Cincinnati Family Magazine

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March 30, 2023

Beach or Bust!

Sand beneath your toes, waves gently crashing, the warm sun shining. For many people, a beach vacation is the ideal getaway.  However, a car echoing with toddler screams for 10+ hours may seem a little less than ideal, for ALL people.

My family is gearing up for a beach trip in the next weeks, so travel survival with toddlers has been on my brain. I’d like to share some ideas with you that may be helpful if you are planning on driving to your vacation destination this summer.

First, accept that a 10-hour trip probably will take longer than 10 hours. Consider driving when the kids are asleep or break travel into two days.

Second, burn off energy during pit stops. Restaurants with play places are a popular idea (Chick-Fil-A, McDonalds). You can fill bellies and have some fun. Something my family always does on vacation is check out museums and zoos along the way. I know that may sound like an expensive, time consuming pit stop, but hear me out. If you have a Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens membership, there is a nationwide list of zoos offering 50% off here: . AND many museums we have visited are completely FREE when we flash our Cincinnati Museum Center memberships ( After stretching our legs and exploring an exciting new attraction for a few hours, my dudes are almost always ready for a new nap. And if they’re not … They can happily play with a gift store toy, which brings me to my next point.

Third, stock up on some items that will keep your kiddos occupied. Hit up the dollar store and create a treasure chest of goodies. Once a toy loses its newness and your kid gets bored, bring out another one! I am not above spending $15 on toys to keep my boys content. Magna doodles are a great toy — you can guess what the other person is drawing, play who can draw the most items starting with a certain letter, or draw what you’re looking forward to doing on vacation. Another idea would be to bring a small travel library! Check out a few themed books from your local library to build suspense for your trip. There are over 1,300 “beach” books available at the Campbell County Library, I’m sure you can find a book your kiddo would enjoy.

Fourth, use the restroom before you go, fuel up prior to taking off, and have snacks and drinks at the ready. With four people in my SUV, it’s easy for everyone to get hungry or have to use the restroom at a different time. To minimize gas station stops, we stock up on some favorite car snacks like Pringles and goldfish.

I have heard that getting there is half the fun, but I’m not sure those travelers had unpredictable toddlers with them. While I am optimistic that we will have an easy drive, I am also mentally prepared for a less than ideal trip. Once upon a time our car broke down on the way to Hilton Head — we were stranded on the side of the road waiting for AAA. My 20-month-old played with his magna-doodle and my youngest son was happily in-utero as I was eight months pregnant. It can’t get much worse than that right?

Do you have any other travel tips for long drives with toddlers? Or perhaps you have travel tales from heck? Sound off in the comments!


About the Author

Amanda Ciani

Amanda Ciani lives in Northern Kentucky with her husband and their three terrific sons. She enjoys writing haiku parenting poems for her Instagram account (@cinciciani), and Twitter account (@haikuciani).