Top tips for driving long distances with children
Whether you’re planning a family “staycation” or visiting the family in a different part of the country, driving long distances with children can seem like a daunting task. But by trial and error, combined with careful planning, these trips don’t have to be filled with cries of “are we nearly there yet?”
That’s why this month we wanted to explore some of the ways that families can reduce the stress of driving long distances with children, resulting in an enjoyable start to the holiday or trip.
Start involving them before you leave
One of the easiest ways to survive a longer journey with children is to get them excited about the trip before you leave. If you’re leaving for a longer period of time, let them help with packing their own suitcase, or yours if you’re willing.
Once that’s all finished, why not create a factsheet with some key landmarks that you’ll see along the way. Tell your children that they need to keep an eye out and mark it off their chart when they see it.
Plan when you’ll leave
There are two ways that you can plan your journey. One way is to leave early in the morning and take your time, the other is to leave at night and let the motion of the vehicle lull the children to sleep.
If you’re leaving in the morning, make sure that you’re prepared for slightly more traffic, especially if the trip’s during the week. Make sure there are several stops along the way for the kids to stretch their legs, as well as visiting the toilet when it’s inevitably needed.
Bring activities and distractions
If your children enjoy reading books, then that’s fantastic news. Give them a selection of their favourites and they’ll occupy themselves during the drive. However, if they’re more energetic and need something to play with, then make sure you pack activities before you leave. These could include:
- A colouring book with pencils or crayon
- A homemade checklist of things they’ll see during the drive
- A portable DVD player or tablet
- Food and/or lunchboxes
- Water magic colouring sets
Don’t forget about treats
We’re not saying that you should just leave a bag of sweets in the back seat, but if you’re planning a longer journey and need something to bribe the children into calming down, then treats are a good addition.
If you’re struggling to calm them down, then use the treats as a reward for a “Stay Quiet Longest” competition. Not only does this keep the volume down for a little while, but it also helps to encourage participation and distract them from the journey ahead.
Don’t mention toilet breaks
Whether you have children or know someone that does, you know that the “does anyone need the bathroom” question before leaving always comes with a resounding “no” response. Five mile down the road comes the first emergency stop.
It might be easier to just tell everyone to go to the toilet before you leave, that way you know they’ve gone and you don’t have to worry, for a time at least.
Bring a distraction
Now, this might be controversial, but when it comes to distracting children during a long journey, you may have to resort to a screen. Whether it’s their favourite game on a smartphone or a few episodes of their favourite programme on a tablet, it’s a good way to get at least 30 minutes of quiet time.
If you want something that they can sing along to, just download Frozen or a film that’s similar. It’ll keep them occupied and happy, and you’ll be free to focus on driving.
Audiobooks and podcast for children
With the rise in smart technology, especially in in-car devices, there’ll always be an audiobook or podcast to keep the children entertained. As an added bonus, there are podcasts or audiobooks out there that adults will enjoy to. Some of these include:
- What If World – suitable for ages 7 to 12
- Fun Kids – suitable for under 10s
- Peace Out – suitable for ages 5 to 12
- The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel – Suitable for ages 8 to 12
- Story Time – Suitable for ages 2 to 12
Keep a family member on standby
If the children have a grandparent or family member that they enjoy speaking to, then why not get them on the phone and the children can tell them all about the journey so far. Make sure that you let the person know beforehand to make sure that they’re free.
Not only does this help to keep the excitement levels high, but it also means that the children feel like everyone is involved in their trip.
Bend the truth
If all else fails, then just keep repeating, “it’s just around the corner”. This might not work for the entire journey, but if you are only 30 miles away, then it’s a good tactic to adopt. Combine this with a few distracting questions and you’ll be there in no time.
So there we have it, our top tips for driving long distances with children. Remember, we’re not saying that every youngster is going to scream as soon as they get strapped in but remember, they’re not used to being confined to on seat for hours on end.
As long as the atmosphere stays amicable the drive will be over before you know it and the kids will soon get back to their normal behaviour. We hope that you’ve found this article helpful, but if you’ve got your own tactics for driving with children, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Make sure you let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages. We’re always updating our community with insights, advice and information on the self-drive vehicle rental industry, so make sure you go and find us.
If you’re planning your own long journey and would like to speak to us about a rental vehicle to suit your needs, then get in touch with a member of our team. They’re always here to help.