In times gone by a road trip was something fun to look forward to. An adventure to be filled with snacks, chatting and singing loudly to Take That. Now that we have 4 kids to consider it could be the stuff of nightmares and yet every year for the past 4 years we have piled the car high with stuff and people and made the very long drive to South West France. We have learnt a lot from our mistakes and so I am sharing helpful tips for road trips with kids.
Why do we do it?
You would be forgiven for wondering why we put ourselves through this when there are perfectly good airports in France and plenty of other places we could fly to…. Well firstly I, irrationally, hate flying. The fear and dread that it causes me is frankly a hindrance to all concerned so it is often just not worth doing it. I will be stressed for weeks before – like I said irrational!! Also flying with kids is not always the easiest thing to do.
More practically though there are some plus points to driving to your holiday destination:
- We can easily and more cheaply bring all the gubbins that small children need. Until recently we would have to travel with 2 travel cots, nappies, a double buggy and four car seats and that was just the minimum. Of course we could have hired all the equipment, but this really does get very expensive so it is much cheaper to take our car
- It is actually easier; dragging four excited children through an airport is just no fun
- It gives us flexibility so we can do what we want when we want; if we need to stop on the way we can which means we can be more responsive to the kids needs
- We get to visit more than one place on each trip; we always do a two centre holiday so we go to our favourite place to start with and then on the way back choose a new place to try out
So once a year we plan to drive around 10.5hrs with 6 people in a car. So far we have done this without wanting to strangle one another so we must be getting something right. Hopefully the tips below on road trips with kids will mean that you, my lovely readers, don’t have to live through the many mistakes we have lived through. A 2hr stint driving in circles near Versailles at 1am that culminated in a very pukey little girl and a right mess still haunts me!! Oh and make sure that you service that car before you get going!
Top Tips for Road Trips with Kids
- If you can stand it and if you feel it is safe for you to do so, drive as much as possible at night. We leave mid afternoon and get an early evening eurostar then after a dinner stop the children all get ready for bed and it is sleep time
- Try to convince any younger (newer to being toliet trained) kids to wear a pull up for the journey. They may not be happy about it, but it is better than the alterantive if they tell you they need the loo at the last minute as you can’t just stop on a motorway
- Allow extra time for stoppages; it does take longer when you have kids in the car as you always have to stop for longer periods. Again driving at night does help with this, but still we always add on a couple of hours to what the sat nav says when we start and that way we are not agitated when it is taking longer
- Plan out your meals – we try to think about where and when we will stop. Lots of the French motorway stops have playgrounds or just large grassed areas where the kids can really burn off some energy, but check in the country you are visiting
- Invest in a plug in cool box so you can bring your own meals. The service stations do tend to get very busy especially in school holidays and even if they aren’t busy lets face it the food offerings tend not to be fantastic. If you have a cool box you can actually bring your own food. I pack a dinner and a breakfast for us all before we leave and then we know we can stop at any of the picnic areas (widely available on French motorways)
- Check out how the local motorways work; we drive through France and they have toll roads so we have bought a French toll pass which means we don’t have to have cash to hand and can go through the fast lane at the tolls. This genuinely does shorten the journey time
- If you have a roof box try to research any height restrictions on motorways before programming the SAT Nav. We learnt this to our cost – see above about driving in circles and puke!
- Pack a surprise bag of activities for each child. I tend to include sticker books, water painting, magnet building toys, small toy characters such as star wars figures and a magazine
- Snack pots – each of my kids have one of the skip hop snack post and this makes a huge difference when we are on a road trip as they make less mess with the snacks and are less likely to throw the snacks everywhere
- If you plan to drive through the night take it in turns to have a nap that morning so that you are as well rested as possible
- Even if you don’t normally like your children to have electronic devices I really recommend having something that they can watch a movie on. Just think that is like 90 mins take care of
- Be ready to play games – you are more than likely to need to play i spy alot!!
- Pack a travel sickness bag; I put in kitchen roll, wipes, dettol wipes, change of clothes, plastic bags, waterproof bed mats, waterproof apron and sick bags
- Don’t forget waterproof car seat liners. You can buy these for less then £10 each and they will save you if anyone spills anything, has an accident or is sick. No one wants to sit in a wet car seat so these are worth every penny
- If you have a child who is prone to car sickness (I have two) then medication may be an option, but it can have side effects so consult your doctor. Other things you can do include training them to use a sick bag (our 3 year old can do it), getting them to wear a waterproof apron, making sure they look up as much as possible and again driving at night helps as they will sleep more
Good luck with your road trips with kids this summer. Another useful articles I found is: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/family-road-trips-tips-tricks_us_5b06a2bce4b0784cd2b1f50a Honestly it can be fun and if it isn’t then at least your holiday waits at the other end!
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