Travelling long distances in the car can take its toll on even the most experienced drivers – add kids into the equation and it can present a whole new set of challenges. Whether you’re visiting family an hour or two away, or planning a road trip across Europe, taking long car journeys with kids can be a tricky endeavour. Luckily, there are simple things you can do to prepare for the journey ahead to make sure your kids are as comfortable and content as possible.
The most important factor is, of course, your child’s safety, no matter how far you’re travelling. So, with this in mind, we’ve compiled a handy list of things every car journey with a child should include.
1.Plan your route – and make those stops
Imagine being in a car, with a fractious child, and not knowing where the hell you are. Is your hair standing on end already? The most obvious way to prepare for car journeys is to know, absolutely, how to get to your destination and how long it is going to take.
If you don’t have a sat nav, have a look at a route planner online, which will estimate your journey time. You can print out the step-by-step directions. And have a map in the front of the car, too.
With small children, you really do need to stop if you’re travelling for more than two hours. Even if they don’t need the loo, the chance to run around and stretch their legs will cheer them no end and alleviate boredom.
How many stops will you need? Add at least 45 minutes for each one to give you a realistic arrival time.
3.Always carry treats
There’s something about a long car journey that makes you think “food!”. The problem is that it can make the car very messy. Pack healthier snacks like cereals, crackers, cheese cubes, and grapes in zip-lock bags, and make sure you bring a rubbish bag to stash all the trash.
And if you’ll be travelling during a meal time, consider preparing a picnic and find a grassy spot or a playground to stop and enjoy a fun lunch before continuing your journey.
4.Be comfortable in the car
For younger children ensure their car seats have the appropriate head supports especially for napping. And a good trick for baby toys is to clip them onto the car seat so that when they are inevitably flung out during the journey they can easily be retrieved. Pack favourite toys and blankets in the car not the boot.
For older children ensure you use seat belt adjusters to keep them strapped in safely and give them best booster seat head support and cushions for longer journeys.
5.Entertainment is key for the journey
Whilst you want to keep your kids distracted during a car journey so they don’t get bored, you should also aim to provide them with entertainment that’s going to educate and stimulate them. Use this spare time they have in the car to learn something new – every day is a school day!
Your go-to item to give your child may be an iPad, laptop, or Gameboy, which is perfectly acceptable, but you should aim to keep their time on electronics limited. Child psychologists have discovered that too much time on these devices can lead to children segregating themselves which in turn can stunt their emotional development. Magnetic board games, books, comics, and hand held puzzles are all great examples of good old-fashioned fun that don’t need batteries to operate!