Whether it’s jet-setting to far flung lands or soaking up somewhere a little more local, it feels like the entirety of the UK are off on their holidays this week thanks to the end of the school summer term. Near or far, the chances are you’ll be piling yourself, your family and most of your worldly possessions (just us?!) into the car to get you on your way. We’ve done many a road trip with babies and toddlers and know just how badly they can go – who can forget the six hour scream-fest that was my 30th birthday?! – so we’ve put together some of our top tips for keeping that car journey as enjoyable as possible just in case you can’t face flying with babies. You can do this…
Plan Your Route
If you’re going further than a couple of hours then it’s always a good idea to plan in some route stops. Even if it’s just for your own sanity at knowing where the next toilet break will be. For long journeys why not plan a detour on the way to a National Trust house, a park or somewhere the kids can run a little wild. The key here is to exhaust them outside of the enclosed space so that they don’t exhaust you inside it with their endless energy. Which leads me sideways into another tip which is to wear them out prior to any journey. Take them for a walk, get them to run laps of the garden, visit your local park (can you tell we love the park?!), whatever it takes to ensure you have nicely tired kids when you get in to the car, not too tired though, as any parent knows, the only thing worse than an overtired child is an overtired child in a small, enclosed space. You want naps, not screams!
Related post: Why your next trip should be a road trip
Bring ALL The Snacks…
Regardless of journey length, if you’re travelling anywhere with kids then you’re going to want to go big on snacks. I like to follow this rule; take the normal snacks my kids would eat in a day, treble it and then throw in even more for good measure. Apparently nothing brings on a hunger more than the moment you buckle up, so have those snacks to hand ready for the second you pull out of the drive. Drinks, sandwiches, crisps, fruit, biscuits… drip feed it to them for hours. Oh and don’t forget the adult ones too; that’s a definite perk to extended rear-facing by the way; they have no idea what snacks you’re eating!
…And All The Entertainment
Entertaining kids in small spaces isn’t always the easiest so here’s what we do. Firstly, we tend to pack a small backpack for each child with a selection of their toys which I distribute one at a time as distractions from their own boredom. Once we’ve exhausted those (and had at least five snacks) we move on to the odd bit of colouring for the toddler. Primarily the Galt Water Magic Books or the Crayola Wonder Mess Free Felt Tips as both are mess free. Disney CDs or playlists of their favourite tunes ready to have a sing-along always help break up the trip, just remember to swap it back to your music as soon as they’re otherwise engaged or sleeping – both for your sanity and so that they appreciate it when their music’s back.
Then i-Spy. With our three year old we alternate this between things beginning with a letter or things of a certain colour to keep it simple. We also play a lot of ‘lets say all our favourite zoo animals we can think of’ and take it in turns. Be prepared to slightly lose your mind by the end of it when they say dog for the fiftieth time. Go through every type of category you can think of for this; types of transport, colours, members of the family, if you can list it, it’s fair game.
Finally… when all hope is lost, crack out the big guns. The iPads or the phones, the tablets or whatever screen you can find. Make sure you’ve downloaded some of their favourite shows or movies and throw it at them as quickly as you can. If you’ve made it longer than an hour until that point, well done. Oh and if it’s a long car journey, bring a charging cable. You can thank me later.
Related post: Best apps for toddlers
Pack Like A Pro
As great as suitcases are, they suck room in a car. They’re difficult to squish in to spaces and before you know it the boot is overflowing and you’re yet to fit the kids in. If you don’t need to take suitcases, consider packing things into softer overnight bags or even bags for life. Then, before you even think about putting any bodies in, get planning that pack. Get all the bags out by the car, or in the hall, so that you can see what you’re working with and go for it. Small bags in the corners of the boot? A cot mattress laid on the floor? Day bags packed into the footwells of those with shorter legs? This is your time to pull out all those skills you learnt as a teenager playing Tetris… isn’t it nice to know those hours weren’t wasted! Bonus points if you plan in a space for the bag that always appears moments after you’ve shut the boot down.
Don’t Forget The Checks
Whilst it’s easy to joke about the joys of road trips with kids, there are some aspects of car journeys that need to be taken seriously. Nothing ruins a holiday or day out faster than a problem on the road. From checking the travel updates in the morning, through to making sure that your MOT is up to date, there are a number of things you should be doing before you make any long trip in the car including making sure you’re up to date with the latest rules of the road. Not sure what those are? Kwik Fit have put together their own guide to what you need to be aware of to help make that preparation a little easier. Oh and an added tip from me? Fill up with fuel the day before. The number of times we’ve finally pulled out of the drive only to have to stop two minutes down the road for fuel is unbelievable. No-one wants to start the cries of ‘Can I get out now? Are we here yet?’ that early into their journey.
Focus On The Destination
It’s easier said than done but if all else fails, remember this is just one small journey to get you on your holiday. Even if it’s hours of screaming hell (much like my thirtieth birthday… did I mention that?!) it will be worth it. And if not, you’ll have a story to tell. Pack yourself a treat for surviving it until the other end and focus on the fact that you’re mere hours away from this being a distant memory. Well, until you need to get home of course…