Kids plus a long journey can equal disaster. If your child gets fidgety and asks “are we there yet?” on the school run, imagine how much fun it is going on holiday with kids! Some parents just accept that travelling with children will be a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little preparation you can make getting to your holiday cottage if not as enjoyable as your actual holiday, at least not completely horrendous. Here are some top tips to keep the kids happy along the way and get your holiday off to a good start
When it comes to kids and travelling, failure to plan is planning to fail. Not being prepared means you’ll get half an hour into your journey only to realise you’ve forgotten Teddy, will have already exhausted your patience for I-Spy, and entered that mysterious zone where minutes pass like exhausting hours. Write a list of everything you could possibly need or want in the car and tick it off as you pack it. Also make sure you know where you’re going and how to get there. If you’re going somewhere reasonably remote, it can help to have a map or written directions in case you’re not able to get a signal for your Sat Nav or phone.
Leave lots of time
Not allowing enough time just adds another layer of stress on a situation that already has the potential to send you doolally. Heavy traffic, repeated toilet stops, or any number of a myriad of things out of your control can put you behind schedule. Factor in an extra 10 or 20 percent travelling time. If you find you don’t need it and don’t want to arrive early you can use it to explore the area you will be staying before you get to your holiday home or stop and grab some groceries before you arrive at the cottage.
Make the journey part of the holiday
There’s no law that says you have to go directly from A to B in the shortest possible time. Break up your journey with fun diversions. This could be a theme park or attraction, a nice restaurant for lunch, or even a few shorter stops to play at a park. Do your research before you set off to find some good places to stop along the way and you can also ask for advice on local pages of parenting sites like Mumsnet and Netmums.
Since young kids have short attention spans they will need a good variety of distractions. You know your child so you know roughly how long they can go before they want attention or entertaining. Keep a stash of activities handy including music, games (such as car games including ‘I Spy’, number plate game, etc.), colouring, eating, films, audio books and whatever else you know will keep them happily occupied.
Hungry passengers make for nightmare travelling companions. Keeping your children regularly hydrated and fed will stop them from getting grouchy because they are starving. Beware of fizzy drinks, milky drinks and too much sugar that can make them ‘hyper’. Also avoid giving very young children anything that could cause choking, such as raisins, unless there is an adult travelling next to them.
Squishing children – even siblings who are the best of friends – into a confined space for too long can lead to bickering and fighting. You can help prevent this with regular stops, by clearly defining personal space and even by getting them to swap sides of the car for part of the journey.
All hail the inventor of the small screen who made in-car DVD players a reality. If you don’t have one of these, load up your tablet or phone with suitable films and games and remember to bring headphones, an in-car charger and a portable power pack/battery charger.
Lower your expectations
Aim low and you won’t be disappointed. These may sound like the words of a pessimist, but if you expect your car trip to go smoothly with no arguments, traffic woes, or tantrums, you may end up disappointed. Instead, if you plan for the worst you will be pleased when it does not go as badly as you fear. Set your kids’ expectations lower as well. Don’t try to hype the journey into a magical event. Let them know there may be times when they will be bored, but it will be worth it when they get to your holiday destination.
Suspend normal rules
A car trip is not like normal life. If you usually have strict rules about screen time or food, consider relaxing them for the duration of your trip in the interest of keeping everyone happy.
Get your children involved in the planning of the trip. Show them on a map where you are going. Look at the roads you’ll take, the distance and get them to work out the anticipated travel time (or use a site like Google, or The AA which does it for you). Look for features you may see on the way and get their input about where they want to stop to eat or stretch their legs. The more involved they are, the more control they will have over their time in the car and hopefully the less whiney they will be… that’s the theory, anyway!
Going somewhere new and different often involves a long journey but if you plan for it you may be pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it can be. The same can be said for rainy days on holiday and we can help you plan for wet weather as well!