Christmas is a time for friends and family, and for many of us that means travelling a good distance. That used to be fine… nice, even. Sling a couple of bags in the back and off you go, maybe stopping for a coffee or two along the way, if you fancy it.
With kids? No. No no no! Between remembering to pack everything, somehow fitting it all in the car and arriving without anyone having cried/shouted/been sick, it’s a bit more challenging…
But never fear, the good people of the Oxford Mumbler Facebook chat group have kindly offered their top tips for keeping little people (and therefore their big people) happy on long journeys. Read on for some really great ideas and get your Christmas off to the best start:
‘Snacks snacks and more snacks. Try to time part of the journey to overlap with naptime. Take a bag of toys (sometimes I wrap them up like presents) but always have one or two things they haven’t seen before to keep them interested. We try to withhold the iPad as long as possible and only use it when they start getting really fed up – in a 3 hour journey up to Leeds this is usually the last 30-45mins. Make a playlist or have CDs with their favourite songs on. And take plenty of wipes and spare clothes if you have travel sick children like I do!!’ Rebecca
‘Just got an in car DVD player – seriously AMAZING.’ Annabel
‘In car dvd player here too. New small toys, magazines and snacks. With little children we used to coincide trips with nap time. Regular breaks too and in car games for older children … things like I spy, the number plate game, colour car game etc. You can find lots of ideas here. I used to have a list of about 20 games that I printed out and took with us – was great when I had a mind blank.’ Liz
‘We have done lots of long car journeys with my two year old. She enjoys having a pile of books by her car seat, which she quietly ploughs through. Snacks work well but I try to limit them otherwise she won’t be hungry when we stop and/or could be sick depending on who is driving/what the roads are like. Stop after a couple of hours and make sure the stop is more than just a toilet stop. Plan to eat together, play a travel puzzle or with a water colour book then set off again. We also talk to her about where we’re going and who she’ll see, so she gets excited to go. Singing songs works well, you can put children’s songs on in the car. Car games like looking for different animals/vehicles also seem to be a hit for us. She rarely sleeps on the journey, but we try to do some kind of activity or walk before we go and that sometimes tires her out and gets rid of some energy before the car journey.’ Chloe
‘We bought some cheap DVD players that fix to the back of the headrests. We found reading caused problems with headaches etc. An endless supply of snacks helpful too. It’s the only thing that keeps everyone sane when we go on long drives to Cornwall. I’ve also read about looking up national trust spots (if you are a member) for the route then stop there (free parking) for a run around and something to eat to break up the journey.’ Keira
‘CD of songs, singing, playing spot the lorry/motorbike/bird/horse/bus, snacks, dummies and spare dummies (I have two nearly 2 year olds). Driving during naps.’ Eleanor
‘Try timing the drives around nap times… Leave at nap time or bedtime have worked best for us. Bring entertainment, toys and lots of snacks. I found if we left during a morning nap, I could then feed them in the car, plus entertainment which usually gives us 3-4hrs.’ Ola
‘We did a couple of super-long drives in the summer (about 7 hours on the road, not incuding stops) with a 2 year old. As well as books, CDs, snacks etc, we put together an activity bag with some new toys, and hid some toys a few weeks before so that they felt new when we pulled them out of the bag. Travel jigsaws went down well, as did magnetic shapes on a biscuit tin lid to make pictures, sticker books, and magnetic drawing boards. We also found it helpful to make sure that the next day was low-key, with plenty of time to explore wherever you are staying, and time to run around outside if you can possibly manage it. Taking familiar bedlinen can help. At airports, on ferries etc, remember that people are usually happy to help small children so do ask. We were recently late for a flight so didn’t have time to buy the lunch we had planned at the airport, and the staff on the flight were so kind. They radioed ahead to get us onto the flight that we thought we were going to miss, then opened up the food trolley early so that we could get snacks, water etc and gave our little girl some chocolate.’ Kirstie
‘We always do the long journey north setting off after lunch at naptime with an overnight stop at a Travelodge or similar. And we do the last hundred miles the following morning arriving by lunchtime. I imagine it’s easier with another adult in the car! Otherwise just too long and tiring in a day.’ Kay
‘I like audible. You can downloads lots of different audio books for kids. Mine love listening to them. It’s got all the modern titles as well as the old school stuff like Enid blyton which I like. I use my phone and connect it to the car speakers via Bluetooth. Audible has titles in other languages as well if you need that.’ Anna
Good luck and everything crossed! Wishing you all a very merry Christmas (drive home) with your loved ones.
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