Are We There Yet? KidsTravel2’s Tips for Car Journeys with Kids
Car travel with children can be stressful, despite its advantages – flexibility, including the fact that you can take as much stuff as you like without having to worry about carrying it or about baggage restrictions. We've asked family travel expert Judith Groves of Kidstravel2 to share her experiences of and trips for pain-free car journeys with children of all ages…
Says Judith: One of my abiding memories from childhood is our annual holiday car journey. Discussions about the Exeter bypass still have the power to torment me. The worst trip was one to northwest Scotland squashed into a blue Hillman Imp – I'm convinced it took more than 14 hours.
My parents did not seem to believe that we children in the back needed to be entertained and had the preposterous idea that the journey was all part of the fun, when in fact it was pure endurance. With this in mind, I vowed that my children should never suffer the same pain. Living abroad necessitated lots of very long car journeys and we developed a number of survival techniques that worked when they were toddlers and still work now they are teenagers.
And while sometimes it can feel like an ordeal, I truly feel that the beauty of long car journeys is the time you spend together. Some of my happiest memories have been singing along to absurd tunes or trying to guess the name of obscure dinosaurs when playing 20 questions, but most of all just laughing together.
• Choose the time of day. Leaving very early in the morning, we would bundle the kids into the car half-asleep, ensuring that they went straight back to sleep. To ease the pain of the early start and disturbed sleep we would promise a special breakfast at a place of their choice.
• It may seem an obvious one, but when you are rushing to pack the car, comfort is often given a back seat. And the more comfortable the child, the happier the child. There are some great travel neck pillows for all ages that keep everyone comfortable and relaxed.
• We always encouraged the kids to pack a bag of things they could do during the journey – usually books, puzzles and an army of dinosaurs. Car organisers are also perfect for this and avoid the carnage of toys and food – usually raisins – all over the floor. Some fix round the back of the front seats; others fit on the seat next to the child.
• Squabbles over seats can be minimised by promising the kids they can swap over when you stop.
• My particular favourite is audio-books – I listen to them even when I am on my own. It's easier than reading and reduces the risk of car sickness. Over the years we have listened to Harry Potter - great for a really long journey – Alex Rider books and, when they were little, nursery rhymes and songs that we would all sing along to.
• You can't avoid I Spy, but take heart, there plenty of other games to play. Everyone has their favourite, and we have a range of free children’s car games on our website that can help the journey go faster.
• Allow plenty of time. You will be travelling more slowly, so it may be an idea to plan to do some fun things on the way. Baby Routes has some great ideas on places to visit close to motorways.