy!

3 | Road Trip Surprise Packages

A Brockway road trip tradition is to pack each kid a surprise bag to open on each day of the trip.

First of all, we only have one day travel each way for the Texas trip. So, I am packing a bag for the way there and will find a goodie in Texas to pack for the way home.

For Greyson, who is four, I found a great pad of paper to write on and some little toys. Asa, my one-year-old grandson, got a bilingual book and some small toys. Lani, my teen, I found a sketchbook and some drawing pencils. She's my budding artist!

4 | Activities to Keep The Kids Happy

I am a DIY type of momma, so if you aren't then you should probably skip to tip number 5. If you are a DIY momma, then sign up to receive my freebie Toddler Activity pack for your next family trip with toddlers. You will love it! I love to DIY road trip activities for traveling with toddlers (and teens). I have run the full spectrum from DIY activity binders to single printed and laminated sheets.

For this trip, since it is not as long as a road trip to California, I am not doing a binder. I printed each activity and then laminated them. (I am slightly obsessed with laminating everything I can get my hands on)

Activity Ideas
    1. Print a map for Greyson to follow our course! ( I use Google Maps)
    2. Print 2 Road Maps for the boys to “drive” their cars. (In goodie bags)
    3. Print Find Cars page, What's in the truck and a car coloring page.
    4. Buy Dry Erase Markers for the kids to write on the windows and laminated activity sheets. (I also let them draw on mirrors in the hotel room. Funny story: A hotel charged me money for a “ruined” mirror until they realized it was a dry erase marker and not permanent. Pays to try wiping it off!)
    5. Pack some window clings that they can put on their windows, hands, seats, and where ever else they feel like sticking them!

Each of these Toddler travel activity sheets is included in my freebie download for this post!

5 | Plan for Regular Stops

I look at the duration of time we will be traveling and I plan for regular breaks. I take Greyson a few small outside toys and we stop to play! Whether we stop at a rest area or a park, depends on the route, but we stop for about 20 minutes. Sister, this is a game-changer for family travel with toddlers.

Grab your Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Chips in its pouch, a blanket, some toys, and get those toddlers moving. Make a game of it and have your toddler do jumping jacks (Be ready to record this feat), run in circles, jump up and down, and whatever you can think of to wear them out.

If you take my advice and do this one thing, I promise it will make traveling with toddlers much easier.

Alrighty girl, now you are prepared to travel with your toddler without tears and swear words.

You have home work:

1/ Head to your Publix (You know we all got our own!) and try the new Mt. Olive pickles in pouches. (Don't forget the coupon)

2/ Download your travel activity pack now!

3/ Comment and share your ideas for road trip activities or snacks for family travel with a toddler. (we are driving to Texas and then flying to LA!)

BONUS TIP! Finally, Have your toddler slide their sandals or shoes in the back of the seat pocket in front of them. You will kiss me in the face for this one. Otherwise, every stop is a nightmare of flying debris looking for lost shoes.

labor nurse mama trish ware

Just a little Disclaimer: As always, I am just writing my thoughts and what I’ve learned along the way. Although I am in fact a labor and delivery RN, This is not medical advice. You should always seek and follow the advice of your care provider.

This post may contain some affiliate links (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Thank you! For our full disclosure read here)


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