10 Car Essentials & Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Car essentials.
©️ Weekend Images Inc. from Getty Images Signature via canva.com

Road trips can be long and tedious, especially for our littles. Here are 10 essentials and tips to help ease your next road trip when traveling with toddlers. 

10 Car Essentials and Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

1. Activity Trays

Activity trays are an excellent option if you’re trying to minimize screen time in the vehicle. There are a variety of trays available on the market (see an example of one here). You’ll want to research an option you feel comfortable with for safety purposes. Most trays provide a space for creative play, snack storage, and a sippy cup holder.

Suggested activities for tray play:

  • Play-doh
  • Kinetic sand
  • ImagineInk Coloring for mess-free coloring
  • Coloring books
  • Birthday toy prizes – Check the birthday toy prize aisle at Target or Walmart. They often have small puzzles, cars, etc. for your child to play with.
  • Pipe Cleaners & Beads
  • Small puzzles
  • Magnatiles
  • Rubix Cube
  • Books
  • Pop-Its
  • Stuffed animals
  • Animal or bug toys
  • Battery operated toys
  • Magnets and a small cookie sheet

2. Portable Potty

If your toddler is potty trained, there will come a day when they have an emergency “need to go right now” moment. Research collapsable potty chairs and find one that suits your needs. You may also want to also invest in biodegradable liners to go inside the potty chair.

Set up your potty in the back storage area of your vehicle or park in a way that provides some privacy to your little one if they use the potty outside.

Bonus tip: Leave a pack of wipes in the vehicle next to the portable potty for easy clean up.

3. “What We Will See” Cards

Traveling with toddlers for vacation or even just to grandma’s house? Use a sheet of paper and print or glue images of what they might experience on the trip, similar to a Bingo card. This can help them familiarize themselves with the location/people they might experience on the trip. You can answer questions your toddler may have ahead of time to prepare them for the visit. It’s a great way to engage the whole family!

4. Emergency Kit & Hand Sanitizer

Pack your vehicle with extra hand sanitizer so you can have a quick clean up after the park or activity. You may also use it before a drive-through meal.

Give yourself peace of mind for an emergency and pack your vehicle with a small emergency kit. You can buy pre-made kits online, or assemble one yourself with some staple items: Bandaids, sting/bite soothing cream, aloe vera, etc.

5. Park Pit Stops

We all need a break when traveling for long stretches. Play stops that include a park visit to help your little one burn off some energy. Many rest areas have parks. If not, you can always play tag in a grassy area or pack a small ball to play catch.

6. Tackle Box Snacks

Snacks are awesome for road trips! Organize your snacks into a tackle box for a little extra fun. Your little one can pick out Cheerios, or dried fruit, adding a bit of sensory play into the mix. This option also provides an easy way to pack a number of snacks in a small space. 

7. Ride in the Backseat

If your vehicle has third-row seating or an open seat next to your little one, you may consider riding alongside them. This will provide them with some company. If your baby or toddler is still learning to hold toys, you can shake rattles or read books during the drive. If your toddler is a little older, you can point out signs or landmarks as your drive.

8. Special Car Lovey or Blanket

We have a special set of blankets and plush toys for the car. My daughter knows it’s her special “car cozy” and provides a little extra comfort during car rides and naps. This also eliminates extra packing if you always have these items in the vehicle ready to go.

9. Umbrella Stroller

There have been many times I’ve arrived at a location, only to wish I had a stroller for easier travel. I remedied this by always keeping an umbrella stroller in our vehicle. Running into the bank or a quick pick up at the store? Pull out your umbrella stroller so your toddler doesn’t need to walk as far.

10. Laundry Bags & Extra Clothes

Laundry or wet bags have saved me many times! Maybe my little one spilled or the park was a messy quest. I make my life easier by throwing these items into a wet bag to be dealt with later. Wet bag fabric is made to keep moisture contained and smell under control. Keep an extra set of clothes in your car in case of unpredicted messes. Just remember when you get home to wash your dirty items and resupply your vehicle with extra clothes (pants, shorts, top, socks, underwear/diapers).

I hope these tips make your next family road trip a bit easier!

What are some of your favorite tips for family road trips and traveling with toddlers? Let us know in the comments!

Looking for some road trip inspiration? Check out our post on 5 Fun Weekend Trips From Fargo with Kids!

Previous articleYear One of Being a Single Parent: What I Learned
Next article5 Wineries Near Fargo to Sample Wine
Kallie Swenson
In 4th grade, Kallie sported two things: an awkward haircut and the title of “new kid.” Her family moved from Crookston to Moorhead, where she went on to graduate from Moorhead High. After graduating, she packed up and migrated south, to the Twin Cities area. There she lived with an amazing set of roommates… her grandparents! She still considers this one of the best decisions of her life. She attended one year at a community college before deciding she would venture back to Moorhead to earn a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Her career spanned across local organizations, including for SCHEELS and The Salvation Army. In 2016, Kallie made the huge decision to buy a house in Barnesville. She closed on her 25th birthday and moved in with her dog, Lily. In 2017, she began dating a long-time friend (not all love is love at first sight!) and got married in March of 2019. She and her husband, Jordan, enjoy traveling, the outdoors, live music, and finding treasures during garbage week. Kallie is now a proud stay-at-home mom to 2 girls. She loves writing about thrifty living, party planning, and nurturing relationships on her blog. When Kallie bought her small, 980-square foot home she never imagined so much love would grow there. Her family eventually plans to build in the country but for now, enjoy the closeness of small living.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.