That well-worn phrase is guaranteed to strike a nerve with many a parent! With holiday season fast approaching, and many of us making travel plans, it is a salient reminder that for families with young children, long journeys can present many interesting challenges! Whether you are going away for a weekend, a mini break or a longer holiday, it pays to be well prepared in advance to ensure that your journey is as smooth and stress free as it can possibly be. Here are a few hints and tips that may help:
Make sure that you have a plentiful supply of drinks and snacks for the journey and also all the practical things that you may need, ranging from car sickness medication to wet wipes, paper towels, blankets - anything that you might need either in case of an incident or to cater for a child that is either sleepy, hot or cold.
Encourage children to pack their own small bag for the journey so that they can choose some special toys and other familiar items to keep with them in the car. You could also put one or two little surprises into these bags for the children to enjoy finding on the journey.
Explain as much about the journey to your children beforehand and get them interested and involved. Be honest about how long it will take but try and break it up into more manageable chunks of time. Why not prepare a simple map showing some of the major places you will be passing through, and perhaps offer little treats for each one they spot. Also agree in advance to stop at certain places so that there is always a break to look forward to.
How about making a family book all about your holiday, starting with the journey? Encourage children to record their memories of the journey as they go along - either funny happenings or places they like or things that they have particularly enjoyed doing in the car. They can either write these memories down or record them on their iPad or smartphone in any suitable format. A range of photographs would be an excellent supplement too. Family photo ideas could include fun selfies in the car, an informal family portrait at each stop along the way, or even pet pictures if they are also joining you on the journey!
Create little games and competitions that can be played in the car without annoying the driver too much! As well as the map mentioned above, there could be some kind of a treasure hunt with clues that are answered by place names that you pass. Or you could do some more detailed version of I-spy, with the children looking out for certain colours or makes of cars, or numbers in registrations, or landmarks on the journey.
Technology can also be a saviour on long journeys. Children can use tablets and smartphones to watch films, play games and listen to music. But it’s a good idea to mix these things up with some other activities so that the child does not get car sick or headachy (and grumpy!).
Reading and colouring and puzzle books are also enjoyed by many children and can bring a few minutes peace and quiet, but again beware of using these for too long in case of car sickness.
Word games or guessing games or memory games can be fun if everyone is in the mood. There are dozens of these such as Who Am I, Twenty Questions and I Went to Market. For older children you can also prepare Lateral Thinking scenarios and riddles in advance which can help to pass the time.
We do hope that you have a wonderful family holiday this year wherever you are going and for however long or short a time. We also hope that some of the above ideas are helpful to you and will keep the dreaded “are we nearly there yet” question at bay for just that little bit longer!