A Guide to Traveling with a Toddler on a Road Trip


 Rental car? Check. Full tank gas? Check.  Baby seat? Check.  

Driving on the road for five to six hours with a toddler, I admit, daunted my husband and I.  Hence, this inspired me to write a post to share our experience and how mishaps turned to our advantage and future learnings. 

The ultimate creed we had during the entire road trip was, "Chill.."  

Though as we all know, there's enough bickering between the wife and husband over which road to take, when to overtake and whose fault it was for not having room reservations when  all hotels are fully booked. Relax...we will all manage and the worst thing that could happen was having our toddler cry a bit louder and longer inside the car while we figure things out. 

What we realised is, your inner Mac Gyver will shine through in unforeseen situations. 

Road Trip Preparation

1. Mind Preparation
Mind setting. Be prepared, they can throw tantrums, cry and poop anytime and everywhere. Again, "chill.. breathe easy."

2. GPS, Online Maps - Check out possible stops 
Making ourselves familiar with possible stops for toilet breaks on our chosen route in advance will be very helpful.

We used Google Maps.  Though a lot of my friends suggested using Waze app.  Google Map worked out just fine.

3. Plan the Road Trip timing according to your Baby's Sleeping Routine.


Road Trip Packing

Personally, this was a tad more complicated than I thought. It was easier, because there's a car and we can load stuff in the trunk.  This road trip is in preparation for a much more difficult trip we are going to do soon, where we would be taking her for a 1 hour flight + 3 hour bus trip + 1 hour boat ride with lots of waiting hours in between.

1. The Travel Cot.  We had 2 Lightweight Foldable Cribs and we have been using one of these as her daily permanent bed at home. Guess what? Out of stress, we forgot them both, even the mattress. Good news is, we survived without it by improvising. 

Next time, we plan to take a small inflatable mattress and we will most probably use our luggage as barriers. 

2. The Multi-purpose Bag.  This bag should be within easy reach in the car with you. This contains, diaper, diaper mat, wipes, extra change of clothes in case of spills, baby's medicines or mini-first aid kit, snack bag containing snacks such as biscuits & etc. , utensils, and bib.

3. Make the car as comfy as possible as if it were his/her own crib at home.  Pacifiers, teddy bears, security blanket or pillow and anything that will calm your baby, keep it in the car within your child's reach.

4.  They will get thirsty throughout the trip so keep her drinking tumblers inside the car and have plenty of water (and/or milk) ready.

5.  Garbage bag (in case he or she vomits) and lots of paper towels. Luckily, she didn't. We didn't give her her chocolate drink before traveling. ( She doesn't drink milk anymore and she drinks them on the glass now. Goodbye straws too, yay!).

6. Depending on your destination and which season it is, pack accordingly. 

7. Toys. We packed her favourite toys for entertainment during the trip. Drawing board, colouring books, crayons and sticker books are great for entertainment during meal times.

8. Apart from her clothes and toiletries, we packed swimming gadgets, arm floaters, swim wear, and swimming diapers and her sunscreen.

9. Infant Toilet Seat Adapter. She has started potty training. Her potty takes a bit of space so it's more convenient to bring a toilet seat adapter that we can use in any  toilet. Oh and lots of extra diapers too, enough to last throughout the trip.

10. Stroller.  They're useful for those moments they don't want to walk.



On the Road

1. Coding?
Last weekend, we left on a Friday morning to cross EDSA at 6am, fully aware that the car we rented is under "coding" on that day.   In the Philippines, there is a number coding scheme imposed by the Traffic Authority based on the last digit of the car's plate number. The number is the basis day of the week (except weekends), the coded cars are prohibited to drive along specified main routes during rush hours.  Click here to find out more information about MMDA Number Coding.  Plan your trip's timing accordingly. 

2. Entertainment
We tried traveling without any electronic gadgets (so no Barney and Cartoons for the entire weekend).  She survived.

If your kid gets too bored and you want some moments of peace and quiet, electronic gadgets are the easiest method of distraction. 

An alternative, if you wish to go the no-gadget route, engaging him/her in conversation during the trip is good, singing  and playing lively music in the car.

3. Meals
Breakfast : We spotted a fast food and had breakfast with her there. The 30-minute - 1 hour stop did wonders to distract her. We let her walk and run around a bit after our meal.

Snacks:  We have a small picnic cooler bag with her utensils in it. It has brown bread, biscuits and etc.  I was supposed to load it with yoghurt, cheese and fruits but I forgot the latter items at home.

Lunch:  Feel free to pack lunches in a cooler.

We didn't bother preparing beforehand because we really had plans dining out. We made a stop in town and found her usual local faves in a restaurant. Eating in  mid range restaurants in the Philippines is more affordable than doing so in other parts of the world.

The plus points of eating in fast food are kid's meals and available baby high chairs. Unfortunately, we drove through provincial and remote areas so we went for local joints offering local cuisine.

4,  Stops
When we were in smaller towns, we went for stops if she wanted to eat or she needed a diaper change.  Since it was a rental car, we didn't eat inside the vehicle.  (Yes, my husband and I are maniacs when it comes to cleanliness).  We fed her snacks overlooking a rice field under a shaded tree.

There are limited places for baby changing rooms when traveling in the Philippines. As long as we have our changing mat, we're good to go.

5. Naps
That's the best thing that can happen, when they're comfortable in their secured car seat and they can nap for hours during their routine nap times.  Try to keep them awake and entertained during their usual play hours.

6. Take Driving Turns
It's great that my husband and I took turns driving. Accordingly, we also took turns handling our active toddler.


Staying in a Hotel

1. Indoor Pool.  We purposely looked for a hotel that has an indoor pool.  Otherwise, one that has access to the beach.  It may cost more but it's an investment in our child's experience. Plus, she'll get so tired, she'll sleep soundly later. :)

2.  Extra Mattress. Check the front desk or concierge.  Since we forgot our travel cot, some hotels may offer extra mattress for free. Some hotels like the ones  in Dubai offer travel cots with mattress for infants.  Always bring clean extra sheets and blankets. The one we stayed in (Star Monica in Lingayen) had a leather cushion for a bench.  Et voila, we had an improvised mattress.

3.  Bring your own laundry soap, dishwashing liquid and sponge.
Babies tend to spill and soil their clothes and they can end up being smelly.  In her case, she pooped and it went through her diaper and baby car seat. We washed everything immediately to let them air dry.


Learnings

Back Seat
One of our learnings is, we should have sat next to her at the back seat from time to time. Not always, but a few moments between her nap times, just to liven up the trip for her. We were too focused navigating and concentrating on the road and hotel hunting that we missed the chance of bonding with her at the back during the drive.

Milestones and Forming Habit Changes
Road trips are the best moments to introduce changes to our baby's habits. A new environment = new habits.

We wanted her to get rid of her pacifier before she turns 2 years old. Coincidentally, her pacifier was damaged this weekend and we didn't have a spare. We took it away from her and told her it's gone. No more pacifier from now on because she's a big girl now. She cried for 2 nights in a row having difficulty sleeping, but she eventually managed.

Now, she's pacifier free! She no longer looks for them. Yay!

During this trip, she also stopped drinking from her straw. She drinks her chocolate drink and water straight from the glass and tumbler.  Goodbye straws and sippy cups!

Worth it!
We may have been very very exhausted.  It was double the effort when traveling with an active kid but watching those curious eyes of hers, hearing her  joyful laughter while discovering something new, it was heartwarming.  She ran around, played in the pool, joined other kids on the slide and making new memories, we want her to have more of that. Many more new experiences that hopefully she will remember someday.

Any tips you can add and share when traveling with a toddler or baby?
Love & light,
Arni

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9 comments

  1. and how is hubby hubs taking all the heat over there? I'm guessing it ain't that easy adjusting fully to living in a tropical place. Not that he didn't have preparations on Arabian peninsula :)

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    1. Hello Dezzy, you are absolutely right, it isn't easy for him but I admire his easygoing nature for embracing it despite being drenched in sweat most of the time. The climate change has brought the temperatures up here drastically to 40+ to 50+ degrees Celsius in the Philippines as high as the Middle East. The differences are, everywhere in the UAE, there is air conditioning even their bus stops and the heat there is dry unlike the forever humid weather here. Slowly getting adjusted.

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  2. It sure is different traveling with children! Your little girl seems like a pro! What great experiences she's having!

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    1. Happy to hear, Sherry. :) I have always looked up to you as an inspiration. You have made meaningful every day journeys with your family while having a great career that you love at the same time.

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  3. I don't have a little one yet, but I'll have to keep these tips in mind for the future. You guys all look so cute! :)

    Stephanie ● Sartorial Diner

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    1. Thanks so much Stephanie. Congratulations by the way on your beautiful Kestan Collection.

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  4. Your little girl is not so little anymore! How fast they grow. Great tips. I found myself nodding to them all

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    1. Hello Trishie, I can't help staring at her everyday and I still see the newborn baby that she was, when I first held her in my arms.

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  5. It still boggles my mind how many things these little creatures need when they travel :)

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