Are we nearly there yet? I know it’s a cliché that kids say it on car journeys, but I’ve done enough long journeys now, with enough kids, to know that they really do. And not only that but they say it more than once! If you’ve got more than one kid in the car with you this can add up to tens, if not hundreds of times of answering the same question. I’ve even thought about recording my answer so that I can just play it on repeat. ‘No we aren’t even halfway yet, no you can’t eat all your snacks at once and stop annoying your brother!’
So how do you beat the boredom and survive a long car journey with kids?
Get your car ready
It sounds logical but it’s something easily forgotten in the stress of packing. Check things like windscreen wash (I always run out of this at the worst moments), tyre pressure and make sure you have the right car insurance and breakdown cover. If you are travelling with young children, or a baby, have an emergency stash of water, nappies and food with you incase you get stuck in a traffic jam.
Pack food and drink
Nothing makes children more grumpy than being hangry! You can avoid slowing down your journey with making multiple stops and save money at the same time by packing snacks and drinks.
We make sure that we have enough of everything for one each, which avoids arguments and we also pack a variety of different foods for the inevitable pickiness that seems to only happen when there are no alternatives. Another tip is to fill up a large water bottle to top up people’s individual drinks bottles with. Makes sure you don’t accidentally pack the snacks in the boot and keep them within easy reach so that you can distribute them when needed. But whatever you do, do not leave the snacks in the back, because they will be gone by the time you reach the motorway, probably followed by a few hours of ‘I feel sick!’
Pack a bag for each child
For each child they have their own backpack, to further avoid any arguing. In it will be their tablet, headphones, and other activities like a book and colouring. You can easily make busy bags for each child, take a trip to a pound shop and put in a couple of new little things that will keep them entertained. Make sure you remember pencils ( a colouring book with no pencils doesn’t go down well) as I found out on one trip. And only include activities they can do easily do in the car, unless you want to add even more stress to your journey.
Charge the electronics
Avoid the meltdowns by making sure all electronics are fully charged before you leave. We use the kids tablets now instead of portable DVD players by downloading a few programmes or films onto the device. Each child has their own headphones too so we don’t need to listen to what they are listening to.
For older kids make sure they have some games downloaded that don’t need to be connected to the wifi to play. And for younger kids who can’t read yet, download some of their favourite stories so they can listen to them.
Note: Yes I know long amounts of screen time are bad, but needs must sometimes. Although, be prepared for the fact that the kids will get bored of their screens at some point, but at the same time, nothing will be as interesting as that little screen of colour. No matter how many times you suggest you would like to see a nice picture whilst passing them a pack of new, washable pens, you will be faced with a whine and then the eventual reluctant snap of “I will just play more of this boring game then”
Play games together
When the kids have had enough of electronics and need something else, play easy games together. My suggestion is to avoid I spy as there is only so much you can see when driving on the motorway and kids spelling can be very dodgy. we once spent ages trying to guess something beginning with ‘l’ only to find out it was actually began with an ‘e’ and is spelt electricity, not lectricity!
‘Yellow car’ is a good one, where you have to look out for a yellow car and shout ‘yellow car’ when you see one. Keep a score going for the journey so you can have a winner and tears from the others. You can change the colour of the car if you wish, but don’t chose a colour that is too common. Beware, this game can continue for months and even years. The 10-year-old in particular likes to point out EVERY yellow car we see on every journey now!
Plan your journey
Try not to travel at peak times, by setting off early or late. Have a look at where you are going and try to plan in where you will stop. Somewhere with some space for the kids to run around and burn off their energy is the best. You might need to come a little further off the main roads but it is often worth it. Village pubs mean you can have a much-needed drink and swap over at the wheel. The second driver gets their drink when you reach the destination! So it’s a toss-up of who goes first unless you are driving on your own, then I wouldn’t recommend the temptation of stopping at a village pub!
Keep the car clean
Clean the car before you start your journey, have a rubbish bag and empty it out at each stop. This means the car doesn’t get cluttered and feel even smaller than it needs to and also means you aren’t left scooping out sticky remnants from the door pockets when you finally get back home.
Think about the clothes you and the kids are going to wear, are they soft and unrestrictive? No tight waistbands! If you have children that will nap, take a travel pillow and blankets. We let the kids take their shoes off so they can get more comfy.
If all else fails put on some music loud enough to drown out the noise in the back and good luck! It will be worth it when you get there.
We are off to Cornwall in just over a week, which is 5 hours on a good run, with four kids in the car, wish us luck!
*This is a collaborative post