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Tips on travelling with toddlers

This weekend, we decided it would be a great idea to go see grandad while mum was away for a couple of days. This sounds like a great idea – but grandad lives on the other side of the country (according to Google maps, three hours away). Three hours in a car with two small children and a dog doesn’t fill me, or many other people I’m sure, with any great deal of joy. It was surprisingly ok though – so here are some of the tips on what you can do to prepare before and during the event!

Stops

Daaaad I need a weeeee

Girl bored in car seat

Plan out where you’re going to stop along the way. A scheduled stop in the middle of the journey will help with any… accidents or the sheer threat of accidents that can crop up on you. Take a look along the route and try to find out which is the best services along the way – maybe one with a large grassy area to have a picnic. We stopped at the absolutely fantastic Gloucester services and farm shop on our way cross country. Not only does it have an area for dog walking, a farm shop and good coffee – it also has family toilets (something definitely worth checking before you end up with three of you and a pushchair squeezed into a cubicle next to someone having a wet wipe shower in the next stall along).

A nice stopping point with some decent family toilets, somewhere to take a walk and stretch your legs for a while can really help break up the fatigue and boredom for the little ones (and you too).

 

Snacks

Daaaad I’m hungry

Children bored in the back of the car

Make sure you take ample snacks and drinks. Keep drinks in small enough bottles, so they don’t down lots of liquids in one go and you end up with an emergency wee stop. When it comes to snacks try to go for the least messy or dry mess snacks, that are easy to hand around a car. Things like rice cakes, sticks of cheese and pre-cut grapes in individual containers for each child.

We all know service station snacks are a rip off and almost always come in single use plastic wrapping. Make some sandwiches and pop some fruit / biscuits / crisps into a lunch box for when you stop for your picnic and you can avoid the pain of paying £5 for a cheese sandwich with no mayo.

If at all possible it’s worth considering if you can forward pack snacks and food for the journey home too. Depending on where you’re going this might not be possible or worthwhile (if you’re staying at a relatives house for a week, there’s no point eating stale rolls on the way home if you could just pick something up their end).

Entertainment

Daaaaaad I’m bored

Probably the hardest thing to do while driving is to keep the kids entertained. Taking toys which have lots of loose parts will inevitably get dropped on the floor and be followed by a panic as they fall out of reach. Large toys are great because they are less likely to fall under the seat in front or down the side (and if you can, tie the toy to the chair so it can easily be retrieved if it does fall on the floor). You could take a look at things like the easy hold colour panels, magnifying glass or wooden sound camera which all feature the added bonus of changing the world around as they look through each one.

When toys aren’t going to cut it any more then music is a good go-to. To save yourself the boredom of listening to the same Disney songs on loop, make a playlist before you go of some songs you like and some songs they like. If you get complaints it can be a good opportunity to talk about the importance of sharing and how some people like different things to others. Try to get a singalong going, if it’s the right kind of song, they might not get all (any) of the words right but it’s a good chance for them to have a go.

Finally there’s always the option of games, there’s the classic of things like I Spy (although this has always been tricky I found on fast moving motorway after you’ve gone through; sky, road, tree, bush, cloud, lorry and car), or “I was going to the shops and in my trolley I put…” where you have to remember everything the people before you said and chain it together into a list. Sometimes you can come up with shorter games based on things around you, like looking for the logo of passing lorries and see if they can read all of the letters before it goes past. Any sort of simple games like these really depend on the age of the child as to how much they will enjoy it or how difficult it will be for them. Have a think about some different games or what your child is really interested in before you set off and try to come up with some games for the ride!

Naps

Children sleeping in the back of a car

Worrying Silence

Naps may seem like your friend on a long journey – and they can be, but only if planned properly. Try and line up the start of the journey with nap time for young children – that hour of peace at the start of the journey will help things along for sure. The worry is always that if they sleep for too long you’re in for a long night and possibly watching back-to-back Toy Story until they go down for the night.

There is always the option of leaving late, getting into pyjamas before you leave and hope they stay asleep when you arrive so you can carefully peel them out of their seat and place them into their bed at the other end – but this is a risky strategy I’ve never managed to pull off properly!

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