There’s no such thing as a quick trip in the car when you have kids, is there?
Even after you’ve packed the car with every single possible item you could ever need, and strapped the kids in with their own essentials, you then have to come to terms with the incessant whinging that comes from the back seat for the duration of the car trip.
So it’s quite feasible (and likely!) that a 30 minute trip to Grandma’s place can take twice as long to complete AND make you feel like you’ve been travelling for a lifetime. But you can do it! With a little preparation and thinking ahead, car trips with young ones is achievable and can be (in brief moments) – dare I say it? – enjoyable.
Here are some car trip survival tips to keep your sanity intact.
1. Make a kids’ map
You know where you’re going, but kids like to be in on that too. Make them a map they can read, or print one off Google, and give each of them a pencil or highlighter. Call out suburbs as you drive through (or they can look for the signs) and mark where they are on the route. Hopefully, this will reduce the inevitable ‘are we there yet?’ questions at least by half.
2. Be realistic
If you think it will take two hours, it will take four, with stops. Probably five. And if there’s a car sick kid, don’t be surprised if it’s closer to six.
If you’re visiting family, don’t be too specific with when you’ll be there. This takes the pressure off you having to ‘keep going because we said we’d be there before dinner’.
3. Keep snacks on hand
While I’m not a fan of continuous snacking, I think the exception could be made for long car trips. Food keeps everyone a little more quiet and sane. Make a box of easy, healthy finger foods each child can eat whenever they like. You could even make them an edible necklace (think dried fruits, round cereal) – just make sure you never leave them alone with it.
Save special snacks (chips, biscuits, chocolate) for when you stop – so you can avoid paying for fast food.
4. Preparation will be your sanity
Packing a collection of books, colouring sheets, coloured pencils, headphones and a music player, Sudoku or crosswords, small games or playing cards for each child will take time, but you won’t regret it. Make clear that they need to look after their items, and if they lose them, that’s it for the rest of the trip.
5. Have structured play times and down times
Everyone needs a bit of alone time and personal space, and this is particularly hard to achieve when you’re all packed into a small area for hours on end. Be clear about times where the kids can talk, sing, play music and games. Set about 45 minutes for this and put a countdown timer or your phone timer on display so they can see how long they have left. Then be strict about silent time, where children can sleep, listen to music with headphones or read.
6. Make a list of car games
Use a marker to write a list of car games the kids can play, and put the list in the front or hang up between the two front seats so older kids can read them. Some games that work are I Spy, the number plate game and an ‘out the window’ scavenger hunt – where you as a group decide on a big list of items that each child needs to spot and tick off (for example, a letterbox, stop sign, cow in a paddock, yellow car). The way we play it, the winner gets to choose the special snack to share.
7. Prepare a mystery bag
This works particularly well for toddlers, who can’t sit still or aren’t old enough to get lost in a book. Go to the dollar shop and buy a whole bunch of small, interesting objects (be mindful of potential choking hazards) that they can open and explore. Jars with lids, or boxes that they can open are fabulous. Cheap toy cars and figurines are worth their weight in gold.
8. Find a huge park and let them run ragged
Big parks are particularly good for toddlers who like to bolt towards roads. Put them in the middle of the space so you’re not chasing them constantly. We’ve found country town cricket ovals a great space to run because of the picket fence line.
9. When all else fails, pretend you’re asleep
Let daddy tell the kids to be quiet because mum’s asleep and see how long a fight can last when it has to be whispered. You can only try!
(This is a sponsored post for Britax)