Mom life

Vacation with an 18 month old & 4 year old

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I’m a planner, always have been, likely always will be. That means that in the weeks leading up to our week long vacation 9hrs from home, I did a lot of researching, thinking, and planning to try to make this trip as enjoyable and smooth sailing as possible.

We have never flown with our kids before and given that our destination was only 9 hours away (I know, only right?) we decided that having our vehicle for the week was more ideal than trying to fly. Honestly, the thought of fighting an airport with two kids sounds worse to me than being stuck in the car.

I had two big concerns for this trip: the car ride & if my daughter (18 months old) would sleep.

Car Ride

To prep for the car ride we installed Disney+ on our big kiddo’s tablet and downloaded his favorite movies so he could watch without having to be connected to the internet. We bought these headphones for him, but knew that having headphones on my daughter at her age was not practical. For my daughter we used an old iphone plus and bought this mount/holder. We had to keep in mind that she’s still rear facing so a large tablet mounted would’ve blocked our view of her for the whole trip and I didn’t think she would do well trying to hold it. We used this mount for my son’s tablet.

Note on the tablet: we have the amazon fire tablet for my son….I was able to download disney+ on my parental login and it did not show up on his log in. I liked this because I didn’t want him to have constant access to the movies since we largely use screen time for educational games in normal circumstances. We also were able to download content for offline viewing on Netflix, PBS kids app, Amazon prime video, and Noggin (if you’re a subscriber). We didn’t check, but I’m sure Hulu offers this option as well.

Note on disney+: unfortunately I found that at certain times we were unable to watch the shows or movies I had downloaded. I google searched and apparently this is a common problem. Even when I turned my hotspot on my phone & connected him there were certain movies that would not stream on the tablet. We did not have this issue with content downloaded from Netflix.

In hindsight, I wish I would’ve went ahead and purchased this car camera/monitor so I could’ve seen sis better. As a passenger in the car I couldn’t see the traditional mirror we use (those don’t give a very clear picture anyways) and 9 hours in the car is a long time to not be able to see what your kiddo is doing (especially if you’re feeding them snacks & trying to make sure they don’t choke). 100% will be purchasing this for our next baby due in December!

I also packed small toys/activities that I purchased new just for this trip. Since the items are new it’s more interesting for them and kept the engaged longer. I purchased several of these items from our local dollar tree, amazon, Ross, and TJmaxx.

These Melissa & Doug water WOW books can commonly be found cheaper at Ross/TJmaxx but can be ordered here as well. They don’t cause a mess and can be reused several times!

These Melissa & Doug (I love melissa & doug products, can you tell?) reusable sticker scenes can again be found at TJmaxx/Ross cheaper, but can be ordered here. I love these because the puffy stickers are easier for my daughter to pick up as well. Warning that some pieces are very small & can be put straight into their little mouths, supervision highly recommended!

I bought this Peppa Pig Book for my daughter, she loves these types of books and is on a Peppa kick currently.

I also packed lots of snacks! There’s really no “recommendation” I can give here other than to pack whatever your kids like best! I will say that spending the extra money on individual/pre packed snacks was worth it to me. We packed: goldfish, gummy fruit snacks, popcorn, animal crackers, & beef jerky sticks. I also cut up apple slices and had cubed cheese available in our cooler. I used these bowls for anything that wasn’t pre packaged or that I thought my 18 month old still might spill.


My daughter is a little boujee when it comes to her sleep, probably largely my fault for training her to be this way (more on that another day), but she has to have a dark room, her sound machine, & her lovies.

Our condo did not have enough bedrooms for each kiddo to have their own room as they do at home, however, we had stayed in this exact condo before so I knew we would be able to provide her with her own little space.

We knew we would be taking our pack & play and that would be where she slept. She currently still sleeps in a crib at home. My biggest concern: she can, and will, climb out of it. After lots of reading and researching, I purchased this little tent to serve two purposes: darkness & keep her safely inside.

This, was a holy disaster. My daughter HATED it and we never used it. However, I think a lot of this had to do with her being 18 months old and us never using it in the past. I decided to keep it for future babies that might need the darkness factor to sleep when we travel in the future. The product its self is great, my daughter just wasn’t having it!

I was also worried about how uncomfortable sleeping in a pack & play for a whole week might get, so I purchased an additional mattress and this thick mattress pad/sheet. Given her age and mobility I felt comfortable with these additions, however, I would have been more hesitant adding these items for a smaller baby, you can read about their safety guarantees on the links below:

She slept fine all week and didn’t seem uncomfortable at all!

For the Beach

I wasn’t terribly worried about how the kids would do at the beach, I knew they would either like it or they wouldn’t and I was going to be okay with that. I set my expectations real low so that I wasn’t disappointed if we spent the majority of our week at the pool. Thankfully, both kids loved the beach! Sis was hesitant at first but by the end of the week she didn’t want to leave.

We took sand toys, a mesh bag to keep them in, two larger buckets, beach shoes, & a collapsible pool for beach entertainment.

I can’t find my exact beach chair online, we bought it 2 years ago at a local shop, but this one is very similar (same brand). The only difference is, mine also has a cooler pouch under the storage flap on the back. I recommend some type of backpack chair that has storage because your hands are full with kids, beach toys, & anything else you may be taking to the beach. I was able to store a kids beach towel, a gallon ziplock bag of snacks, our cell phones, and a bottle of spray sunscreen in the flap. I stored our 4 drink thermoses in the cooler pouch.