Having survived five years and God knows how many miles driving my kid around, I like to think I have a good few ideas on how to improve car journeys for kids (and for parents). I have put together my tried and tested ideas for attempting to maintain your sanity with little ones in the car. I know Summer holidays are suppose to be bonding time with family but this does seem to be much easier when the kids are quiet!
Keep your cool mums and dads, help is on the way.
Are we nearly there yet? Absolutely!
Lie, lie and lie some more. Okay, it might not be in any of the parenting handbooks but lying is the way forward. 10, 20 or even 60 miles the answer is always either ‘nearly there’, ‘round the corner’ or ‘five minutes away’.
If it’s over 60 miles, we’re still lying but there is some logic to follow in this scenario. At this point, we’re cutting the length of time e.g. an hour left? We’re half an hour way. If that doesn’t satisfy them- just keeping diving by two until they are accepting. Let’s be honest – most kids, especially younger ones, have no concept of time.
In Car DVD Players
In car dvd players combined with headphones. I’m sure God made them with his own fair hands. If you have a recent model of a brand new vehicle with TVs built into the back then you’re absolutely laughing and I’m absolutely jealous!
For the rest of us, these cheeky little gadgets guarantee hours of peace. I wouldn’t advise buying a cheap portable dvd player as this will provide exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve and simply result in ‘mummy it’s not working’ and ‘daddy can you fix it’.
I bought a cheap one for my son and the screen kept fading out and the charger broke not long after having it. This article gives a good representation of the best in car dvd players available on the market. Highly recommended for any substantial amount of car travel with kids.
Most run off batteries or the cigarette lighter. It may sound like a luxury for the rich kids at private school, but anyone who’s got one swears by it. They’re cheaper than you think, and you won’t hear a peep out of the backseat from Bury to Birmingham.
This piece of kit can provide hours of fun for preschoolers on the way to activities so it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
Sell them the Dream
Get the children excited for the journey, tell them about all the fantastic things they can do when they get there to occupy their tiny minds on the journey.
Try not to oversell so it’s a massive let down when they get there. This will only result in any saved hassle in the car being sent straight back your way when you reach the mis-sold destination. Fun places to go with kids are not that easy to find, especially destinations that please everyone (particularly if you have multiple children). But actually if you upset the benefits to each you may find there is more common ground than you think.
The options are endless when it comes to bribery, and the one you go for will ultimately come down to the age of the child and the bearing of your moral compass.
Sweets are the easiest and most common weapon of choice. Handing them out in strict rotation as reward for good behaviour. Works a treat. However, this suggestion is followed by a warning message. Travel sickness. Enough said.
If you don’t fancy mopping up child vomit then cold hard cash might be the next best thing.
Every hour they behave hand over 50p, which they then get to spend in the motorway services. Or give each child a stack of 20p’s (say £2 in total), then forfeit one for each infraction (ie fighting, arguing, pinching, asking “are we there yet?”)
Drive at night
Always, always drive at night if your travel plans can permit. Even if it means getting to your destination a night early.
Put the children in their pyjamas and take a blanket, maybe a travel pillow and sit back whilst the little angels nod off in the back. Enjoy hours and hours of uninterrupted peace and quiet. Long journeys at the dead of night can be among the most relaxing moments of one’s life as a parent. This may be the only bit of peace you get for the whole of the Summer Holidays so make the most of it I say!
Singing (Get rid of the crackly speakers)
Sometimes driving a night is not always possible and so singing is a good way to pass the time. A mix tape with the family favs always works well for us and can provide a good hour of kids fun. My five year old loves ‘All About the Bass (Meghan Trainor) and ‘Uptown Funky What’ (Known to you and me as ‘Upton Funk- Bruno Mars’)
For me, purchasing decent car speakers was an absolute must for this very reason. Choosing the best car speakers isn’t too difficult if you read a good review that highlights pros and cons, but it makes the journey so much nicer. Especially if love a good gadget- parents should have a treat for journey too right?
Little legs need to move! Take advantage of rest stops and play parks along the way. Build time in your journey for a few service station stops and research any kids fun places on route. It might seem tedious but stopping at fun places for kids and let g them run off energy may just result in sleepy children that give mum and dad some peace for an hour or too. Everyone’s a winner baby!
For most parents ipads are the devil, but on long car journeys they can double up as our saviour. Nobody needs an ipaddy (tech toddler tantrum) so downloading movies the night before for that dreaded moment when you leave the wifi connection at home. That preparation is key.
There are even kids tablets designed specially for kids now for much less than the cost of a traditional iPad. The Dragon Touch Y88X Plus Kids 7 inch Tablet is available from Amazon for around £50.
Death by Audio Book
Listening to the Superman Audio Book 563410935 times on repeat is not ideal. But if it keeps the kids quiet then it works for me. Pass me a travel pillow and I’ll take this opportunity to have a snooze. I invite you to do the same.
Travel size Connect4 or a pack of cards have worked for me when I’ve had my own little bundle of joy along with someone else’s little bundle of joy in the back of the car on a rather long road trip (by bundle of joy I mean little terror or possibly another word to describe a bored, restless and mischievous five year old at that particular moment after an hour plus in the car.) Battleships is one of the best car games for boys. Travel games can provide fun for kids, for a short while anyway. I guess for older kids fun may last longer.
Another warning alert, I’ve left this one to the end because there is the possibility of arguments resulting from said suggestion.
If that is the case, give this card game a try which is a modern version of I-spy for kids and ironically called ‘Are We There Yet?’ Perfect for long car journeys.
Make sure you have a good quality infant car seat
The best car seat for travel is a good quality infant car seat that provides comfort and support for little lulling heads. That can be the difference between a sleeping child on a long journey and a cranky, emotionally distraught child on a long journey and I know which i’d prefer. Instead of scouring the entire market, have a look at a site like How to Choose the Best Infant Car Seat that has already done it for and summarised the reviews to boot. It advises on newborn car seats, convertible car seats, booster seats… you name it.
It’s definitely worth investing that little bit more in for both sanity and safety on long journeys. Best car seat cushion models can stop lulling heads once they finally do nod off. There are lots of other travel accessories such as Koly® Children Kids Safety Car Seat Belts Pillow Protect Shoulder Head Protection Cushion for older kids that accompany booster car seats really well as it acts as neck support. I found the Kids Luxury Travel Pillow is easier to put on once the child is asleep rather than get them to sleep with it round their neck- I guess that might work better for older kids.