The summer holidays are finally here!
For most, this means an extra 10 minutes in bed, reassured by the fact that there will be far fewer cars on the road during the morning commute to work.
For others, however, it means six weeks of quality time with the munchkins.
The summer break is the perfect way to escape the mundane routine of school runs and smelly PE kits, with many opting for some sort of summer getaway.
Jetting abroad can be costly and hectic, so more and more Brits are opting for UK breaks in sites such as Devon, Cornwall, and the Lake District. For the more venturous, willing to drive the engine further afield, ferrying into mainland Europe is also a favoured alternative to flying.
Of course, both of these options means long road trips are in store, which, for parents, can equate to a long, sore headache.
With RoSPA reporting that 21.5% of drivers are distracted by babies or children while on the road, here’s how to keep sane during your lengthy journeys with the kids.
TRAVEL AT NIGHT
Simply put, the best way to keep the children from whining and throwing tantrums during your journey is by making sure they’re asleep the whole way. Most children have a set routine during term time which means that, despite having no school to wake up for, they’ll be used to drifting off at a certain time. This is the perfect opportunity to set out on your travels as, not only will their state of slumber allow for a more peaceful journey for you, but during the evenings, the roads are far more likely to be quiet.
If this is not an option, then there are always ways to encourage your nippers to kip outside of their usual bedtime. How about tiring them out before the journey? Taking a long walk, keeping them up late the night before, and getting them to dance to their favourite songs are all ways to burn the energy they’d otherwise use to occupy their boredom during your travels. Lavender will also aid this. Stocking up on lavender oils and scents, and dropping a few squirts onto their seat will have them relaxed and soothed in no time.
KEEP THEM OCCUPIED
It’s no secret that children tend to get very bored very quickly. On a long car ride, it won’t take long before they’re fidgeting and fussing out of restlessness. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities to keep your children occupied, even during the longest of journeys. What’s more, you can get involved in the fun too! Here are some of our favourite options:
- Bringing along their favourite toys
- Arming them with activity packs, colouring books and word-searches
- Playing verbal games as a family, including I-spy, How many lorries and I went to the market…
- Map spotting: Get them to track where about you are on a map, this way you won’t have to hear the shriek of ‘Are we there yet!?’
- Carrying their favourite books and perhaps encouraging them to role play their favourite characters
REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR
Every child likes prizes. In fact, everybody likes prizes. The great thing with children is that the rewards need not be extravagant giveaways. Sweets and treats are great ways to encourage good behaviour. In moderation, though, to avoid a catalyst to hyperactivity.
The key thing is to let your children know the behaviour that is expected of them during the trip. Try writing out a checklist of fun car rules, showing the type of behaviour mummy and daddy expect on the journey. These don’t have to be strict or formal – in fact, children will be far more likely to abide by rules if they’re presented in a fun and humorous way, especially knowing they could receive a treat for being good boys and girls.
Taking breaks is essential during a long journey. Not only will it allow you to take in some of the great views along the way – but it’ll also stop the fidgeting and complaints of a numb bum.
Children tend to get hungrier easier, and will put all their efforts into making it known! Breaks are the perfect opportunity to make sure they’re fed and hydrated as eating in the car is best avoided; not only could this end up being really messy, but potentially hazardous too! Should the car jolt or brake suddenly, children could end up choking on food; while strapped up in seat belts, it is much more difficult to come to their aid. Instead, it is safer, and much more fun to take a picnic stop.
Service stations can be relatively expensive, so why not get the kids involved by setting up some picnic nibbles beforehand?
Thanks to tablets and portable DVD players, children can now carry their favourite films and programmes with them wherever they go. Most systems also allow users to download and install games, apps and audiobooks too, which should just about keep the little ones occupied for hours.
This option does require some preparation beforehand though. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a system with internet data, most tablets will require some sort of internet connection. To avoid disappointment, pre-download any apps and games at home before setting off on your journey. Also be sure to check the tablet is fully charged before leaving, to avoid batteries running out too soon into your journey.
Nursery rhymes and cheesy pop may not be the ideal playlist for mums and dads, but the children will certainly enjoy them. Who can really complain when a singalong to The wheels on the bus is saving you from the shrieks and screams of restlessness?
Get all the family in on the action, and make it a real musical treat. Children love to be involved, and seeing mummy and daddy enjoying a bit of a warble will provide them with great amusement.
CARRY WET WIPES AND TISSUES
Children can be messy. While on the roads, it won’t be possible to tidy up after them, even when you do get the twitch to do so.
Keeping wet wipes and tissues at hand will provide a quick fix for sticky hands and spills as the kids should be able to tidy up themselves. This will help to protect your interiors from permanent stains of spills and leaks.
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY
Car journeys can be stressful in any case, but not knowing where you’re going can be even more traumatic. On a long trip, getting lost will only make both you and the children irritable. Although most car owners have shunned the road map, and put all their trust into the Sat Nav, it is important to familiarise yourself with the route beforehand – just in case!
Sometimes Sat Navs can be a little bit untrustworthy, especially where new roads are concerned. Doing your research beforehand can prepare you for any diversions or changes to your trip.
It may also be beneficial to carry a road map in your glove compartment to prepare you for any electronic or technical issues with your navigation device.
Don’t make your journey any longer than it needs to be.
There are plenty more hints and tips for driving with children, click for Part Two of our article!