Featured Parenting Travel

How to Survive a Cross-Country Road Trip with a Toddler

April 6, 2018

This post is sponsored by Kleenex Wet Wipes but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

When we first planned out our move, we had decided to hire a moving company to bring everything we own, minus our two cats and a couple of suitcases, from California to New York with us so we could do the “ultimate family road trip.” 

Once I realized it would likely take 3 weeks to receive our items, I started to sing a different tune and made the tough choice to rent a moving truck for Tyler to drive with the cats riding up front and Fox and I would take my SUV alone.

*Frantic playlist building ensued*

I knew this trip would wind up with both of us in tears, because even though Fox adores road trips, driving 37 hours without a helping hand to give him a snack or snag the toy that fell on the car floor seemed to be a nightmare waiting to happen.

To prepare for our big adventure, I put together a basket to keep in the front passenger seat with me that allowed me to hand off items without having to look.

I took a trip to my local Walgreen’s to fill in the blanks of a few items I already had.

Here’s what I wound up with.


Because we would be driving for 4 days and arriving late at each hotel, I packed a clear tote in the trunk stuffed with snacks and easy to microwave meals. Each day I would replenish the snacks before hitting the road. I packed granola bars, almond butter packets, dried fruit, rice crackers, and honey sticks. 


Little wind up toys, Koosh balls, Hot Wheels, and action figures were nice little trinkets to pass back that were new to him and kept him entertained for an hour or two a piece. Glow sticks were fun to keep when the sun went down. I’m sure the cars that passed by were jealous of the party we were having inside! One of my favorite items that I brought out was a tin with magnets inside. He really loved being able to move around the items inside and everything stayed intact during transport.

Creative Materials

I found a neat whiteboard travel pack and bought a cheap pack of markers to pair with a jumbo coloring book, knowing in advance that those markers would (a) make a mess and (b) likely be chucked in the trash upon arrival in NY. I also kept a few mini Play-Dohs for him to squish around in the backseat. I always find dough therapeutic and I think he does too — it tends to make him sleepy.


You better believe that I’m not above putting a tablet in my child’s lap when we’re driving up to 12 hours a day. It’s what maintained my sanity. I use the Amazon Fire HD Tablet Kids Edition that comes with Amazon Freeplay, which bundles a bunch of apps/games/videos/books. You can download the videos for offline playback beforehand, including digital purchases from Amazon. The real lifesaver was keeping a cord in the car to charge while in use, meaning no dead tablet. He primarily used this at night when it was too dark for coloring or seeing out the window.

Wet Wipes

The one item I kept for me: Kleenex Wet Wipes stayed by my side this entire trip. The last thing I needed was to get sick along this ride, so I constantly used the Germ Removal wipes after pumping gas or stopping for food and whenever I needed a quick refresh I’d wipe my face down with the Gentle Clean wipes (since there are no harsh chemicals). I also stuck a pack in the cab of Tyler’s truck before we left Los Angeles and he was grateful to use them several instances throughout the trip, especially since he was in charge of the cats.

For under $1.50 per pack, these are great to stick in your center console, purse, or desk at work. Right now you’ll get $1 back on Ibotta with the purchase of two packs. 

Aside from the items I mentioned above, plan a couple of pit stops along the way to make driving less monotonous. They don’t need to be huge excursions — Fox was happy using the hand dryers in rest stop bathrooms or checking out the vending machines. My favorite stops tend to be ones where it’s mostly a quick picture stop to stretch your legs and see something out of the ordinary.

You’ll do great.

Sarabeth, The February Fox

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  • Reply Aaron Smith May 4, 2018 at 10:35 am

    It’s definitely a challenge but is worth. I think making these memories with your kids is the kind of moments you cherish in the future. Great post!

  • Reply Ross Shetman June 16, 2018 at 2:11 am

    This road trip can be your fun and you can keep the experience and memories with your children. I love to read.

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