From experience, travelling in the car on journeys of more than 1.5 hours is not something we look forward to. We often think how nice it would be to maybe do a driving holiday along the East Coast of America, drive through Europe stopping at the different countries along the way or even re-do the Garden route of South Africa. This is, until the reality of three kids screaming or crying in the back seats makes us realise there’s no way we will attempt a driving holiday until all the kids are old enough to sit quietly with the iPad for hours on end, or at least get through civilised conversations without one shouting at the other.
We probably found the most difficult age to travel with a baby was between 0-12 months old. Understandably, a young baby/toddler is too young to comprehend why they are restricted in the car seat and why you are not able to pick them up and bribery at that age just won't work.
Our eldest (now 6), I would say is at the turning point of when they become a ‘good traveller’, albeit, he's passed the age to fall asleep on car journeys, never stops talking or just wants me to keep changing radio stations, however, he knows to go to the toilet before a long journey, he doesn’t (always) whinge to get out of his seat, he doesn’t need me to sing non-stop nursery rhymes for 3 hours and he rarely spills his drinks.
We have made plenty of long car journeys, visiting family and travelling for holidays in the UK and Europe and so we have some tips and advice we’d like to share with you on how to survive travelling with young children - obviously our advice will depend on the age of your child.
Our top 10 tips:
1 ) Time your journey - I think my most useful tip is, if you can, perhaps leave in the early evenings so the children can sleep through most of the journey or time your car journeys for when your baby/toddler is most likely to nap if travelling during the day.
2) Pack lots of clean snacks - by ‘clean’, we mean anything that doesn't cause lots of juicy mess - chocolate can melt, sugary snacks can make them hyper - so stick to fruit and healthy dry-ish snacks - food that they like and plenty of them. Use an Onco car seat protector to catch those crumbs around the car seat.
3) Limit water intake - For children out of nappies, try not to give your children large amounts of fluids about 45 minutes before a long car journey. Use non-spill bottles (sippy or sports bottles) for water/liquids - we love the plastic free Pura bottles - beware not to give them free reign as you may find you make more toilet breaks than wanted - especially if one child wants to go and not the other only to find them needing it half an hour later. Try to hydrate the kids 30 min before you plan to stop somewhere.
4) Kids entertainment - audio books, CD of favourite songs, play games - I spy (for the older kids) is still a firm favourite in our car, first to spot a ..., be flexible with the use of the ipad/smart phone (remember to have it charged up!) - their favourite game/film or even a new film can save a bored child but save this for when it gets really tough as you might not get it back!
5) Pack a travel toy bag for each child but choose the toys wisely. Those that are loud with continuous repeating sounds may cause you more pain than the fight keeping it at home. Reuseable/wipeable drawing boards, books, small items but don't overpack - you'll be able to pick up 'toys' from anywhere. Kids will play with anything even empty bottles/cups/etc.
6) Allow plenty of time - If you have a deadline to reach your destination - set your sat nav and give yourself enough time for eventualities including frequent stops. This will break the trip up for the kiddies and also in case you need to take unplanned stops for toilet breaks, change of clothes from spillages, food breaks,etc. Even with sat nav - take a look at the route before you set off so that you have a rough idea of the major roads you need in case your sat nav fails.
7) An empty bottle or spare nappies is a must for children out of nappies for those moments when the next service station is 43 miles away and there are no safe places for them to use nature's land.
8) Pack an extra set of clothes for those spillages and keep a sick bag at hand just in case they get car sick. Keep a blanket for when they fall asleep in case it gets cold. They'll feel more relaxed with a familiar item.
9) Keep wet wipes, tissues or even a roll of paper towels and a bin bag for the rubbish close by.
10) Musical chairs - jump next to them for part of the journey if you are able to. They will find this a change and the time will go quickly making eye contact with babies or chatting to older children about what you see outside or what you'll do when you get to the destination. An Onco baby car mirror will let you keep an eye on your baby and allow your baby to see you whilst on the move.
When all else fails - turn up the music to drown out the noise! Ignoring the kids and even a crying baby won't harm them and will give you some peace - go ahead - we said you can do it!