We have recently done quite a few long car journeys with our kids, and it can be really hard work; the whinging, the repeated requests for loo stops and snacks and the knowledge that you probably have to do it all again in reverse in a few days… Well it can make you reconsider a UK holiday.
But never fear, here are my top tips for surviving car journeys with small kids.
Before you go!
1) Do a pre-journey car check
Make sure that the oil and water are OK, you’re OK for window washer and petrol, and don’t leave it until the last minute to make sure that your tyres are roadworthy, or it could spell disaster for your journey and everything is far worse when you have kids in tow!
If you find you need new tyres, then a company like TyrePlus can come to your rescue and fit new tyres for you at home.
2) That includes car seats!
Make sure the car seats are installed properly and are fully secure.
Rear facing seats are safest for those aged 4 and under but ultimately you need to make sure that the seats you have are safe for the weight of your child, so weigh them before you travel!
Unfortunately my daughter has just tipped over the 18kg mark which means while she is still fine in her 25kg Axkid Minikid car seat, she can no longer use the seat she has in my parents’ car.
2) Have roadside assistance and keep the details handy
You do not want to be stuck on the hard shoulder with two children trying to ring around and find someone to pick you up if you blow a tyre or your car fails.
3) Know where you are stopping
Plan ahead! It might sound obvious but whereas on a journey without children you might look at the total time and think about how quickly you can make it if you put your foot down, you will need to incorporate more time for regular stops.
Look at the route and plan a stop every hour, but if you’re driving on the motorway check out the service stations in between too. Toddlers and preschoolers do not have the biggest bladders so it’s helpful to know in advance.
On a related note, check the route planner before you set off so you know if there are any incidents you need to avoid.
4) Take drinks and snacks
Duh. Surely everyone with children knows that this is of utmost importance! Don’t rely on motorway service stations unless you fancy remortgaging your house to pay for it.
If you’re not laden down, take as much as you can because they will always ask for more! Pro tip: Too many sweets is probably an awful idea.
5) Keep things handy
If you need nappies or wipes for goodness sake keep them to hand!
It’s also advisable to have a change of clothes in case of sudden travel sickness; lots of kids are randomly sick in the car and you don’t want to have to dig around in your luggage for anything.
A portable potty like a potette can be a life saver if your regular stops don’t go to plan!
6) Time it well
If your child still naps then over naptime is the perfect time to drive. If you can drive in the evening and there is a chance they will drop off and you can transfer them straight to their bed, stick them in their PJs before you set off.
Never plan to be driving over meal time! That’s just asking for trouble.
On the journey
7) Play games!
They may be too young for i-spy but there are plenty of spotting games that they can play even from rear-facing car seats. Animals in fields, caravans, lorries… Decide what you’re going to spot and whoever spots the most, wins. Just be prepared for screaming tantrums and fallings out.
We used to play with Minis and you got three points for a Mini Traveller but you’d be hard pressed to see any these days…
8) Stick a film on
Our DVD player is a life saver. If we can get the two of them to agree on what they want to watch then it’s the easiest way to keep them entertained on a long journey. This is the one we have an I have no complaints!
Alternatively a tablet like a Kindle Fire preloaded with kid-friendly games or videos is a good way to keep slightly older children entertained although you do have to stop smaller ones from repeatedly poking at the screen!
9) Songs and stories
A Mr Tumble CD can make the journey just fly by, particularly if you get the whole family singing along.
On second thoughts, an audiobook might be more tolerable.
Tell them you’ll be there soon. They’re young, they won’t know.
Do you have any tips for surviving long car journeys with small kids?
This is a collaborative post written as part of the #WheelsOfTheRoad campaign.