If like me, the thought of a long car journey with kids fills you with dread, then look no further. After reading this post, you will have a blissful journey with compliant children that won’t even ask once: “Are we there yet?” Well… maybe not, but at the very least it might help you feel less panicky about the journey and give you some other ideas to try once you’ve sung ‘The wheels on the bus’ for the 27th time.
WHAT TO PACK
- A tablet (if you have one) loaded up ready with the kids’ favourite films and programmes.
- Snacks and drinks. Bring lots of these. We tend to go for cream cheese sarnies, carrot sticks, raisins, oatcakes and kid friendly crisps. We always keep a cocoa flavoured fruit and nut bar up our sleeves for those crying / bribing moments.
- Wipes, tissues and a plastic bag for rubbish.
- Sticker book, magazines, notebook and pencils. If your kids don’t get car sick, then they may be able to busy themselves for an hour or so with these.
- Change of clothes in case of travel sickness, toilet accidents … or your kids spilling entire drinks down themselves.
- Toys - their favourite cuddly to snuggle down with and anything that keeps them occupied.
- CDs, MP3 with playlist or audio books.
KEEPING THEM ENTERTAINED
- ‘I spy’, ‘Guess the animal sound’ and an exotic animal alternative to “Old MacDonald” are firm winners in our car. We also all pick unusual colours of cars (yellow / purple / gold) and anyone who spots that colour car gets 10 points. I have a friend who challenges her kids to find 100 orange items as they drive by. Other games that have worked for us / friends include ‘20 questions’, ‘The Memory Game’ (“I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…” followed by whatever item comes to mind that the next player has to remember) and an ingenious idea called ‘The Quiet game’, where whoever stays quiet for the longest is the winner!
- Imagination games. We make up a story, taking it in turns to say what happens next.
- Music. We have a playlist of favourite songs and all sing along. We call it a car disco and go wild with our arm / hand dancing.
- For some less energetic entertainment, get out the trustworthy tablet or play a favourite audiobook.
MANAGING YOUR TIMINGS
- If you have a baby or younger child, one tried and tested option for short journeys is to travel during nap-times. For longer journeys, try getting kids bathed and into their PJs, setting off at 6.30pm and hoping they begin their nighttime sleep in the car. This works with our kids and we always build up the excitement beforehand (“It’s an adventure!”). We’ve become experts at the car seat to bed / cot manoeuvre!
- If you don’t need to base the journey around naps then you could set off after breakfast, do a couple of hours of singing and games, then stop for lunch / a play and then do another two hours with the kids watching a film on the tablet. Or, sometimes we set off late afternoon, stop at a service station after a couple of hours for food and a play and get the kids into their PJ’s and then complete the journey with the kids asleep in the car.
- Get on the road early: We’ve never tried it, but have friends that swear by waking the kids up in the early hours, giving them a small breakfast and getting them in the car fed but tired around 6am. They are likely to be more settled, too sleepy to argue and often have a nap in the car. One friend even gets her kids up to set off at 4am. Roads are empty and you arrive in time for breakfast/lunch!
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