Tips for surviving long journeys Part 1 – Car Journeys
Are you planning a long journey with children, if so how are you feeling about it, perhaps you’re already a seasoned experienced traveller?
I’ve done quite a bit of independent long distance travel over the years, last year we returned from a 2 year adventure in Tanzania. My husband often travels/works long hours so in the holidays I regularly drive in the car with the kids in tow to Carlisle to spend time with cousins, which can be around 8 hours if the traffics heavy.
Our Car in Tanzania – we did quite a bit of long distance in it
Based on these experiences and more these are my tips for long distance car travel, you may have some top tips to share too –
Setting intentions & Expectations
I set myself an intention and visualise myself how the day will go. I have an expectation that the journey will be fun, playful and an exciting experience together. The journey is part of our adventure.
Map It Out
First talk about the journey with your children, so they know what to expect.
Involve them with planning the route, even younger children enjoy this and could use a magnifying glass to make it more fun and learn about blue Motorways and red A roads . If they are older print the map off and give it to them to help you navigate (or use an app). Talk about journeys they are familiar with and how some are long and short to help them understand timing more, explain that this one will longer. Look at stop points so in the car they can help navigate to them. Also a good opportunity to practice telling the time and working out what time the next stop will approximately be.
For younger children before you travel, look out for service stations where there’s a play area or maybe a pond to feed ducks – the AA give tips on this too.
Support them in packing a bag with things to occupy them on the journey – paper, pens, bags of lego, card games, books, little things they could easily make picked up in advance from craft stores.
Over the year I buy little things from charity shops and car boot sales and share them on the journey, afterwards they get added to our special time basket at home (don’t pack their bag for them but be ‘alongside’ them if necessary to do it)
Pack snacks – mine always enjoy chopped veg, crackers, oat cakes, rice cakes, other healthy snacks etc, I tend to avoid sweets until maybe the last leg of the journey and even then not always. I’ll often pack a lunch too to avoid rip off prices at service stations.
Choose a time of day that suits you to leave, we’ll often head off early in the morning sometimes at 6.00am, as I really dislike spending all day in the car, I usually plan to arrive around lunch to places. When they were babies I used to try to plan it around their sleep times but it never worked out this way and I soon learned to go with the flow and take jars of food, bottles etc ready. Maybe you have children that sleep well in cars, mine had their own agendas.
Break Up the Journey – it’s OK to be bored.
Break the journey into sections, if the children know what to expect they won’t constantly asking for screentime, sweets and ‘are we nearly there yet’ and ‘I need a wee’, when you’ve only just pulled out the drive.
Warn them there are going to be times when they feel bored and it’s OK to be this way they can look out the window and watch the scenery. There may even be times when they grab a nap too. I don’t like them being on screens the whole journey as it just makes them irritable and I feel it’s good for them to be bored at times and find other creative things to do. Each part might look like this –
- reading time / stare out of window / play a story CD or music they enjoy
- continue above and ideas from their bags, share your car activities / charity finds, if they get fractious then we play games together in the car like I spy, 20 questions, more great ideas here
- buy a magazine at the service station with lots of crap in so this entertains them for the next section.
- screen time – they take their tablets with them and have an hour and then more activities from above.
I did once try putting a film on but they argued over the film and then the headphones didn’t work for one of them and it ended up being one of my most stressful journeys. This may not be the case for your journey. It’s not something I’m fussed about taking on a journey.
My children have travelled in this way since they were babies for these 8 hour trips and I have to say they really do travel well now that they are 10 and 12, I think they enjoy the routine too and spending time with me in the car not distracted with chores etc. They aren’t so keen on my singing. They’ve contributed to this post with their ideas also.
From a ‘mindful driving’ perspective I’d advise ‘checking in’ with yourself regularly notice your breathing and staying centred and calm so that when your children are getting agitated you are in a good mind-space and have the energy and enthusiasm to deal with them. Regular hydration and movement breaks for you are important too.
Importantly take yourself some good tunes too and enjoy the music. You’ll be proud of yourself when you arrive.
My daughter in Tanzania not such a long journey
Look forward to reading your comments below.