Heading anywhere on holiday has to be the highlight of a family’s year. Whether it’s a camping trip, a luxury overseas holiday or a visit to somewhere a little bit different, there’s nothing quite like spending quality family time together away from home. While the arrival and everything that happens thereafter might be your idea of holiday heaven, the thought of getting there might be more along the lines of Dante’s seventh circle of hell; have you ever tried to travel any significant distance with a child in tow?
From frequent toilet stops, yells of boredom and travel sickness to that constant sense of dread that you’ve forgotten something, embarking upon a long journey with children can be incredibly daunting – and stressful. Luckily for anyone contemplating such a feat, we’ve compiled a few quick pointers that should ensure that you’re able to enjoy your getaway from the moment you lock your front door.
Top tips for keeping little ones entertained on a long journey
The first thing that you need to do is breathe, and relax. People make long trips with kids all the time and they’re still here to tell the tale, right? Try seeing the trip through your child’s eyes. Getting in the car to head anywhere at all is something of an adventure when you’re young, so try to embrace that rather infectious sense of exploration. Now, the fun really starts…
Create a list
One of the hardest parts of making a long journey with kids is that sense that you’ve forgotten something; you know, the one that manifests itself when you’re hours from home. In order to shrug off such a suggestion and relax for the duration of your trip, make sure that you’ve remembered everything by creating a list. From clothes, accessories and essentials that you’ll need while you’re away, to the items that you’re most likely to use in the car, a list will give you peace of mind in the lead up to your holiday. What’s more, you’ll find packing to come home again an absolute breeze.
As well as remembering cushions and blankets so that naptime runs smoothly, you’re going to want to pack some snacks to break up the journey. The chances are you’ve planned some stops along the way, but what will you eat in the meantime? Think clean and nutritious, such as fruits, cereal bars and oatcakes. Foods that can be stored simply and eaten with fingers are ideal, though you’ll need to make sure that your child is supervised at all times. Turn snack time into an adventure. Lunchboxes that look like zoo animals and specially designed kids lunch kits will keep that sense of fun going, even if you’re down to your last flapjack.
Plan plenty of games
There are plenty of games that you could play in the car, and a myriad of accessories that you could pack. Magnetised letters, numbers and shapes are great learning aids for children of every age, while whiteboard and dry erase pens, sticker books, travel games, activity pads and magnetic doodle pads are also wonderful fun. Older kids will no doubt enjoy access to magazines and books, while a younger child may be soothed by a favourite teddy or doll. If you’re feeling adventurous, provide your children with an instant film or digital camera; who better to capture the journey but the kids?
Make the most of your surroundings
While the popularity of games such as “I Spy” is fading fast, they’re often absolute miracle workers when you’ve played, eaten and listened to everything else. If your journey’s far from done and your patience is wearing thin, encourage your kids to gaze out of the window and tell you what they can see. Older children might enjoy making up stories and scenarios regarding the houses, people and animals you fly past, while younger children will be content simply pointing out their 50th cow.
We all like to think that we can quit technology at any time, but the truth is that it comes in rather handy during long car journeys. Tablets, laptops and mobile phones that have been pre-loaded with films, games and educational apps can be an absolute godsend as you reach your fourth traffic jam in as many hours. Portable DVD players and audio books are also a great idea if you have younger children to entertain, though try to implement some restrictions regarding screen time for the duration of your holiday.
Embarking upon a long journey with children needn’t be the complete disaster that you’d anticipated it would be. As long as you’re well prepared, have packed plenty of snacks, and have installed play paraphernalia and emergency titbits, you’ll always have a trick up your sleeve to quell the signs of boredom. Remember, long journeys are something of an adventure to little ones, so forget your adult inhibitions for a moment. What can you do to embrace the adventure, rather than dreading the monotony? It’s food for thought, which will hopefully serve you well on your next long journey.