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I'd like to take my 2yo son on a 5h road trip - but the mother is against this idea. I have to admit - it does seem daunting - but would like to try.

11

5 hours doesn't seem that long - double that is definitely doable.

The important thing is how you plan it-

  • regular stops, whether for fuel, feed, snacks for you, nappy change, or just a walk around in fresh air
  • have everything you may need close to hand: wipes, cloths, maybe a bottle
  • a car seat that is safe and legal, and that allows your baby to see you
  • make sure you aren't tired, and be focused on the road. Don't panic if your baby decides to suddenly be loudly upset with something - just plan to pull over at the next safe spot and then deal with it.
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  • I agree on everything but perhaps on the 'see you' - that may be infeasible with a 2 year old. A 2 year old should be in a rear facing seat, and while mirrors are useful for infants I never found them practical for 2 year olds. – Joe Jul 6 '16 at 21:55
  • Yep! Plan out stopping points every little while to get out. Will make the trip MUCH more enjoyable. See some sights along the way. Teach him to pee in the woods. Kiddos always like that :) – Jeff.Clark Jul 7 '16 at 0:34
  • In the UK a rearward facing seat is fine in the front passenger seat - just disable the air bag if you have one. – Rory Alsop Jul 7 '16 at 6:09
  • In the US state I live in, it is illegal to have kids in the front seat before they turn 13, unless the car has no back seat (or back seats without seatbelts for old cars). So check your laws :). btw Mirrors worked fine for us at older ages. – Ida Jul 7 '16 at 21:25
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Does your 2-year old nap in the car? In that case, I think 5 hours is not too bad. Even if not, just including rest stops it should be fine.

Think of something like (if he naps after lunch):

  • leave in the AM, an hour or 2 before lunch. Have some entertainment your son can play with, such as matchbox cars or a book.

  • have a nice lunch and a break, run around a little.

  • After driving a little he should nap again, about 1.5 hours maybe?

  • Take a break about 15-30 min after he wakes. Maybe you can find a park or playground. get some snacks, maybe even something special like ice cream.

  • Now you have 1.5 hours left to drive.

Add more stops if necessary!

We have done road trips with our kids at various ages, and some of them were long. Not really a big deal, but you do need to be flexible with breaks.

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I would not recommend doing that much driving in a single day with a 2 year old. Even if the child was able to tolerate it. It's really not fair.

Your son will most likely not enjoy it. He'll get frustrated and stressed and uncomfortable being in his seat for that length of time.

With breaks, that could easily end up being 7 or 8 hours total traveling time.

We recently did a road trip with a 4 year old and a 6 year old. The longest stretch we did in a single day was about 5 hours driving time, 7 hours door-to-door. It was about the limit of what they could reasonably cope with, without becoming very stressed and upset, and that was with regular stops.

With a 2 year old I would not advise doing any more than 3 hours driving in a single day.

The problem with the idea of giving it a try. What happens if it doesn't work out so well? Will you have a backup plan? What happens if you're 2 hours into your drive, with 3 hours still to go and your little boy gets very upset and doesn't want to get back into his seat after a break? Sure you could simply force him, but would you really want to do that?

Road trips are supposed to be fun for everyone. I just can't imagine a child that young having fun being in a car for that long.

Perhaps you could split it over 2 days instead.

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  • 2
    I disagree with the majority of this answer. My children coped quite cheerfully with extended car trips more or less from birth onwards. Indeed, a younger child is almost easier because they are likely to have an extended nap at some point during the day -- ideal to get in a long stretch of driving without worrying about stops and breaks. – Acire Jul 7 '16 at 11:43
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    I disagree too. My kids are fine with extended driving, and having a 4 and 6 year unable to do more than 5 hours is puzzling to me. My 3 and 5 year old does 5 hours just fine, and have done more. Just add stops! – Ida Jul 7 '16 at 21:23
  • We try not to drive more than 2 to 2.5 hours with kids at that age, even with sleep time. Certainly 5 hours in one go is way too long. – vikingsteve Jul 8 '16 at 11:09
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Depends what you mean by a "five hour road trip". Do you mean five hours one way to a destination? Or a five hour trip, both directions, with stops etc.

Expecting a 2-year-old not to be bored (and act it!) having to amuse themselves for five hours while strapped into a car seat may be a bit much to ask.

That said, we used to rent a cottage that was about a four hour drive from home, and our solution was to start the trip about an hour before the kids bedtimes. The kids would get bored and drop off to sleep and the road trip was then easy to manage.

But if you have to stay engaged with the munchkin to keep them amused, then I'd argue that maybe you might consider how that could have the potential to distract you from your main task - driving safely.

You know your kid best. If they are able to amuse themselves for long periods, then a five hour drive with a couple of "get out, run around, snack, bathroom" breaks might make it work. If they are needier, then it might be a disaster.

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No 5 hours isn't too long. But you should do a lot of planning ahead of time. Make it an enjoyable experience, plan on stoping at a playground, a store, a quick service restaurant, and a library. Have activities and snacks. Hopefully your child naps, but if not you can talk to them about your next stop and how much fun it will be.

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