Your ultimate guide of how to survive a long car journey with kids

Whether it’s visiting family in the Christmas holidays or jetting off to the coast in the summer break, there are occasions when we have to travel in a car with kids much longer than we’d really like to!

Never fear though.  I’m here with lots of tips on how you can survive any long road trip with kids in tow.

Pack lots (and lots) of healthy snacks

Not only will this save money at service stations on their extortionately over-inflated prices for everything, but it will help beat boredom at times and fill those never ending pits in their stomachs!  My kids are constantly hungry and always asking for a snack.  Whilst I might be more strict at home, if we’re on a long journey and need to concentrate on the driving at hand then I’ll be a little more slack with the snack giving just to keep some peace and quiet and be on our way.

I do like to keep healthy when travelling so they aren’t bouncing off the walls with sugar overload and choose snacks such as Organix, Kiddlicious and the like.  We also pack small pots of dried fruit and easy to eat fruit like apples and bananas.  Let them have access to them by themselves if old enough so they don’t keep disturbing you and can help themselves if trusted not to gorge on it all in one go and get travel sick!  Definitely want to avoid that if possible.

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The dream scenario! (Bella and Reuben 2016)

Let them choose their own car friendly toys and games

Suggestions are:

  • iPads
  • Colouring in
  • Reading books
  • Music player
  • Sticker books
  • DVD player

And probably all they really need is a fully charged iPad each!  This can act as their games, music, TV and even book!  Make sure they are charged up and have plenty of entertainment on for the duration.  We always have charging points in the car so all electronics can be charged up on the go.

Let them pack a bag each with their drink, snacks and games to bring in the car.  That way if they’ve chosen it all, they’ll be happy to play with it all, in theory anyway!

Take headphones for your sanity

If the kids have iPads or DVD players then they’ll need headphones so they’re not disturbing each other or the driver.  There’s nothing worse when they don’t have headphones and want the sound of their games on and then start competing with each other to be the loudest… argggg!  Too much noise, too much distraction – headphones for the win!

Maybe take your own headphones too, if you’re not the driver, and then you can just ignore all the goings on and blissfully listen to your own music or entertainment pretending not to know what chaos is going on in the car…!

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Not so fun!

Plenty of water

Fill up their water bottles before leaving and make sure they can access them in the car.  Cup holders on car seats or in the middle of the car are a great idea if you have them or can purchase some.  If it’s an exceptionally long journey then pack extra water bottles.  In fact, it might be a good idea to always pack extra anyway as you never know when you might get stuck in a traffic jam or held up by an accident.

Don’t overfill the car

We once had far too much stuff to go on a long journey as we took passengers and had a toddler and a baby so had a travel cot, travel system and all sorts of ridiculous stuff that you have to lug around with a baby and small person in tow, that we had to make use of foot wells and even laps.  It was ridiculous.  Needless to say the kids were uncomfortable and whinging the whole way as they didn’t have their usually leg room or much space at all.  Everyone was far too cramped and stressed.

Definitely pack all suitcases in the boot and invest in one of those roof racks and storage things if you can’t fit it all in the boot… or perhaps a bigger car if possible?!  I’d love to say pack light, but I know it’s near impossible to do so when you have a baby or small child and you need so much equipment.  Later on in life we had some roof racks on Ben’s car, but I wish we had invested sooner and had a proper storage system on the top of that car as it was so impractical for holidaying with children as it had such a small boot.

Plan a service station stop for the toilet

Kids always surprise you with ‘I’m bursting for a wee’ out of nowhere and have to go that second!  Be prepared and plan a service station stops along the way to make sure there are no accidents!  We don’t like to stop much as we love to just get to our destination as quickly as possible, so we’ll only stop if someone needs the toilet.  If your kids are really restless though and need to run around, then stopping and letting them run around a play area at a service station could save your sanity on a long drive!

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Let’s go!

Pack an emergency bag

You never know when a child is suddenly going to projectile vomit all over the place, believe me it’s happened twice to us on road trips out of nowhere and we didn’t have what we needed to hand, so pack an emergency bag so you’re not hung dry.  You’ll need:

  • Spare clothes (for you too, in case they sick all over you)
  • Wipes
  • Towels
  • Water

Audiobooks

If your children love stories then an audiobook could be a brilliant idea to keep them entertained and potentially quiet for hours. They can have them on iPads and tablets, but they may prefer to feel more involved in the car and have them out of the normal speakers.  (This is where your own headphones may become a lifesaver to save your own sanity and let you listen to your own entertainment!)

Some sort of rubbish system

With all the snacking going on, you’re going to need somewhere to throw all the empty packets, banana peels and apple cores.  You don’t want to arrive at your destination with the car looking a tip and in a sticky mess.  I’m sure the last thing anyone wants to do is clean the car as soon as they arrive.  Keep things in check by taking a bin bag and making sure everyone throws their waste straight into it and not into the foot wells of the car.

Traditional car games

When all else fails and the kids are bored of their technology, asking ‘are we nearly there yet’ a billion times and even snacking isn’t keeping them at peace, then some traditional car games might just save the day!  With young children eye-spy is always a winner and always hilarious in our car as Bella gets some letters wrong and we spend ages trying to work out what hers is.  For younger children, like our son Reuben who is three, we change it to eye-spy with colours, so I spy something green, so he can join in too.

Wear appropriate clothes

It might be the middle of winter and you’re all freezing outside, but things can quickly get very hot in a car, especially when there’s a lot of you and you have the heating on.  So take off the coats, hats and scarfs to make sure you don’t all overheat!  Comfy, slouchy clothes are best if you’re going to be stuck in a car seat for a long time.  You’re going to all want to be comfortable.

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Snacks at the ready!

Make sure you have a satnav

I have no clue how people still manage long journeys nowadays without a satnav.  Well I do – badly!  My mum is forever getting lost and taking half a day to get somewhere because she’s following printed instructions that aren’t quite right!  Smartphones are amazing nowadays and have maps built in.  We always use ours and it will redirect us to the quickest route if traffic is building up somewhere, there are roadworks or an accident.  That way we can make sure we always get to our destination the quickest route possible and don’t spend any time getting lost or stuck in jams – neither which are fun at the best of times, let alone with kids in the car.

If arriving at bedtime, then wear pyjamas

Not you, the kids!  Well, if you really want to then no one is stopping you!  If you are travelling late and you’re going to arrive at bedtime, then it’s so much easier to put the kids in the car all ready for bed so when you arrive you can simply carry their snoozing bods straight to bed.  That’s if they’ve been good little cherubs and fallen asleep as planned on the journey giving you a peaceful road trip as imagined…!

Take the quick route if you think they’ll be a nightmare

It may be a lovely idea to take a longer route through twisting narrow country roads to breathe in the fresh air and suck up the glorious views, but if you’ve been driving for hours and the kids are going barmy in the back then you’ll soon wish you’d stuck to the motorways!  If your trip is long and there is a quick route, then take it.

Stop wobbly heads with a travel pillow

This is something that has been on my list to buy forever.  I must get the kids travel pillows, Reuben especially.  When he falls asleep his head flops forwards every time or to the side and it looks so uncomfortable.  Poor thing must wake up with a crooked neck every time we arrive anywhere, no wonder he’s always so grouchy when we get somewhere and he’s been asleep with his head practically falling off!  There are lots of fun kids travel pillows I’ve seen to combat this issue and make sleeping more comfortable when travelling in car.

That’s a pretty extensive list so far and I think I’ve covered most things.  I’ll leave it there for now and may be back to update when I think of anything else!  Happy travelling 🙂

 

What to read next:

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Our 2019 family travel, events and days out bucket list

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How to pack light for a family road trip

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Welcome to the Travel Vixta blog

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