road trip with a toddler in south africa: tips and advice

They always say it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey. And for the most part, that is true! But as parents, we know the journey can be a difficult part, especially with small children. 

Whether it be keeping the car clean (more or less), making sure everyone is tucked and belted in safely, and keeping your sanity intact, a road trip with toddlers can be quite a handful. The last thing we need to worry about on a long trip is breaking down.

Your first planning point before any road trip is safety. Keeping the family safe and secure is easy enough with a quick car checklist:

  • Check your tires (remember a loaded car has different tyre pressure requirements)
  • Are the wipers still up to scratch?
  • If you don’t have it yet, get a car insurance comparison to have some peace of mind
  • Lastly, pack for emergencies (snacks, first aid, emergency car kit)

After your core four are done, you can start thinking about the fun games and adventures you guys will have, snacks to soothe rumbling tummies, and of course a camera to capture it all. 

Road trip with a baby like a pro

Planning your adventures takes time and a lot of patience (especially for new parents). As we all know, with babies involved, things rarely go according to how we envisioned. But that is the beauty of parenthood: expect the unexpected! 

Road trips with a baby require some special pointers.

road trip with toddlers south africa: toddler car window head nature
Image by Anton Luzhkovsky on Unsplash

Keep them comfy

This brings us to our first road trip tip: blankets and pillows. Always make sure there are enough blankets and pillows, for the inevitable droopy eyes and nodding head. Enabling the kiddies to sleep will not only make the trip feel shorter to them but also help you focus on the road ahead.

Keep them fed

The second important thing to keep in mind: snacks galore. Sudden crying or potential tantrums can often be avoided with some delicious dried or soft fruit pieces, a juice box, or a nice yoghurt. While they might be messy at times, these snacks are sure to keep little ones smiling and happy.

Keep them moving

Our third and final tip for road trips with babies: stop and take a break. The one thing to always keep in mind is that the monotony of driving is probably extremely boring for the little ones. Thus, if your trip planning allows it, take as many breaks as you can. 

Stretch those little legs, have a potty break, some fresh air, and take the opportunity to sightsee. The kids will love it if you point out interesting things at rest stops and they will feel entertained. A road trip with a toddler can be as much adventure as it can be a bore, so it’s up to us to make their experience awesome.

road trip with toddlers in south africa: kids horizon landscape occupied
Image by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

Are we there yet? 

Babies and toddlers are just about the cutest little things but remember: they are experiencing everything for the first time. Taking a road trip with young children is a bit different than with older kids. They can be a lot fussier, as even the car noises can become overwhelming. 

Including their favourite blankies, stuffed giraffe or jingle toy will help make it that much more enjoyable for them. 

road trip with toddlers south africa: baby arm car seat buckle
Image by Al Soot on Unsplash

Travel ideas for toddlers and babies

Making your travelling as exciting as possible will go a long way towards ensuring a happy child. 

  • One fantastic Idea to do is to make a  “goodie bag“ of sorts. This handy bag can contain anything from toys, puzzles, colouring books, little snacks, and even new surprise toys and activities. The mystery of the bag alone will already intrigue the little ones. 
  • Try some new music that they respond to, perhaps even some kiddies episodes to listen to. This can provide some cute opportunities for you to interact and sing together, keeping them busy and breaking up the boredom for you as well.
  • Make up little games to play with the journey itself, like see who spots a certain colour first, or pick an object in the environment (landscape or something on the horizon). Then try to explain it while giving them clues and hints. 

Taking a road trip with a toddler can be effortless and with minimal stress. Just keeping them mildly amused, entertained, or sleeping through most of the journey will ensure a happy family on arrival.

road trip with toddlers in south africa: toddler car seat buckled pacifier
Image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Driving with kids – keeping your sanity intact!

While babies and toddlers have their quirks on a road trip, once they get a bit older (and start talking), they also pick up on things. Old enough to spark some intelligent inquiries but young enough to still need to be entertained. Toddlers learning to talk can be a blast, but only if you are prepared to weather the storm of “are we there yet?”.

Keeping them occupied can be simple and tough at the same time, as parents know all too well. The trick is to distract them with activities, questions, and sometimes even trivia and interesting information. This way, they don’t even notice the time.

Road trip activities for kids

Keeping the kids busy and quiet, just takes a little finesse. Below we have collected a few handy tips, short and sweet, to help you on this journey.

  • Interact with them. Keep them going with constant questions, having them decide the music, talking about the animals you pass etc. 
  • Art it up. Provide them with artistic activities (that are either easy to maintain or clean afterwards). Have them draw something that catches their eye outside the car, anything interesting.
  • Where to next? Have them “plan your itinerary” with activities and things they would like to do. This can be a clever way of having them feel special and part of the trip planning.
  • Feed me Seymour. Make them a part of the driving team, by appointing them as official “snack dealer”. They will see it as a fun activity and again it helps them feel included and special.
road trip with toddlers south africa: toddler car outdoors play
Image by Carl Figuracion on Unsplash

On the road again

Bringing the kids along can be such a blessing. It might not be all that exciting for us, but taking a road trip with your toddler can mean the world to them. 

They love being a part of us, being around us, feeling meaningful. Hopefully, some of these toddler travel ideas give you some inspiration for your very own special trip.