Over nearly nine months of international travel with our 2-year old, we obviously took our fair share of flights—roughly 40, if you’re keeping score. But we spent plenty of time in the car, as well, renting vehicles in several different cities and exploring our surroundings via automobile, always with our little man in tow. (We also had several tour guides who carted us around, so our experience in this regard was quite varied.)
Car trips with kids are notoriously unpleasant, but we landed on a few ways to keep everyone as sane—and as safe—as possible. In this post, we’ll share just a few of our survival tips.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Let’s start at the very beginning: If you’re renting or buying a new vehicle, it’s important to select the right one. Generally speaking, we’d encourage you to consider an SUV—though there are plenty of exceptions. In Europe, for example, we found that the streets were so narrow that driving and parking an SUV could be truly frustrating.
In countries where SUVs make sense, though, they can really be nice—and we’d include the U.S., China, India, and many South American nations here. For one thing, these vehicles are on the heftier side—so if anything ever did happen, God forbid, you’d have a certain level of built-in safety. And of course, SUVs are simply a little more spacious, meaning you can get car seats in and out with greater ease.
A note for car renters: At many rental places around the world, we found that the base level car was a manual. Assuming you prefer automatics, always double-check this! Don’t just assume that the car you’re getting has an automatic transmission.
Of course, there are a lot of scenarios—including most of the European cities we were in—where renting a car really isn’t needed; you can often get around just as well by foot or via public transportation, and you can save some money just by renting cars for longer distances.
Riding with Your Toddler
Once you have a vehicle, you’ll need the proper car seat; we have one that we can happily recommend, and we’ll simply refer you to that post for more details.
As you drive long distances with a toddler, you’ll need to do something to keep your little one entertained. First, you’ll want toys the toddler can hold and play with solo—that is, without you having to sit by them or to help them. We found that a lot of the toys that worked well on the plane also worked in the car. Books, too, can be useful ways to keep your child entertained in the car.