9 tips to survive (and maybe even enjoy) a road trip with your one-year-old!

9 tips to survive (and maybe even enjoy) a road trip with your one-year-old!

Recently Oliver, my mom, and I embarked on a great big roadtrip from Texas, to Beaufort, SC, and back.  In a week.  With a wedding thrown in.  Fun right?

Actually it was!

Now obviously it wasn’t perfect but I actually enjoyed our trip and I know I will cherish the memories for a long time.  So now I figured out would share a few tips and tricks that I think made our trip a success


1 – Manage your expectations

Roadtrips are always a mix of fun and frustration. When you add in the small child in the backseat, the mix can get a little wild!  As a rookie mom I still have memories of road trips I made with my husband where we took turns driving and just booked it all the way through.  This time I was driving solo…plus Oliver obviously needed breaks…so there was no way we were making the drive in just one day.  I am so grateful that I made my peace with that ahead of time because it made the relatively slow progress each day feel less disappointing.

2 – Find a co-pilot if at all possible

Oliver was a trooper for this trip and I am so grateful for that…but I am even more grateful that my mom was able to tag along with me.

Though she wasn’t able to drive (something we knew going into the trip) she was an awesome backseat buddy for Oliver when he got tired of traveling.  It’s also pretty great to have someone to talk to right?

3 – Bring your own pack-n-play/sleep arrangement

At a year old, babies are old enough to recognize when things are different.  Sleeping in a different hotel pretty much every night was something that definitely threw Oliver off. And y’all he’s a bad enough sleeper as is.  Luckily we had room in the car to bring our own pack-n-play that he uses occasionally at home and I think that little bit of familiar territory helped us a lot.  If you are co-sleeping this is a super easy step for you 🙂

4 – Embrace the adventure

Let me be 100% honest here.  We didn’t even know which route we were taking until the day I picked my mom up from the airport and started driving.  Fun right? Because we were driving along the southern end of the country to the southeast coast during hurricane season, we wanted to leave our options open.  As we were going I kept tweaking our route based on what cities we were going to be hitting at rush hour.  We ultimately ended up taking a route I hadn’t even considered before we left…which ended up taking us into Florida.  Which meant we got to have lunch at Tijuana Flats (aka my fav restaurant of all time) and we got to take Oliver’s picture with the Blue Angels plane at the welcome center.  Was it part of the road trip itinerary? Nope.  Was it an awesome surprise? Absolutely!

Alternatively, there were things I wanted to stop and see/do that we didn’t because Oliver was (finally) asleep in his car seat.  A road-tip with a one-year-old is full of uncertainty, but it can create some pretty great memories.  Or in Oliver’s case, pictures he can look at later to prove that I took him to do some pretty cool stuff 😉

5 – Don’t over plan

I didn’t book any of the hotels for the driving part of our trip in advance.  If you read the previous point you can probably guess why!  I didn’t have an exact timeline/stopping point planned for each day because we were truly going based on how Oliver was doing and how much further I felt like driving.  Sometimes Oliver was the first to lose his patience…and sometimes I was.  But having a no real timeline other than the general day we needed to be at our destination gave us a lot of leeway to stop or not stop depending on how we were feeling.

6 – Be over-prepared

While you don’t necessarily want to over plan your trip, you do want to be prepared for pretty much anything.  We packed clothes for pretty much every weather situation, too many diapers, and abundance of toys, and extra sheets for the pack-n-play.  This gave us a lot more freedom to not be looking for somewhere to do laundry or a place to stop because we were running out of diapers.  And being able to rotate through toys was nice when he started to lose interest in something.


7 – Organization is essential

My system was far from perfect, but Oliver and I each had our own suitcases and I tried to pack daily essentials in separate bags so they were easy to get to while on the go.  This meant more bags to haul in and out of the hotel each night, but it also meant that I knew where everything was and didn’t have to waste time looking for pajamas when we were all ready to go to bed! Oliver is obviously too little to do anything independently, so staying organized helped me not go too crazy getting both of us taken care of.

8 – Celebrate the little milestones

When you are driving a long distance and making slow progress, it can feel really daunting.  I made a point to get excited about each new state we went through, especially since it was my mom and Oliver’s first time through them.


I also set little goals, like when we reach this town we will get to stop for lunch/coffee/a stretch break. I also liked to look at my GPS and count down when we were halfway there/had less than two hours/etc.  It made the drive feel a lot more manageable.

9 – Remind yourself that this is a fun!

Your mindset going into the trip is a huge factor.  If you are dreading it, you probably won’t have a good time.  If you look at it as a fun opportunity you will be more likely to see all the good things about the trip.  Did I enjoy sitting in seemingly endless amounts of traffic with an angry baby? Not really.  But we got to have a really cool adventure together and that was totally worth it.  We saw alligators and dolphins, visited six states, and made memories to last a lifetime.


Roadtripping with a one-year-old is not without challenges.  But it was totally worth it! If you are considering a long distance road trip with your baby, I hope these tips will help you…and more importantly I hope you do take that trip and that you enjoy it!


9 tips to survive (and maybe even enjoy) a road trip with your one-year-old!

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