Remember in your pre child life when you were getting ready to go on a trip or holiday? You’d pack the suitcase an hour or two before you left. You’d leave the house at the time you planned on leaving the house. The car journey to your destination was usually spent singling along to Oasis: Wonderwall and eating wine gums. Wine gums that could be eaten without having to hide them down the side of the seat and sneak them into your mouth like a ninja. You might hit some traffic but who cared? You were on holiday! It would just give you longer to laugh and joke with your hubby about the fun and relaxing (oh so relaxing) time you were going to have at your destination.
We all know that holidays are very different now, but lets be honest, you need to actually get there in the first place. My least favourite mode of holiday transport is one that we take most frequently. The car. Yes its great in that you can take 207 outfits each and as many annoying Fisher Price toys (I swear if that thing chants peekaboo I see you at me one more time…) as you can ram into the car, but uh, the stress of it all. As we have just been away and this is all feeling very fresh to say the least, I thought I would share some of my personal favourite tips, so that you can ignore them like me and have a similar car journey from hell.
1. Pack with plenty of time
Think you can get away with throwing everything in a suitcase on the morning of your 6 hour car journey, for which you are planning to leave at 9am? WRONG! If sorting your stuff for a day at work/nursery/school needs to be done the night before you leave; to pack for an actual holiday? Well you need weeks of planning. Ok maybe slightly too far, but seriously you need to get your head in the game a few days before at least. Yes this might mean turning into your mother and making sure the whole family are wearing ‘non holiday’ clothes for at least the 2 days before you go, but outfit preparation for an extended duration takes serious consideration. I mean, the last thing you want is to go to pack your best tight leather trousers to take away, only to find them in the laundry bin. (Obviously I say this in jest because a) if you can still fit in leather trousers post kids you are seriously winning at life and b) can they even go in the washing machine anyway?!)
2. Pack the car up in a logical way
In our house ‘packing the car’ is one of the Hubby’s jobs. He tends to make a meal out of this particular job, presumably to give himself some time away from the chaos, in preparation for the (no doubt) tortuous journey which lay ahead. Anyway (according to hubster) there’s a fine art to it. Packing the car up incorrectly can result in a whole lot of swearing and turning the car upside down at the motorway services to find the snacks, or if you’re having a particularly bad run; the sick bowl. Although I’ll be honest with you, by the time you’ve actually made it to the services, you’re waaay too late for the sodding sick bowl anyway- your best bet is to keep your fingers crossed that Welcome Break sell anti bac wipes…
3. Invest in a roof box
This has been a bit of a lifesaver for us. Not only has it meant room for more noisy coloured plastic crap, but sometimes we can even see out the back window. Winning! Word of warning though; turns out that these things don’t fit into multi story car parks. Yeah. So we learnt that one the hard (and pretty bloody embarrassing) way…
Just take lots. These can serve both as a distraction for the boredom but also for bribery purposes. Oh and yeah, the negating hunger thing. Probably best to go easy on the sweets though. Kids on a sugar high are unlikely to adhere to my next point…
5. Try and coordinate with nap times
We learnt early on, that departing just after the baby woke up from her nap was like willingly signing up for torture. Yes she might be happy for the first, I don’t know, 30 seconds of the journey but after that there will be screaming and back arching like there’s no tomorrow. Not only this but you will then be forced to spend your whole journey playing the pick up dummy/favourite cuddly toy (or otherwise replace with any object that she obviously wants, then doesn’t, then does again, times infinity). Coordinating with nap time gives you at least 45 minutes before these fun and games begin.
6. Plan your break stops
Ever done that thing where you say ‘ooh yes we will stop halfway for lunch..’ and then lunchtime comes and you are in the beautiful middle of nowhere with only a few cows and hay barrel for miles? Kids kicking off in the back, baby screaming for food, you’re starving as your planned long-journey-wine-gum stash were given over as bribery 10 minutes in… do I need to go on? Google the route before you go and work out which service stations you plan on stopping in. Might be best to have a back up too, earlier on in the journey, just in case you get stuck in good old trafficing-hell.
7. Sick bowl
As I touched upon above- from my experience, this is an essential item. Even if you are smug in the knowledge that your little cherubs absolutely do not get car sick. Even if they’ve never been sick in their life (really? What are they like invincible?) Rest assured that they will choose the time that you are driving along at 80 mph (ahem, I mean 70, obviously 70) on the motorway, with the windows down and the system up (listening to the Cbeebies soundtrack obvs) to throw up. Everywhere. Whilst this is always going to be a pretty grim experience all round, if you are yet to experience the perils of the bottomless carseat belt holes, I can tell you now, you DO NOT want to be getting vomit inside there. The smell will haunt you for years to come. Bring. Sick. Bowl.
This can be tricky. I used to simply load up the Ipad, wedge it between the seats and smile smugly to myself as Mr Tumble entertained my kids for half the journey. Somewhere along the line however, car sickness struck. Now daughters 1 and 2 cannot even tolerate looking at a book or a screen for more than a couple of minutes without needing to vom. Far from ideal. This has meant that much to my dismay, I’ve had to get more actively involved in in-car entertainment. Obviously if car sickness isn’t a worry for you, electronic devices are essential. Otherwise, you’re going to need to get creative, as I-spy sort of loses its appeal after 3 hours. Some times we play the count-how-many-cars-until-you-see-a-red-one game. Great until you’re on the motorway (which you no doubt will be) in which case it can turn into a stress invoking nightmare. Another favoured option is making up a story saying one word each. This can be a good one, although be aware that everyone in the story tends to be called poo head, eat poo, and live in poo land (I know, I’m really hoping the car sickness thing is just a phase…)
9. Manage Expectations
No I don’t just mean your own (lets face it you know you’re going to be in for a shocker) but I mean for the kids. Be honest with them – if the journey is going to be a long one, make sure they know that. It probably wont stop the numerous ‘are we nearly there yet’ questions, but hopefully it might reduce them. At first anyway. One of my tried and tested approaches used to be to just pop the route into google maps and then let them track the journey the whole way. This actually worked a treat until I realised that a) I now had no phone to google very important stuff like what time do street lights turn on and b) well, the car sickness thing quite frankly.
Do you have any tips on coping with long car journeys with kids?