Tips for long car journeys with little ones
Gearing up for a long car journey with babies or small children can feel like a Herculean task. Packing up the car and getting out of the house on time is just the start. From whining and travel sickness, to toilet stops every 15 minutes, it’s not surprising that even the most cool, calm and collected of us can feel stressed.
If you’re looking to make your next journey as smooth as possible, here are a few things you can prepare in advance.
Feeding and changing
Give yourself extra time before you need to leave to feed your baby one last time and to put them in a fresh nappy. In all likelihood they will choose to do a
giant, new outfit required, poo just as you walk out the door. This is something you get used to in the early weeks and months so make sure the changing bag is the last thing you put in the car and the first thing you can grab if you need to. And pack double the amount of nappies you think you will need. Have plenty of wipes in case of any vomit or poo events and a few extra outfits in your changing bag too.
Sit on the backseat
If your baby is still small and you’re heading off on a long trip then it’s probably a good idea to sit on the backseat next to them so you can reassure and comfort them if they get distressed. You will also be able to distract them with toys and check they’re not too hot or cold. You can also buy mirrors which can be attached to the headrest of a backseat so you can see your baby’s reflection from the front seat.
Plan your pit stops in advance. Research places which offer child-friendly food, comfortable breast or bottle feeding spaces and have areas for little ones to let off some steam. If you’re driving with your partner or a friend, it will also give you a chance to swap turns at the wheel or just have a break. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends taking at least a 15-minute break every two hours if you’re driving with a young baby.
Healthy or unhealthy, snacks are often the solution to all parenting dramas and it’s especially essential to have some close to hand when travelling with small
children. No one wants to deal with hangry kids! Be creative with what you prepare – you could even get the kids involved as well – and make sure you have plenty for any unexpected delays. Make sure you pack enough for yourself too as you’re going to need to keep your energy up for all of the driving.
Books are an easy activity for children of any age to enjoy on the go. Soft and squeaky books are great for babies while older children might like a joke book or a story with funny rhymes which will provide everyone with a laugh if you’re stuck in traffic or bad weather. Audiobooks are a great option if travelling with children who are too young to read by themselves. Everyone can listen and you can discuss the story together as a family.
For little babies, music and singing familiar songs might help keep them calm if they’re a bit upset or overtired. A few rounds of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the noise of the engine might help them drift off for some (or even all, if luck is on your side!) of the journey.
And while electronic tablets can be a godsend for keeping children occupied when driving, they may not be suitable for those who get car sick. They can also run out of power and you’ll need to have one per child to avoid the inevitable arguments. Instead, get the requests in and create a playlist of music everyone can sing along to. Make sure you have a good mix of tunes though – there are only so many times you can listen to ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno…’!
We wrote about these in our travel delay blog and you don’t need to spend much money to make things a lot less stressful. Keep a bag within easy reach which contains small picture books, finger puppets, stickers, magnetic games and puzzles, crayons and colouring books, and card games. Include anything you can think of which will keep little hands and minds occupied.
** Don’t forget to leave space for your play mat in the boot. They roll up really easily, with your velcro straps to secure them, and will make life a lot easier when turning up to a new place with little ones! Safe travels!