Road Tripping with a Toddler

A few days ago, Zara and I embarked on a mommy-daughter road trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We timed the trip for when Jeremy had to travel for work, so that he didn’t have to miss out on additional daddy-daughter time. CDA is a little more than 300 miles away, so it was Zara’s longest road trip yet. I’ve made the trip many times on my own and with friends, but this was my first time alone with a toddler. We had a lot of “greats” and just a few “gripes” on our journey…

Preparing for the journey…

Everyone with kids knows how long it takes to pack and prepare for a trip, even a short little outing. So packing and preparing for 2-3 days was no easy task, especially with the fact that we only decided that we were going on the trip the night before. Zara had a check up appointment scheduled with her doctor for noon on our departure day, so I had until then to get everything packed and ready to go, as we were going to hit the road straight from that appointment. Things to pack and prepare (just for Zara) for our 2 nights and 3 days were:

  • Zara clothes – 3 pajamas, 2-3 outfits per day, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 jacket
  • Diaper bag – 6 diapers per day, wipes, first aid kit, chamomile drops for teething, hairbrush
  • Food bag – Dry snacks, fruit, veggies, pepperoni sticks, cheese, bottles, sippy cups, water, almond milk, ice packs
  • Baby gear – Stroller, hiking backpack, front carrier, ring sling, bumbo seat with eating tray
  • Toy bag – Blanket, cuddlies, books, old familiar favorite toys, a few new fun exciting toys to introduce when needed 🙂

All of that for a tiny little person who weighs less than 20 pounds! It would be interesting to have weighed all of that in comparison to her.  It’s truly amazing how much “stuff” a baby needs.

In addition to packing all of our stuff, I had until our noon appointment deadline to pack it all into the car, shower and get ready (without Daddy there to keep Zara occupied), eat and feed breakfast (including cleaning the kitchen afterwards because I can’t stand to come home to a messy house), drop Floyd off at my brother’s house, leave a key and cash for our cat-sitter, fill up the gas tank, and – oh yeah! – get the oil changed in my car!

Greats – Well we made our noon deadline! And I did a pretty good job estimating how much clothes and food to bring. My clothes and Zara’s clothes all fit into one carry-on size luggage, so that was a good space saver (and it was fun to share a little suitcase together). And a friend had suggested bringing a couple of new toys to introduce, and that was a great tip to keep the toddler entertained on the road.

Gripes – We definitely were rushed to meet that noon deadline! I had originally wanted to go to our 9:30 Stroller Strides class that morning too, but that was a little too ambitious to try to fit in. And I did have one minor catastrophe while packing up the bathroom stuff – the hot oil liquid spilled out of my scentsy plug-in burner in the bathroom. Luckily it didn’t get on Zara, but it did slightly burn my hand and spill onto the countertop, so that was a few extra minutes of clean up that was not planned for.

Finally, we were ready to hit the road!


Being in the car for 300+ miles…

Our one-way distance was just over 300 miles, which equates to about 5 hours of drive time. By the time we hit the road, it was about 1pm and Zara was more than ready for a nap. So she slept for the first 100 miles! The rest of the car time was spent singing together, making funny faces and noises at each other through her mirror, and she did a fantastic job keeping herself entertained with her books, toys, and looking out at the scenery. She’s a great little road tripper (much like her big brother, who traveled a lot in the car during his early years!). She only started to get antsy towards the end of the long trip, but who wouldn’t after being strapped in a car seat for that long?!

Greats – It is so much fun laughing and singing and playing with this girl! I obviously had to keep my eyes on the road most of the time, but when I would look back at her in the mirror, she always brought a smile to my face.  I highly recommend the car seat mirrors – we’ve had it since she was a newborn, and since she will be facing backwards for at least another year, I just love being able to see her face at all times.


Gripes – Ever since we switched Zara to the convertible car seat from her infant car seat, her head falls forward when she takes a nap in the car. It doesn’t seem to bother her one bit, but it looks so uncomfortable for her little head to be dangling forward like that. She corrects it sometimes, but I need to look into solving that issue to keep her head back more.

The stops on a 300-mile road trip…

The “me” 10-15 years ago would insist on making a 300-mile road trip with no stops. We start with a full tank of gas and an empty bladder, and we do not stop until we hit our destination. Just ask my small-bladder college roommate, Lindsay Nagel. 🙂 The “me” now (pregnant and with a toddler in tow) sees the benefit in a couple of stops along the way. We divided our trip into roughly three sections, with a bathroom-and-snack break at the 100 and 200 mile marks.

Greats – Getting Zara out of the car seat so she could stretch her legs, walk around a bit, and have a snack was definitely a plus. She made a lot of strangers smile who saw her toddling around at rest stops. She’s still figuring out the world and she is loving the independence of walking, so since we were in no big rush, I just let her go at her own pace, taking her small marching steps. And of course, she loved the snack breaks!


Gripes – How is it not a requirement that every public bathroom have a changing table?? I was amazed to find that not all of them did. What are we supposed to do, change our babies on the bathroom floor? NO, that is not happening. What is our other option, change our babies in the dining area where people eat? NO, then they need to provide a changing table in the bathroom. All of the public rest area bathrooms that we stopped at had changing tables. Not one fast food restaurant that we stopped at did. I didn’t order any fast food any way, but I guess they’ll lose my order of a medium Sprite on our next road trip if I can’t change my baby in their bathroom.

Bonus mommy-daughter shopping stop on the way home!

Pop Quiz: Who made it home first? Me and Zara, who drove 300+ miles from CDA to Woodinville, including 2 bathroom-and-snack breaks and a bonus shopping stop at the outlet mall in North Bend? Or Jeremy, who was flying from San Francisco to Seattle, including his cab ride from hotel to airport, and his drive home from airport to Woodinville? Answer: The girls by less than 10 minutes! We each started our treks home at literally the same time, and since we girls decided to have an impromptu long shopping break 45 minutes from home, it was a good thing (for us, not for him) that his flight was delayed leaving the San Francisco airport. 🙂

I let Zara walk around the kids clothing stores and she LOVED it. She pulled hangers off the low racks that she could reach and kept putting things in our stroller. I did double duty putting those things back and selecting the things we were actually buying. The lady at the checkout counter said, “It looks like she needs a baby brother!” and I patted my growing belly and said, “She’s getting one!” Apparently Zara was drawn to the newborn baby boy clothes and kept putting those in our basket. Very thoughtful of you, Zara, but this shopping stop is for YOU!

Greats – I went in for a couple of new pajamas and outfits for Zara in the next size up from what she has currently been wearing, and while I did buy those, we also had to buy this pink hat, because seriously, how cute is she in this?!


Gripes – It was POURING by the time we were done shopping, and since it hadn’t rained at all during our whole trip, that was our sign that it was time to be home. We were ready to be done in the car and go see Daddy!

All in all, it was such a fun road trip and Zara did amazing. We had a wonderful time and I can’t wait for more mommy-daughter trips together!

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