How to Survive a Long Car Ride with a One-Year Old

“She confidently trusts the Lord to take care of her.” Psalm 112:7

I’d love to share with everyone how I was able to keep Carter entertained for one nine hour drive and one seven hour drive, all in about five days.  This was the first time traveling by myself with Carter.  Normally Jeff would be following close behind if we were driving back from Wisconsin or Ohio.  We would even just drive together because it would be easier to entertain Carter if needed.  I was nervous.  I was so overly-prepared, that my car was packed almost to the top with stuff I thought we “might” need during our trip to Wisconsin.  Carter is an active little eighteen month old, and sitting still for long periods of time is not his specialty.  Here are some tips that definitely helped us survive the long drive!

1.  Leave early.

Carter normally sleeps until 7:30-8:00am, so I decided that we would leave before 6:00am if possible.  We ended up pulling out of our driveway at 5:45am.  This was a huge help for us! I woke him up, he had a little bit of milk while I changed his diaper and pajamas, and just put him in the car.  It was still pitch dark outside so I didn’t give him any toys or books, and he actually fell back asleep within the first 20 minutes of our drive.  He made it a full two hours without making a peep, until this mommy needed a potty break! Carter was ready to stretch his legs a little bit so I took him inside the gas station with me to use the restroom, and walk in the snack aisles for a bit.  This was just enough for him to hop back in his car seat.  I gave him a book and a snack bar and he was ready for another stretch of the drive.  It was so helpful leaving early because he slept for the first couple hours!

2. Gallon-sized bag of goodies.

This is a random suggestion but it worked wonders for us.  A few days before our trip, I filled a gallon sized Ziploc bag with small cars, books, and teething toys.  My plan was that when or if Carter started to get bored or fussy, I could easily just pass him back something small from that bag to keep him occupied a little longer.  I kept the bag in my center console so it was easy for me to get to.  This was a total mom win for me!  There is that long stretch in the Upper Peninsula for us on our drive to Wisconsin that seems to go on for forever.  While I appreciated the beautiful fall colors along the way, Carter got bored of them pretty quick.  I would pass him back a book that he would look at for about twenty minutes or so, and sometimes a teething toy (since we’ve been teething non-stop for the last year I swear!).  This worked really well for us, and I hope it is an idea that can help you and your kiddos too!

3. Pack a cooler.

If your long drive is like ours and there are no good food options along the way, pack some snacks.  There are about five McDonalds along our drive, but not much else for a quick food stop.  I decided to pack our mini Yeti cooler with fruit, veggies, yogurt, and milk for Carter.  When I did make a pit stop, it was easy for me to grab a healthy snack for the both of us to keep us fueled for the rest of the drive.

4.  Search your route for fun stops.

At one of our restroom stops I decided to look along our route for a park that was close to the main road we were on.  I wish I would have done this prior to leaving, but it worked out by doing it then too.  I found a park that was just off our main road in Escanaba, MI, that we stopped to play at after about five hours of driving.  This was JUST what Carter needed.  We stopped to play for about twenty five minutes, then he got a fresh diaper and a snack.  It was getting close to his normal nap time so this helped him relax and easily get back into his carseat.  We actually planned to stop at the lighthouse in Manistique along our way too, but it was down pouring at the time we passed it so that didn’t work.  On our drive back to Michigan, we stopped right before the Mackinaw Bridge.  There is a really cool viewing area of the bridge right before you pay the toll.  We didn’t stop for long because the weather was super windy, but just long enough to snap a picture of Carter!

5. Make a playlist for your kiddos

Carter loves music.  We listen to it during bath time , while we make breakfast sometimes, in the car rides to the store, and more.  I made a playlist on my phone of Disney Junior songs, some Moana songs, ABC songs, and a few more.  When I could tell that the toys and books weren’t enough anymore, I decided to plug my phone in and play a bunch of Carter’s favorite jams.  It really helped.  Being a Disney fan myself, I loved the playlist just as much as he did!

6. If all else fails…

Bring the iPad with some downloaded Netflix movies on it.  We absolutely resorted to this for the last hour.  We were about 60 miles from our friends house, and I needed to stop for gas.  I think Carter thought this was our final stop, because when I started the car to keep driving he had a HUGE meltdown, crocodile tears and everything.  He also hadn’t fell asleep for his nap like I thought he would at that point.  Honestly, I thought I would have had to use the iPad much sooner than that final hour.  I packed it just incase and let him watch a movie to help him make it through the final hour of the drive.

I’ve recently connected with some more moms on Instagram through my blog account, (Next Play With Mrs J.  ), and we’ve been sharing tips and tricks for toddlers with one another.  Whether it is for teething remedies, healthy recipes, fun games to play, it’s been really awesome networking!  I’m constantly reminded that us mothers need to stick together and always lift each other up.  We have a hard but very rewarding job raising our children.  This is why I enjoy sharing my own mom tips in the hopes of giving others some ideas that will hopefully work for them too.  If you have a mom blog, or website, or know someone who does, feel free to share their information with me so I can connect with them too!

I hope some of these tips can help you on your next long drive with your littles.  At this point since we only have Carter, it was semi-easy since I only had him to focus on.  Now a couple years from now when we hopefully have more kids, I’m sure it will be a whole different story!  Thank you again for supporting and reading my blog, tune in again soon for the Next Play!

Lots of love and God Bless,


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