With the rising costs of airfares and package holidays, and the increasing time it takes to get through security at the airports, more and more families are deciding to travel by car for their holidays. Families are electing to take more road trips, both within the UK and Ireland, and wider afield in Europe. To make your journey easier here are some top tips to remember while travelling by car with children.
Most of us with young children are returning to the days we grew up in, where our holidays consisted of our parents packing up the car with us, bags and other essentials, and setting off to travel within our home country. My parents couldn’t afford holidays abroad, so we often travelled to other counties of Ireland for our summer holiday. I fondly remember a hot week in June spent in Salthill in Galway when I was 15. I also remember the windy beaches of Tralee in County Kerry when I was around 12. There were also regular camping trips to Brittas Bay or Courtown, two seaside towns on the east coast of Ireland. And getting there was a road trip.
As a family we’ve been travelling by car with our son since he was four months old. The first long trip was to Ireland via the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare. And since our epic two-week USA road trip in 2017, we’ve become huge fans of travelling by car with our son. You can move from place to place and see much more of a country than just holidaying in one spot for a week or two. This is a huge advantage to road trips that we’ve come to love.
But, how can you beat the age-old question “Are we there yet?”, uttered by little people in the back. Well, here are some top tips to help your car holiday go a lot easier with the kids in tow.
Top tips when travelling by car with children
1 Decide what time of the day suits your kids for travelling.
You need to decide if your kids do better in the early morning or evening hours for travelling? You know your kids better than anyone, so this is really your choice. Some people elect to travel at night when the kids are bound to be asleep. However, you need to ensure who ever is driving isn’t too tired behind the wheel. Others, like us, prefer to travel during the day, taking in the scenery and sharing the driving between the two of us. Whichever is best for your kids, plan your travel to match. For us, leaving early in the morning is best and our son will nap in the car is he gets tired. I’d also prefer us to sleep in a bed and get a proper night’s sleep than try and catch the zzz’s in the car.
2 Don’t leave home without the snacks and drinks.
Make sure to pack some snacks and drinks for everyone in the car. Yes, you might be able to stop along the way, but snacks can calm hangry children and they can also fill a gap if there is a way to go before your next stopping opportunity. Drinks are also essentials, particularly if you are driving during the summer on a hot day.
Stock the car with water or juices and bring snacks consisting of fruit, cereal bars, biscuits, crackers, crisps and even some homemade sandwiches. Keep them handy so you can pass them over without having to stop the car to fish them out of the boot.
3 Bring some entertainment.
Bring some colouring books and crayons or pencils, sticker books, travels games and even electronic devices like Gameboys and tablets. And let the kids use them if necessary. You could even bring personal DVD players and use a mounting brace to mount them to the back of the front seat headrests. Just remember individual headphones if you’ve got more than one child so that you don’t end up with a volume war.
I’d also recommend ensuring you have some music that the kids like in the car. We’ve created a playlist on our Spotify account for our son with his favourite songs and we add to it from time to time. This can be a sure-fire way of keeping him entertained for a while in the car. And you don’t have to limit yourself to this type of entertainment. Playing I-Spy or other games can be fun. We even created a game in America called “Spot the Mack truck” shouting out “Mack” every time we saw a truck that looked like Mack from Disney’s Cars. And a pair of toy binoculars provided hours of entertainment for our son in Yellowstone National Park.
4 Pack an overnight bag and keep it handy.
If you have an overnight stop somewhere, or are only staying a few nights in one location, why not pack a 3-day bag with 3 days’ worth of clothes for everyone in it, rather than packing one individual suitcase for each person. Use colour coordinated packing cubes for each member of the family so every knows where their clothes are.
This is much easier than hauling 3 or more suitcases into a hotel or AirBnB every night or two. You can do this for a road trip that consists of several short stops along the way. It will mean you take one suitcase of clothes in every three days. Keep your family toiletries in one large clear bag so it can be brought in with your one bag.
We did this during our road trip in Central Portugal at the end of the summer. We were stopping at three different locations for either two or three nights each and I packed one 3-day bag for our first stop, rotated clothes for the second stop and then we brought everything into our last location’s accommodation as the car was parked in a shared carpark and away from our accommodation. It made it much easier when it came to empty the car with a boisterous four-year-old in tow.