Boys and girls have learnt it in the early days of Scouts for years – Be Prepared. This mantra should have been invented for parents about to embark on a longer-than-average car journey with little people in tow. Keep the motto in mind before departure day and the journey no longer has to be the dreaded part of a trip.
Amelia Atkinson, founder of the new invaluable journey-planning tool “Pillows & Pitstops”, has 5 top tips to not only survive but maybe even enjoy a trip with children:
Some parents can’t buy enough gadgets for in-car entertainment, others stick by strong principles that portable DVDs should be banned. Whichever parent you are, the key point to entertainment during a long journey is variety. Don’t expect littl’uns to suddenly sit through their first feature-length movie in a car or lap up the stunning scenery of the motorway perimeters for two hours solid. I find that assuming a 30-minute attention span allows me to calculate how many changes in entertainment I need up my sleeve. Try something visual, then move to an audiobook, then start iSpy or ‘Top 3s’, and end it with a “Frozen” singalong. There you go, two hours down.
- Travel Updates
Traffic jams and congestion are very often avoidable. My other mantra? Forewarned is forearmed. Set up the alerts on your phone or radio for traffic news and check (as a passenger, not a driver) sites such as The AA and Traffic England throughout your journey. Unexpected and extended hold-ups are your enemy, so be vigilant. Obsessive, if you like.
One of the ultimate mistakes made by any parent in a car is on the snack front. Snack but don’t over-snack. Plying children with sugary treats will only result in a sugar rush just when you don’t want one. And save the substantial tummy-filling goodies until you stop, then they’ll eat better food when you stop, and you’ll be able to enjoy your stop-gap too! Even for children who are reliably toilet-trained or usually spotlessly clean, pack at least one change of clothes for all family members at the top of the boot or in the back seat. We must all have faced the vomit/wee/drinks bottle/melted chocolate disaster mid-journey and know the importance of these reserve outfits. This includes you.
- Don’t forget about you
Remember the driver and passenger need to keep sane so don’t forget about a few things for yourself. A few snacks reserved for adults only in the front of the car, read a few water softener reviews and get one to fill a few large bottles of water (but not so large you have to disrupt one of your half hours of entertainment with yet another loo stop), your favourite music for if headphones can be used at any point in the back seat, and possibly most importantly, a sat nav. Water is of prime importance whenever one goes out, and to accentuate on the same, I’ve installed a countertop water filter in the house.
For me, this has become the be-all-and-end-all of journeys with children. I have discovered that carefully planned stops that you can all enjoy, that don’t include over-priced microwave meals or plastic sandwiches, that give the children a stretch of their legs, and that give you a moment’s release from the monotony of the motorway are a journey’s one lifesaver. Check how long your journey is theoretically due to take and plan your approximate timings for leaving and arriving. You can then have some idea of what point in the day you will be looking to stop and what facilities and menus you might need. A tailor-made journey plan, based on your very own start and finish points, to find such stop-offs can be found on my new website www.pillowsandpitstops.com along with many more Top 5 tips.
Between us, hopefully we can start to arrive at our destination not dreading the return trip. After all, a car journey is just quality family time so enjoy it. Us modern families don’t get much of that these days.