OK, strictly speaking, we should be absolute experts on entertaining kids in cars on a road trip. When ours were babies, we lived in the North of Scotland and regularly made a 5-6 hour journey to visit my family. As they got older, we started driving to France on holiday from the North East of England, and since we bought a house there, we’ve done the journey at least twice a year for the last three years. Yet the trips are never without some trauma or other, which led me to wonder what we are doing wrong?
Are we too confident now that we’ve done it so many times that we are somewhat under-prepared? It has happened, I’m sure. Or is it just that our kids’ needs have changed as they’ve got older? That’s definitely a factor. Plus, they are kids, so it’s their job to keep us on our toes, right? I’m therefore calling in more expert opinion from some fellow family and travel bloggers to give their tried and tested tips for road trips with the family.
The key here, these tips are tried and tested.
I didn’t just pick the prettiest ones on Pinterest (which believe me, I’ve done before! As a self-confessed Pinterest addict, I have a board full of them – feel free to look!)
It seems my friend Sam at North East Family Fun has done something similar in the past too! Thank goodness I’m not the only one! Sam tells me “Don’t do the Pinterest trick of wrapping up lots of little toys and giving them a new one to unwrap every 10 minutes. It just creates lots of mess, there is nowhere to put all of them all, they don’t hold the kids’ attention and it’s a waste of money!”
Naomi at Trips With A Tot has a whole post about travelling with younger children on public transport, but which may also work on a car journey, which Sam from NE family fun also helped with!
I especially like the ‘AquaDoodle’ water mats she suggests, which are relatively mess-free. Our kids also loved the Crayola Colour Wonder ‘magic pens’ and colouring books. Both products ensure there are no ‘accidents’ with felt pens on car seats and clothes, as they are clear on surfaces but make a mark only on the surface intended. Brilliant!
Technology on the road
So many people advise either DVD players, or Ipads/Kindles loaded with…. well, read about it:
Louise at Pink Pear Bear began “We drove to Venice in the half term and the portable DVD players we have were a Godsend. We saved them until the kids had really had enough and were getting stroppy and then let them choose a film to watch. Also factor in stops where there are playgrounds to let them burn off steam and run around. Best car game at the moment is ‘guess what/who I am’, you can only answer yes or no & everyone has to ask questions to find out the identity of the player. And no sticker books unless you’re happy for your entire car/child/car seat/clothing to be covered in stickers! – I second this one!!
Amy at The Mighty Duxburys continued “We allowed our child to hold the tablet whilst watching CBeebies on the way to Scotland. Huge, huge mistake. He vomited everywhere an hour into the journey. All over his seat, all over himself and we had to bung his sicky clothes in a box in the boot. You can get holders to go over the front seats. Use those. For the love of God use those!” Poor Amy. We’ve had our fair share of travel sickness over the years. Once, Toby was recovering from a tummy bug and just gave us one last hurl for good luck! We had to throw those clothes in the bin as we were on our way to the airport and would have otherwise had to leave them festering in a carrier bag for the week (TMI?).
Tracey from Pack The PJ’s suggests “Definitely portable dvd players. Nintendo 3DS’s and a fair few games. Pillows so they can nap. Sleeping sacks that they can ‘wear’ under their seat belts. But the best bit of advice I can give is for seat-back organisers. One on each seat in front of each child – fill with games, colouring pad and pencils (I like the Klutz doodle-type ones), headphones, a book etc … water bottle etc. All organised and it means their feet won’t dirty the back of your seats! We treat long journeys like they are ‘camping out’ in the car.” I love this advice about ‘camping in the car’, and I also very quickly ordered some seat back organisers after reading this. Our car ends up such a tip after two days of travelling! I also ordered one with a cool bag – that will be really useful on day trips too.
Vikki at Family Travel With Ellie says “DVD players are an absolute must have and I allow both children to choose a new film each for the journey, as well as their usual favourites. Also, tablets with their favourite games (don’t forget in car chargers!) Plenty of healthy, non-messy snacks (with some treats thrown in too!) – don’t forget plenty of wipes and a rubbish bag! We love to have a sing song, play I -Spy, 20 questions, Who am I. Pillows and small blankets for comfort. You can also get fab little travel books that challenge the children to spot things on the journey and then tick them off – mine love these!” You can get printable I-spy sheets too, see my Pinterest boards. These travel books all look good:
Donna from Bobsy’s Mum suggests Portable DVD players or tablets with downloaded tv shows stuck to the back of the front seats. They get bored of films, but short episodes work great.
Kelly-Anne at Mimi Rose and Me suggests a Kindle with a few apps as it helps keep them stimulated but they are also able to change their activity. She has written about travelling with toddlers here.
Stacey from One Small Human suggested “Like a lot of people, I’ve tried tablets loaded with videos etc. Our toddler got frustrated though if he pressed the wrong button and couldn’t get the video back on. What did work for us was creating a big print out with lots of pictures of things he might see on the way to our destination. We gave him a stamp as well (which we tied to his seat so it couldn’t be dropped) and he stamped pictures as he saw things.”
Emma from Our Fairytale Adventure is on a road trip to Denmark with two toddlers at the moment, and has written about how they prepared. The small world play is more for hotel rooms but the rest have worked a treat for car journeys. She says that for toddlers the buckle toy is an absolute must!
Emma at Me and B Make Tea has also written about travel with a toddler, and suggests lots of snacks! And puppy pads if you have a potty training toddler.
May I add just a few more pearls of wisdom,
…gleaned from my experience? I’ve seen a few posts about giving small boxes of lego, maybe in lunch box type containers. Now, I do have particularly naughty children, it’s true, but in my experience these (or any other ‘small pieces’ toys) will inevitably end up all over the floor at best, with the kids whining that they can’t reach them, or standing on them as they get out at the next stop. At worst, they will be thrown at each other, or put in their mouths (I shudder at the choking potential when you can’t reach them to help). You know your own kids – I wouldn’t take the risk. Similarly, with a craft activity, would the bits end up all over the floor, the glue in each others’ hair or all over the windows, the felt tip pen all over their faces, the upholstery or their clothes? Well, they would in my family!
Please pin this for later: