Anyone with young children will know how difficult it can be planning and executing a lengthy road trip. As much we all eagerly look forward to the getaway itself, you know that the hours it’ll take to get there will be filled with the cries of ‘are we nearly there yet’ and ‘I need to go to the toilet’. Worse still are the sounds of fighting and screaming from the back seats as their pent up energy and excitement quickly turns to boredom, bickering and arguing. It’s no wonder that some parents avoid travelling by car, instead opting for more expensive air or train transport.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and with a little bit of forward planning and an arsenal of fun games and activities at your disposal, you’ll soon start to find that travelling by car can be bearable… And dare I say even FUN!
As with most things, preparation really is the key, so start planning the journey as soon as you start planning the vacation itself:
• Do you have adequate car insurance in place? If not, shop around for the best deal using car insurance comparison sites like Captain Compare who promise to get you the best deal according to the cover you require, comparing a range of features and benefits.
• Stock up on car essentials such as wet-wipes, tissues, low sugar snacks such as cereal bars and fruit and plenty of bottled water for the journey.
• Check the route on a map and plan plenty of toilet stops and comfort breaks. You will need to get out and stretch your legs every once in a while. It’s recommended that you take a 15 minute break for every two hours of driving, and never drive for longer than eight hours at a time.
As for the games and activities themselves, you don’t just have to stick to eye spy and the number plate game, which can become tedious after a few rounds. Try these inventive alternatives to keep their brains ticking over and occupied for a little longer:
A few weeks before the journey itself, start collecting and buying small, inexpensive gifts and treats such as sheets of stickers, a colouring book, crayons, hair clips or toy cars. Wrap them in wrapping or newspaper and put them into a large bag.
For every half an hour, or hour that your children successfully achieve in the car without being disruptive, reward them with the chance to pick a present from the bag. (Remember to take an extra bag for the rubbish)
Wipe clean maps
Photocopy a map of the journey you will be taking and laminate the copies – one for each of your children. Invest in a pack of whiteboard pens and ask your children to draw the line of your journey as you are travelling. You will need to point out landmarks as you go, and the children will have fun trying to find them on the map, as well as estimating how many miles they have travelled and how many are left to go.
This is a great activity for younger children. Draw a 6 X 6 grid on a piece of card, and fill each square with a different picture of something they are likely to see during the journey; sheep, lorries, railway crossings, tunnels, etc.
Laminate the card and then during the journey ask your child to keep an eye out for the objects and cross them off the card as they spot them. The card can then be wiped clean and re-used as many times as you would like.
Playing a CD version of your children’s favourite story will be a great way to keep the atmosphere in the car calm and relaxed. Take along a copy of the book and encourage children to follow the story in their heads as it is being read to them.
Take a bag of no-mess craft supplies, such as:
• Coloured pipe cleaners which can be moulded into animals
• Large beads and string to make necklaces or bracelets
• Circular styrofoam bases and coloured bendy straws, pipe cleaners and feathers can be created into amazing recycled sculptures.
The Story Jar
Before the journey, fill a jar with pieces of paper and on each piece of paper write a single word – this could be an adjective, place name, persons name or something funny! During the journey each person takes a slip of paper and has to tell a short story using this word as a starting point. Once the person runs out of ideas, the next person has to take a slip of paper and continue the story… And so on and so on.