Driving long-distance with children – no-matter what their ages – can make for a horribly stressful start or end to your holiday. So with the half-term break upon us, we’ve compiled some useful, insightful and at times hilarious tips from parents who’ve gone the distance with kids in the back seat.
The overriding motto: plan ahead, leave plenty of time and if it all goes wrong – hopefully the holiday destination will make it all worthwhile!
Travel Sickness Tips
You will need to plan ahead and be very supportive of children who suffer from travel sickness, says Marie from N.Yorkshire
“I know all too well the agonising feeling of motion sickness – so when my youngest son suffered from it on a long drive and subsequent ferry crossing to Ireland, I felt horribly guilty that I wasn’t prepared. To make matters worse, the car then smelt of vomit and that is difficult to get rid of for a long time! Deeply unpleasant. Go to see your pharmacist and ask about child friendly anti-sickness medication or products. Ginger can help with nausea. Don’t forget to take sick bags with you just in case!”
More tips to avoid motion sickness in the car (Source NHS website)
- Still and Stable: Sit in the front of the car if possible to minimise motion
- Focus: Look straight ahead at a fixed point
- Get Fresh Air: Let in fresh air if possible by opening a car window or taking a break
- Breathe: Close your eyes and breathe slowly while focusing on your breathing
- Distraction Method: Distract children by telling stories, listening to music or singing songs
- Plan the Journey: Break up long journeys to get some fresh air, drink water or take a walk
- Visit the Pharmacy: Get advice on medication, ginger products and wearable solutions such as anti-nausea wrist bands. Some even have sweet treats and lollies specially designed to ease nausea for children
- Do not read, play games on a device or watch films. Although keeping the kids entertained on a journey is usually a good thing, these activities can make motion sickness worse
- Do not look at moving objects, such as passing cars
- Do not eat heavy, sugary or spicy foods ahead of or during the journey
Pack Your Child’s Favourite Comfort Toy
If your child has a blanky or a toy that they cannot sleep without – be triple sure you don’t forget it, says Dom from Surrey:
“We made the catastrophic error of forgetting “Patch” the dog on our school holiday drive to France with our daughter when she was four. We only realised on the overnight ferry crossing when it was time for bed. Worst journey of our lives. When we set off in the car the next morning, our very cranky daughter finally fell asleep. We were at our wits’ end however, exhausted and worrying about how we were going to survive a week without Patch. We panic bought every soft toy in the nearest service station. As you can imagine each one had a hefty price tag attached to its plush ear. A costly mistake which, needless to say, we have never made since. Patch is no.1 priority for a long drive.”
More top tips for the favourite toy:
- Check its whereabouts often and don’t allow it to get left behind!
- Buy a spare if you can just in case the worst should happen
- Have it to hand for flights – hand luggage rather than in the hold
Don’t Over-pack the Vehicle
It is easier to over-pack than you may think says Al from Sheffield.
“When travelling with young teenage daughters, it definitely pays to police the packing! If not, you’ll end up stuffing luggage in every bit of space available in the car, making it a truly uncomfortable journey for all concerned!”
More tips for packing:
- If in doubt – leave it out! How often to you return from a holiday with clothes you haven’t worn the entire time?
- Don’t break the law! Most people are aware of weight limits for luggage on flights but did you know that cars have official weight limits? You could get a fine if you are caught breaching it. Check your handbook to find yours.
- If you are packing lots of kit – perhaps for a skiing, biking or surfing holiday, you may need a roof rack.
Where are the toilets?
Plan the journey and include pit stops for refuelling the kids with snacks and taking them to the toilets. Remember that kids have small bladders, says nursery school teacher Sarah from Guilford
“Have all your nappy changing kit handy in the car and don’t underestimate how many nappies you may need! Older children may be potty trained but they will struggle to “hold it in” when they have to urge to go!
Some children really are sensitive to noisy dryers in public bathrooms so pack ear defenders if this is the case for you little one.”
More toilet tips:
- Kids aren’t always the most thorough at washing hands so pack some anti-bacterial gel or spray to avoid germs spreading
- Only hand the children water to drink when they are thirsty to avoid temptation of over-drinking and needing the loo more frequently
- No child is allowed to leave the house or the service station without going to the loo!
- Fold away travel potties are really handy if your road trip coincides with potty training. Training pants are great too in case of accidents
Let Me Entertain You!
Nick from Swansea spends weeks in advance planning the playlist including music, games and movies.
“Get this right and the journey passes quickly for my “tweenager”. Get it wrong and he turns into Kevin or Perry and whines the whole journey about just how “not fair” life is in general.”
More tips on in car entertainment:
- Did you know you can actually purchase WiFi for the car? Depending on the length of the journey, it may well be worth it!
- Download a wide variety of games, movies (short and long form). Leave enough time – the night before might be too late to get enough material for the journey
- CHARGE everything fully before you set off and also have a battery pack to hand! All of your downloading efforts will be wasted if the battery is dead
- Don’t get caught out by data roaming charges on any of your family’s devices! Check the charges if you are travelling outside of the EU, turn data roaming off and use WiFi if possible. You could buy a Sim at your destination and your provider might allow data bundle options for some countries
Check Child Car Seats Carefully
“Safety first, always.” Says Polly from London. “Young children may whine at you to let them take their car seat straps off so do be firm and tell them it is not legal and not safe. I found it helped if I said, ‘No because the police will come and arrest mummy!’”
Car Seat Tips
- Check that your car seats are fitted properly and that they are still the appropriate size for your children. Seek expert advice if necessary
- Remove bulky or padded coats so that your child is securely fastened in with the seat belt
- Replace a car seat after an accident in case there is any damage
Read our blog about proving who is at fault when making an insurance claim