Off on a road trip with your children this half term or planning a trip in the future? Here’s our round up of top tips to keep them happy, safe, calm and entertained while on the road! Travelling long distance in a car with little ones takes on a whole new meaning – and a bit more planning than spontaneously jumping in the car as you might have done pre-kids! Follow our tips for a hassle free safe journey and for ways to beat the cry of ‘are we nearly there yet?’ Preparation is key!
Check your car
When did you last check your car for oil and water top ups? You don’t want to be stuck by the side of the motorway with an overheated engine. Also check that your child car seats are still the right size for your children. Here’s a handy link. Travelling in wintry weather? Take some blankets and provisions in case you get stuck.
Before you travel – plan your journey
Plan your fuel stops and snack breaks. Think about when you like driving. Do you like driving at night? If travelling in bad weather plan for delays on the roads and know your route so you don’t have to rely on google maps in case you lose reception. Don’t forget your phone charger.
Strategic planning for naps and sleep are key with very young children, if you can plan your journey around bedtime or nap time then it should mean you have a relatively easy journey with less need for in car entertainment! Pack anything you think you might need at the top of the boot or keep in the car with you. Does anyone get car sick and need to travel in the front? See this link for tips on how to manage travel sickness.
Travelling at night
It’s often easier travelling at night with young children as you can give them dinner and have their bedtime routine before getting in the car. Make sure you have enough blankets etc. to make them cosy and warm.
Refuelling and meals
Refuelling for you as well as the children. Prep your food for the journey in advance if you are travelling over meal times then you can avoid last-minute garage food purchases! Plenty of water to keep hydrated and extra supplies in case you get delayed.
Set strict guidelines for behaviour
If you have more than one child travelling in the back set your expectations for behaviour before you leave. It’s dangerous if you are driving and have to get involved in squabbles and disputes and makes it hard to concentrate.
“Are we nearly there yet?”
Manage everyone’s expectations including the adults!
Avoid the clamour of ‘are we nearly there yet?’ by managing expectations and letting everyone know how long the journey is going to take. If the children are old enough give them a map of the route and let them follow it. Tell them where and when you are planning on stopping so they can look forward to it. Equally, if you have a very young child it’s unlikely you will be able to do a 3 hour journey without stopping!!! So, manage everyone’s expectations including the driver!
Leave enough time!
Try not to make it stressful for you or your passengers. If your journey is planned in advance and you know you need to be somewhere at a specific time, then leave enough time for your journey. The journey where you only have a fifteen minute contingency and your child ends up crying out that they to need the toilet urgently, when you are racing to catch a ferry needs to be avoided at all costs!! Chances are you will miss that ferry!
Keeping the children entertained!
Depending on the age of your children, will depend on the level of entertainment you need to provide. But it’s important that they understand that you are not their entertainer when you are driving!
For the younger ones that fall straight asleep in the car that’s great but as they get older they get more bored! For those that are older an entertainment plan is needed!!
One of the best ways to while away a good couple of hours on a journey is a film. If you have or you can get hold of some screens that attach to the backs of the front seats that’s great. If not you can attach a tablet. Get organised before you leave and download a film, and if they are sharing a tablet to watch a film then get an earphone splitter. That way they can have their own earphones and don’t have to share (one less argument about volume control!).
However, don’t put the film on straight away let the children look forward to it and tell them a specific time that they can watch it. Then they look forward to it and you haven’t used up your best asset straight away!
Other in-car entertainment ideas…
- Books are great if they don’t get travel sick.
- Educational apps on the tablet – see our list here.
- Listening to music – sing along times tables nursery rhymes depending on the age!
- Audio books!!! Great for the whole family- highly recommend the David Williams collection!
- Podcasts – for when the kids are asleep! Something you’ve been wanting to listen to?
- Download it for your journey!
- Drawing and colouring (watch out for travel sickness).
- Eye spy books.
- Word games – ‘I went to the shop and I bought an advark, a budgie, a cat and a dinosaur…’
- Rubik’s cube and other puzzles.
If you are flying off somewhere and would like some tips on flying with children and babies please see our Top Tips for Travelling Travelling Long Haul with Children
Keep calm and remember to enjoy the journey!