How to travel safely and stress-free with your children
A long road trip with kids can be one of the most stressful things the average motorist attempts in any year. Here are some tips that can make your holiday memorable for the right reasons:
Take CDs or DVDs
Play stories, music, movies or TV programs to keep them occupied and away from feeling strapped into a car. This needn't be expensive either. Have you looked at your local library for DVDs, and music and spoken-word CDs?
Buy a new toy for the trip
That means only give them their new toy when you leave. There's little point if the novelty has worn off and your children aren't engrossed in their new acquisitions.
Let them work out if they're 'there yet'
If your children are old enough, try handing them the map and asking them to work out how far they have to go.
Is your vehicle making the trip more stressful?
A family-sized MPV is always going to be a more comfortable place to be than a small hatchback crammed full with people and their belongings. Everyone will benefit from the cubby holes for drinks and toys, and if it has a built-in DVD system, all the better. If you can't stretch to a larger vehicle, then consider getting a roof-rack or - better - a top box to take some of the pressure off the inside space.
You know your kids and their favorite ways of misbehaving or annoying each other - does Chloe like to tickle Ben until he has a tantrum, for example? Which child gets on better with who? You may even find it sensible to sit an adult in with the kids.
Leave late at night
If you have a long way to drive, this could be the best tip of all. The quietest and most stress-free journey is probably when the children are asleep. Make sure the adults - particularly the driver - are properly rested, then set off about an hour before the children's bed time. With luck, they should be dozing off just as your journey gets into its stride, and they'll sleep on towards morning.
Bring plenty of pillows and blankets
Bring along pillows and blankets so they can doze off comfortably for as long as possible, and try to maintain the usual bedtime patterns, such as reading them a story.
Pack a cool box
Not only will you have your children's favorite drinks and snacks on hand when they're needed, but you'll almost certainly save money. And make sure you have plenty of supplies, as hunger tends to lead to crankiness.
Take regular stops
Find somewhere nice to stop - a picnic area or lay-by off the road is preferable to a petrol station - every so often and let everyone get out to stretch their legs and let off steam. A stop every hour or so, is probably about right.
The old favourites, such as I-Spy or counting the legs on pub signs can keep a group of kids engaged for a while. There are a huge number of ideas on the Internet, too, for car games if your children like them.
Plan for emergencies
If you break down, you'll appreciate having more than one adult in the car. It's probably a good idea, also, to have decided who will look after the children and make sure they're safe away from traffic and who will deal with your breakdown and recovery company.
For real success try as many of the above ideas as you can. There's much less chance of boredom setting in!