Tips for Taking a Road Trip With a Baby or Toddler

Happy Summer Super Moms!  I am sure your summer is in full-swing and at some point you’re planning to go on vacation. How are you traveling to your destination?  Car?  Plane?  Boat?  Either way, whether driving to the airport, the port, or all the way to your vacation destination,  something all parents struggle with at one time or another is kids and long car rides.  Whether its a screaming infant, an 8 year old with the ever famous questions, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?” – car rides can be insufferable.

I invited my friend Gayle from Ever Simple Mom to share some helpful tips on what to do when your child hates car rides: how to deal with with road-trip crankiness.

She has some pretty great ideas, and I know they work!  #1 and #6 are tried and true favorites in our house.  Believe it or not, road trips with little ones CAN be enjoyable if you follow these tips.

When Your Child Hates Car Rides: How to Deal with Road-Trip Crankiness

Before becoming a mom, I was always under the impression that car rides were some sort of magic trick for getting your infant to sleep. It makes sense. The vibration of the car, the soft white noise of a moving vehicle; it should be a recipe for calm and quiet. Even my own parents claim that the only way they could get my colicky brother to stop crying  was by driving around the block endlessly.  

Road trips with little ones CAN be enjoyable! Have fun! Make memories! Click To Tweet

Then my first-born came into the world; and evidently, she did NOT get the memo. She cried in the car from day one. Even a 5 minute cruise to the grocery store would set her off. One time, the screaming was so bad that I actually thought there was something perilously wrong. I pulled over and leaped out of the car with such panic that a stranger stopped to ask if everything was ok. It was. My daughter was just miserable in the backseat.

The worst was in the summer months. We would do the two hour drive up to our family cottage and it was pure torture. Well, it was, until we came up with a few tricks to help keep her calm.

Tips for taking a road trip with your baby or toddler

Sit in the Backseat

Honestly, we were willing to do ANYTHING to get our daughter to stop crying. So at some point we decided one of us should try sitting in the backseat with her. We were able to distract her with toys, a bottle of milk or just by chatting with her.  Inevitably, she would start crying anyways, but it helped get through the first hour of a long trip.

Take Breaks

Sometimes, the crying would get so bad we would just have to stop for a bit. Part of the problem with having a screaming baby in the car is that it’s very distracting to whoever is driving. Obviously, this is a safety issue. If you’ve had it with the noise, don’t be afraid to pull-over and regroup. If it means you’ll be late, it doesn’t matter. Safety first, people.  

Singing or Shushing

There are some people who swear by “shushing” their infants. I am one of those people. Basically, you just loudly and continuously go “Sh sh sh” to your baby until they’re calm. This would silence my daughter briefly (How long can one person “shush” for anyways, really) but long enough for a quick trip to the store. She would also sometimes respond to me singing to her. Her favourite song was “Five Little Ducks” and I vividly recall singing that song about 100 times on some car rides.

Put Up a Mirror

Babies love looking at themselves, so adding a backseat mirror was a great option. It also allowed me to see my daughter so I could be assured that there wasn’t something more going on aside from her normal car-anxiety.

Try White Noise

Since the general sound of our moving car was already providing some white noise, this one seemed a little silly. But, remember, we were desperate. I downloaded some ocean sounds onto my phone and pumped up the volume. Surprisingly, this actually helped her to drift off to sleep.

Put on a Video

For the longest time my husband and I tried very hard to limit our daughter’s screen time. We were so stubborn that we didn’t try this one until she was about a year old. But at one point, we were so tired of the crying that one of us brought up a video on our phone (while sitting in the backseat of course) and it worked! In fact, I will say that this solution was the most effective.  Honestly, even if you are against screen time, if you’re at the end of your rope I strongly suggest you try this. At least on the longer trips. There are so many educational shows out there too, so download some quality TV and don’t feel guilty about this one. Sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do.

I can still very clearly remember the frustration and exhaustion of having an unhappy baby in the car. When my son came along, he had no problems whatsoever in the car. It was a huge relief. If nothing works (and trust me, there will be times where nothing will quell the screaming) just remember that this too shall pass. Eventually, they get older and the screaming baby in your backseat will turn into a chatty, laughing, singing and happy little boy or girl.

Tips for Taking a Road Trip with your toddler

About Gayle:

Gayle Smith is a former teacher, current blogger and mommy of two. She loves doing fun stuff with her kids and is passionate about keeping life uncomplicated. You can read her blog at or follow her on Facebook and twitter @eversimplemom

What tricks have you used to keep your children calm and happy in the car?

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8 comments on “Help! My Child Hates Car Rides! How to Deal with Road-Trip Crankiness”

  1. I don’t know why I never thought of using a mirror! We were also reluctant about including screen time in the car, but ended up LOVING our DVD player in our last vehicle. We just bought a minivan that does NOT have a DVD player and are seriously planning on fixing that before any long trips. Thank you for the tips!

  2. My baby hates the car too! So glad I’m not alone! We have a mirror, I always sit with him if possible. He also likes to have the windows down!

    • Kristie, you are definitely not alone! Sitting with them definitely helps. Your baby must love the fresh air on his face – how sweet! There really is nothing like riding with the windows down in beautiful weather – especially near the beach 😉

    • Hi Danielle, I am glad you found something that works! Car rides are so tough with a fussy baby. I haven’t heard of the lulla doll before now – where did you find it?

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