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Tips for Summer Road Trips with Toddlers & Preschoolers

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for IZEA Worldwide. All opinions are 100% mine.

The summer travel season is almost here! For many families, summers are all about epic road trips. But road tripping with kids – especially toddlers and preschoolers – isn’t always an easy task. Although my family flies on many of our travel adventures, we’ve done a lot of road tripping in the past few years. These trips have taken us everywhere from the volcanoes of Northern California and Oregon to the mountains of North Carolina’s High Country and most recently to the Florida Keys.

We have learned quite a few lessons in my son’s toddler and preschooler years on our many road trip adventures. If you have a toddler or preschooler and are planning to hit the road this summer, here are a few tips to make your trip safe and fun for everyone.

5 Road Trip Tips for Families with Toddlers & Preschoolers

1. Strap Them In!

The safest place for toddlers and preschoolers (and indeed all kids) on your road trip is in the back seat buckled properly in a 5 point harness car seat. Although my family travels light with the most basic of car seats when we fly, road trips are the time to use the most comfortable car seat you’ve got, even if it’s bulkier. Your child is going to be sitting in it for a long time. Also, always double check your car seat installation before a long road trip to make sure nothing has come unbuckled or gotten too loose.

2. Check Your Car Before You Go

Just like you need to check your child’s car seat before a major road trip, you need to also check your car before a family road trip. My family always thinks about this step in the winter when we are preparing to drive on snow and ice, but I must admit we have not been as focused on it before summer road trips. Never again!

So what are the basics you should check? First, check for any recalls on your vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a VIN lookup tool to make sure your vehicle is recall-free. Also be sure to check your vehicle’s tire pressure, wiper blades, fluid levels, lights and air conditioning before you hit the road.

3. Have Snacks & Entertainment Accessible

Toddlers and preschoolers need a lot of things to do and eat to pass the time. But if you are up in the driver’s seat, the last thing you need to be doing is trying to tend to their needs. Position their toys, books, or some snacks where they can reach them. If you have a big sibling in the back seat too like we do in our family, put the big sibling in charge of handing items to your toddler. We usually put a bag of snacks between the two kids in the back seat. Thinking through this step in advance of taking off will help you have a safer trip and avoid distracted driving.

4. Take Breaks

The attention span of most toddlers and preschoolers is pretty short. Taking breaks every few hours is a necessity to avoid meltdowns. Of course, the other reason to take breaks is for overall safety for the grown-ups and everyone else in the car too. Map out your route in advance to look for kid-friendly stops that work for short breaks. Our family looks for everything from wacky roadside attractions to fast food restaurants with kids play places to make our stops successful. And plan plenty of time in your schedule for breaks so you aren’t feeling rushed.

5. Time Longer Drives for Nap Times and Evenings

The easiest way to cover some ground on a longer road trip with young kids is to drive when they are sleeping. When our son was of napping age, we regularly planned our departures to coincide with afternoon nap time. Or we would occasionally start road trips after dinner when we knew both kids would fall asleep an hour or two into the drive.

Of course, this method only works if you are driving at a time when you as the parent are alert and safe to drive. Never drive when you are drowsy. My husband and I regularly take turns driving on longer trips so neither one of us is fatigued. And if you get too tired to drive at all, there are so many great travel apps these days to find an inexpensive hotel room the same day when you are on the road.

For more road trip tips for your family, check out the NHTSA’s summer driving tips.

Have you road tripped with with a toddler or preschooler? What are some of your lessons learned?

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