Getting geared up to go on holiday is such an exciting time for families and especially the kids. But, before you can enjoy the relaxation and start exploring a new area comes the travelling. In recent years more and more people are going back to long road trips rather than train, planes and boats. Think back to being in the back of a car on a long journey (even though they were maybe a few hours at most) watching the world go by, listening to your favourite tunes, the windows down a little bit letting in the summer breeze, stopping in a little cafe for a toilet break and some food. Adventures that never happened by accident. Hard work went into planning them, and now you’re ready to start taking your own car trip adventures what are you going to need? What will make things easier?
Let’s start with what might be the most significant consideration (after safety which we will cover in a moment) – Entertainment!
Travel journals are a really great thing for budding writers, pick up a pack of notebooks and pens from your local dollar store and issue them with the instructions to keep a note of their adventure. Start from the night before the travelling and encourage them to write in it as you travel, plus during the holiday too. These are great for when they’ve grown up to look back on, and some schools issue ‘what did you do in the holidays’ homework – so that will be an easy assignment!
Leave the travel board games at home. Unfortunately, no matter how much you want to be as tech light as possible, if you go over a bump, little pieces are going to litter the footwell of your car, and it is very likely arguments, and some unsafe reaching is going to go on. If the kids have tablets or mobile phones, set them up with the same games so they can still play with each other, just with less tiny pieces. You don’t have to offer up tablets if that isn’t your parenting style, but in a pinch, an hour or so on a game might help pass the time for them and give you less ‘Are we there yet?’.
Great in car games are:
- I spy
- Road trip bingo
- Spot the car make/spot the ‘red’ (or other colors) car
Plan your stops in
You might be considering just winging it and stopping when you need a few minutes to stretch your legs, but you should plan stops in as part of your journey. The idea of arriving at your destination in time for bedtime might seem amazing, but really the kids will need to stretch their legs before that.
Many car seats come with guidelines about the length of time a child should be in a car seat for, you should plan in a stop for each of those. For example, if you have a 6-hour journey, and the car seat manufacturer states 2 hours maximum, work in a stop as near to the 2 hours as possible.
If you are travelling with smaller babies, remember that they will need changing at reasonable intervals too, and just because you have decided to stop (or not stop), doesn’t mean that they won’t poop. So, check online for stops, parks, diners and hotels just in case you are going to need them.
Is the drivers’ mate prepped?
Perhaps there is only one driver in the house, and if this is the case, the passenger will be in charge of everything apart from driving. However, if you can swap and take turns, then you should. A few jobs for the passenger:
- Keeping track of the routes, upcoming exits
- Requests from the children
- Snacks and drinks on hand for the driver
- Starting any easy games
- Keeping the noise down
- D.J – music makes a trip much more fun!
If you happen to be the passenger, the best thing you can do on any journey is keep the driver company. If you are travelling at night or for an extended period of time and you don’t drive, keeping them hydrated and engaged is going to beat the monotony of long stretches of roads.
If you have children, who tend to have travel sickness, ensure that you have given all the medication at the right times in the run-up, you shouldn’t have any issues. Some snacks travel better than others, and some are safer than others too.
Remember that uncut grapes, some round chocolates and some snack bars are hard and chewy and can cause a choking hazard.
- O- shaped cereals are an excellent choice
- Cheese – cut into bite-sized pieces
- Soft dried fruit – cut into manageable pieces
Try to avoid anything with really strong odours, as they tend to linger in the car and can set of car sickness (even if you thought it was under control).
Put water in sippy cups with tight lids for toddlers, and for bigger kids, reusable water bottles work best.
Ever been heading off on holiday and keep having to run back to the house to load more into the car? End up wedging things into the trunk, and you aren’t 100% if you’ve duplicated something you’ve already packed?
Pack smart, have one bag to go in the footwell of the front passenger if you have one, or the children’s footwell if you don’t. Put in things like diapers, wipes, plasters, snacks, drinks, CDs, towel in case of sickness, sick bags, sunglasses, hairbands, and some resealable bags or Tupperware for the unfinished snacks. Print out a copy of the hotel or holiday park details and have them handy for when you arrive too.
Even if you have 3 or 4 children, you are likely overpacking. Realistically, look at what they might wear at home. Rather than pack PJs for every night, pack 2/3 pairs for rotation, pants and sock enough for each day plus accidents, jeans 1 or 2 pairs and t-shirt just a couple. After all, it’s an adventure, and no one is really going to be all that much attention if you’ve worn the same t-shirt four days apart.
This should go without saying, but so many people forget to do some necessary checks:
- The coolant – ensuring your radiator doesn’t overheat
- The tyres – check the tread and the air pressure, make sure you have a spare one too
- The oil – Use the dipstick to make sure you have the right oil levels and top up if needed
- Windscreen wash – top it up and have some spare in the trunk
- Lights – check them all and on all beams
- Check for leaks – leave the car for a few hours on a clean piece of tarmac and check for any oils or fluids
- The boot – once loaded you need to know everything is secure
Make sure that your insurance and breakdown cover is all up to date too.
If you have car seats you need to do the following checks:
Ensure that it is actually the right seat for your child’s height and weight.
Front-facing or rear-facing? Keep those babies safe and have them rear-facing till at least two years old.
Once you have the car seat in place, try and move it. If it is fitted correctly, it won’t move more than an inch. (check manufacturer guidelines too)
Of course, the safest thing you can do for your little one is checking out Graco car seats, their range spans many age groups and budgets.
If you have space in the glove box pop in the following items:
- Basic first aid kits
- Flashlight – both a battery and wind up
- Powerpack, so you can charge your phone if needed
For the boot/trunk:
- Extra water
- Jumper Cables
- Air pump
- Hazard triangles/flares
- Safety Vest
- Fire extinguisher
- Spare flashlights
While everyone starts a car journey thinking about getting to the final destination, you never know what might happen – so it pays for you to think ahead concerning safety. You might have a break down, and if you have all of your road assistance in good order, you know you’re going to be just fine in a few hours.
Don’t drive while you are tired. So many people continue to drive because the road is quiet, or you are on a tight schedule, well that is great but driving tired is a huge cause of accidents. Keeping well hydrated, stopping at regular intervals, and having slept well before you head off is essential. Likewise, if you have had any medication in the last few days, a cold, headaches or anything that may impact your ability to concentrate or make sensible decisions you should contact a pharmacist or your doctor to check you are now fit to drive.
The most important thing? Well, after the safety of everyone in the car – it’s having fun of course! Follow our guides and enjoy the journey.