10 must-haves when traveling long distances with a toddler

We all know traveling can be particularly boring when driving a long distance. Confinement to a car seat can be torture, especially for the youngest passengers. So what’s a parent to do to occupy the time of little ones? After taking our toddler on several long car rides, here’s my list of must-haves for toddlers on that long road trip ahead:

1. Play-Doh® and accessories. What kid doesn’t like squishing this stuff between their fingers?

2. Sticker books. My daughter could place stickers for hours if we had an unlimited supply. The more the merrier.

3. Books. Either traditional or electronic (e.g. LeapFrog® LeapReader™ Jr. or VTech® V.Reader™). New stories are always a hit.

4. Matching games. Try games that match pictures, shapes, letters, and others.

5. A blanket. These can provide both security and warmth but can also be used for a traditional game of peek-a-boo, which can distract even the most seasoned toddler.

6. Coloring books and crayons/markers. Use an inexpensive cookie sheet as a hard surface for coloring. As a bonus feature, the edges will keep the crayons and markers from rolling away! I’ve seen others offer their kids washable dry erase markers to make designs on the window that the child can wipe away with a mitten.

7. Movies. Within reason (less than 2 hours per day), an educational video or a new movie (and when in a pickle, there’s always Frozen) can provide that much-needed distraction. The iPad, Kindle, and various other tablets have opened up a world of educational games, such as Endless Reader or—Early Learning Academy. If all else fails, my daughter loves looking at photos and videos of our dog (usually barking or running hysterically) on one of our iPhones.

8. Cheap, new toys. The dollar bin at Target always has lots of fun ideas for us. I’ve even heard of some parents wrapping up these cheap “gifts” and rewarding their child with a new one every couple of hours or when a certain landmark on the trek is reached. Every long trip, we manage to offer glow sticks, glow bracelets, and glow necklaces after the sun goes down. Your toddler will love watching the glow and enjoy the personal nightlight.

9. Built-in rest stops to stretch the legs and move around. When potty-trained, bathroom breaks every couple of hours are a must.

10. Bite-size snacks. Interesting, new, and fun are the name of the game. The healthier the better. Don’t let your toddler get hungry and angry, also known as “hangry.”


What do you use to pass the time for your kids on long trips?

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About Dr. Justin Morgan, Bundoo Pediatrician

Justin Morgan, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician who practices general pediatrics in Louisville, Kentucky. He cares for children of all ages.


  1. We do long road trips all of the time to visit out of town family. Our life savers are definitely movies and snacks. I have even packed lunch at home to prevent eating at all of the fast food restaurants along the way. It saves time, money, and is sure to be healthier than a Happy Meal. 🙂


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