West Coast Road Trip With a Toddler: Planning and Executing

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June 5th 2019
Published: June 5th 2019
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We all know those scenes from cute romantic movies where a family is preparing for a road trip. While mom is preparing sandwiches and packing fruit in little plastic containers with a big smile on her face, dad is putting the stroller in the car while their adorable, angelic toddler is waiting patiently for the adventure to begin. Well, when you have kids of your own, you know that this scene is a load of crap. You know those pictures on Instagram – expectations vs. reality? This scene is the expectation, and in real life you and your partner are just taking deep breaths trying not to kill each other while your kid looks more like Gizmo after midnight than your bundle of joy. Everyone is screaming, the kitchen is a mess, the stroller simply doesn't want to fit in the trunk and you are just wondering whether you really need to go on this trip at all.

While a West Coast trip with your toddler can be stressful, it doesn't need to be a living nightmare. With these tips you and your family can have a great time and create long-lasting memories.

Packing the essentials

We all know toddlers easily get hurt. It seems like you’ve only looked away for a second and they are already crying with a wound on their knee. Since safety always comes first, make sure you are well prepared for all the unwanted scenarios. Create a first aid kit which should contain medications such as baby Tylenol as well as diaper rash treatment at bandages and ointment.

Entertaining your kid

If your child is like any other kid on the planet and gets bored really quickly, you need to have various sources of entertainment in the car with you, and I don’t just mean toys. In case they love watching cartoons, bring a tablet or play them on your phone. Remember that time when you loved blasting your speakers and singing really loud to 80s rock and pop songs? Well, now you need to get used to playing kids’ songs which you might hate, but your toddler will love. Trust me, listening to those over and over again is far less stressful than listening to your toddler whine and cry. Keep in mind that you will be stuck in that car for a long time, so use your tricks wisely. Give your toddler one toy at a time, because if you shower them with teddy bears in the first 10 minutes of the trip, you will spend the rest of it trying to figure out how to keep them entertained.

Comfort is crucial

Investing in a good and comfortable car seat is money well spent. Also, make sure you get a stroller that will easily fit in your trunk or on top of your car. Getting window shades for your car is also a wise move since your little one will be protected from the sun at all times.

Take breaks

We are all familiar with those road signs that remind us to take a break every now and then, and you should really listen to their advice. During the breaks, you will be able to stretch your feet, get some fresh air and feed your child. Since kids tend to get cranky when their diaper is dirty, make sure your toddler is clean at all times. However, sometimes the good old wiping and changing won’t do the trick and you will need to give your kid a shower. This is why taking a portable shower on a road trip is a genius move. During your break, you will be able to easily take care of everything and get back on the road with a clean and peaceful toddler.

Don’t call shotgun

While your partner is driving, consider sitting in the back seat with your toddler. This way you will be able to easily entertain your baby, feed it, comfort it thus preventing unnecessary tantrums and meltdowns.

Drive through the night

Yes, driving during the night can be a bit more uncomfortable than driving during the day, but having a sleeping child in the back seat is worth the trouble. This way you won’t have to make so many breaks and you will arrive at your destination with a well rested and happy child.

Choose your destinations wisely

When planning a trip make sure you take the number of 24-hour gas stations, service areas, and restrooms into consideration. They will come in handy when you want to take a break, have something to eat, fill up your tank and get some rest.

Now that you know how to have a stress free road trip, it is time to choose your West Coast destination. Here are several places your whole family will enjoy visiting.

Oregon coast

Do you enjoy taking a walk along the beach? Does cheese always have a place on your plate? Do you and your family love dressing up in costumes? Then the Oregon coast is a perfect destination for you. Go ahead and visit a cheese factory, climb the 125-foot tall Astoria Column and dress up in vintage clothing in Yaquina Head Lighthouse. There are countless things you can do in Oregon so you and your toddler surely won’t get bored.

Columbia Historic State Park


Is your little child a huge fan of cowboys? Then Columbia Historic State Park should definitely be on your list of destinations. Professional guides will lead you through one of the best preserved historic towns in California from the time of gold rush. Your toddler will surely enjoy a stagecoach ride and you can take a bunch of pictures while having a soda in a saloon or an ice cream from a parlor.

Elephant seal colony of Piedras Blancas


For animal lovers, this place is a heaven on Earth. You will be able to see thousands of elephants up close and your toddler will surely enjoy the sight. Don’t be surprised if leaving this place turns out to be trickier than you expected!

Morro Bay

Are you tired of driving around? Well, Morro Bay might be perfect for you since it is small and you can get everywhere on foot. Therefore park your car and enjoy watching the seals, otters and other mammals. Your toddler will surely love the sight of happy seals which get overwhelmed with joy the moment they smell the fish from the approaching boats.


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