Long car journeys with small children can be a challenge so we have put together some tried and tested car travel tips to help. There are plenty of advantages to taking your car on holiday. You’ve no check-in airport dramas, no car rental bills and plenty of space for holiday packing and for bringing goodies home. But the downside is the temptation to pack half the house, the actual driving and there’s no way Heston service station can compete with the shopping opportunities at Heathrow Terminal 5.
Here are our car travel tips for surviving the journey with tots in tow:
1. Timings – Many parents recommend driving at night when the kids are asleep and the traffic is light, but this isn’t always possible with cottage rentals often having specific times of arrival and ferries to catch if you’re travelling to the Continent. If possible time the journey with nap time or when you know your kids might doze off so you can get a bit of peace.
2. Know where you are going – Setting off with no instructions is not a good idea. Plan your route in advance, set the Sat Nav, print up the details. Make a plan of where to stop for a break or to swap drivers if there’s two of you. Try and go as much as possible on motorways. They are faster, less likely to induce travel sickness as there’s not so much stopping and starting and the continuous movement makes kids drowsier.
3. DVD players – I finally succumbed to the TVs in anticipation of a long drive to Cornwall. They are brilliant. The boys zoned out on Finding Nemo and Curious George on and off through the journey. Older kids can wear headphones but my two year old was quite happy to watch without sound. They are easy to work and strap on to the back of head rests. From £80 from all good electronic retailers.
4. Novelty books – Books that little ones can look at and enjoy without adult help are good for the car. Pop up and sticker books are great. The Smelly Book Company has a range of colourful, illustrated scratch and sniff books that include smell panels and two sheets of stickers.
5. Snacks – You can get a decent cappuccino on the road now, but the choice of food is a pretty poor – deep fried, carb-ladon, fast-food in all the places we stopped. Packing a picnic is the best option. Some of the service-stations have M&S outlets which are great for tasty sandwiches and stocking up on last-minute essentials. Dry snacks for the kids such as oat cakes, mini biscuits, apple slices, raisins are good and easy to dole out. Your car might resemble the morning after a festival on arrival though.
6. Cleaning – Our car was a health hazard on four wheels after a week in Cornwall – and a few days at home. The floor was littered with crumbs, half eaten bits on unrecognisable food, biscuit bags, empty juice cartons, bits of playdough, ripped comics, socks, welly boots, plastic toys from the front of comics… the list goes on. Our handheld Dyson sucked up most of the debris. Keep a bag to hand in the car – for clearing up and also just in case they are sick.
7. Music. Radio is deemed BORING by the kids, so we have to make do with the nursery favourites. We love the Charlie and Lola CD with catchy Charlie and lola-esque tunes. For little ones the Night Garden CD has a lovely soothing effect. Then for nursery rhymes choose the Kids Love to Move range as they are sung by kids themselves.
8. Maintenance – Fill the car with petrol before you set off. Check the tires, oil and water. If you’re going abroad make sure you have all the car requirements and breakdown coverage. Keep a first aid box in the car. The BabyAid one contains all the essentials as well as handy bravery stickers to soothe tearful moments. Baby aid compact, £15
9. Fights – If you are travelling with more than one child, stop squabbles by giving them as much space between seats as possible. GLTC has lots of very organised car travel items that could be worth investing in. The Children’s Car Organiser, £30 houses snacks, drinks, comics, books and toys keeping things both neat and within easy access.
10. Spare clothes – Comfortable clothing, nappy changes and spare outfits are essential. How many times has a cup of juice been emptied within 5 mins of leaving home? I also pack a travel potty for quick wee stops.
11. Deadlines – If your car journey has a deadline to a ferry port or flight allow lots of time for traffic and interruptions and time so you can get out have a break and the kids can be unstrapped before the next stage of the journey.
Do you have a tried and tested method for surviving a long car journey? Share your tips with us here in the comments section below.