Updated: Sep 10, 2021
I do everything in my power to road trip while my kids are sleeping. Travel during toddler sleep means less road trip games to coordinate and less travel toys to pack.
Check out How To Successfully Take A Road Trip With A Toddler for my favorite road trip hacks on how to realistically make this happen.
Unfortunately, life, logistics, and the length of the trip can get in the way of that idyllic plan, and some road trips with kids just must be done during waking hours.
In order to maintain a hint of sanity during a road trip with your toddler, prepare ahead of time.
Here are my favorite ways to keep toddlers entertained during a family road trip:
And as a bonus, save this packing list. It's gold.
Top 4 Road Trip Travel Toys For Kids
Yes, yes, great. You are going to try to drive while your toddler is sleeping. You have stops planned. You have travel snacks and drinks. (If you need help with all of this check out How To Successfully Take A Road Trip With A Toddler).
But how do you actually keep your toddler entertained on your road trip while they are awake? Without losing your mind?
The key: options!
While you may be content listening to a podcast for an entire 11 hour drive, your toddler is likely going to want to do one thing, and then something else, and then something else. All within a half hour.
Expect this. Manage your own expectations.
Speaking of expectations.
Expect your toddler to be tired of sitting in the car. To whine. To cry. To ask when you will be there on repeat.
If you are being honest with yourself, you probably feel the same.
It is ok for your toddler to not love the road trip. It is ok for your toddler to let you know. Your job is to acknowledge. Be empathetic. Let your toddler know you feel the same way. And then distract and redirect.
And to prepare ahead of time, check out my top 4 travel toy ideas.
1 - Surprise With a New Toy
Surprise your toddler with a new toy for the trip!
Give the new toy to your toddler either right before you get in the car or during the drive, depending on when you need him or her to be most entertained.
The new toy should be hand-held and easy to play with in the car.
Not only will this new travel toy be super exciting during the drive, but will entertain your toddler while away from home.
You'd be surprised at how simple of a toy this needs to be to keep your kids attention.
(keep reading for ideas)
2 - Fidget Toys
Fidget toys are all the rage and many of them make great road trip toddler toys.
Small, inexpensive, and keep kids entertained.
I like road trip toys that don't take a lot of space. Toddler attention spans are often pretty short. There is power in numbers with road trip toddler toys. Get bored, move onto the next toy, get bored, move onto the next toy. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Small toys for the win.
I admittedly get sucked into playing with pop it's (as my kids call them) too.
Fun game I play with my daughter, I hide my fingers underneath and my daughter tries to guess which bubbles my fingers are under by pushing on the bubbles.
Fine Motor Toys
I like this Spike the Hedgehog. Can play imagination with just the hedgehog, put the spikes in the holes, put fingers in the holes, play with the spikes, talk about colors, practice counting, make patterns, spikes store inside the toy. So many ways to play with him.
Drip toys (or Liquid Motion Bubbler) are fun to look at, fun to tip over and move around. I gave my daughter my drip toy from when I was little and she asked me "where did grammy and pappy get this, it is awesome".
When my kids were younger I would have them pick a handful of bristle blocks to take along on trips, great to build and rearrange over and over.
Fidget Toy Variety Pack
There are tons of fidget toy variety packs, you can search around and find one that has toys you think your kiddo would love.
These mini skateboards are great not only for the car ride, but also throughout the rest of the trip (in restaurants, in the hotel, etc.).
Note, if you get the same pack we did where you can personalize the skateboards (special colored wheels, stickers, etc), plan to personalize at home since the pieces are small.