How to keep your kids engaged during long car journeys
My family are keen travellers. From a very early age, our kids were out exploring the world with us. Over the last few years though with the pandemic, a lot of our exploration has been UK based. And as a mum of three, one of our biggest challenges travelling around the UK has been how to keep the kids engaged in long car journeys. My children are now 9, 7 and 5 and so far in their lifetimes we’ve had quite a few long drives all around the UK. We’ve visited our favourite holiday spots in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall as well as travelled many times up to family both near Bath and in Manchester. So long car journeys are a staple part of our lives.
Having said that, it’s taken me a few years to learn some tricks that have kept us all sane. I’d love to share my tips with you, in the hope that it gives you some much needed confidence to get back in the car and exploring the beautiful UK with your family in tow!
1. Time food at the halfway point of the drive
I’ve learnt this tip the hard way when I haven’t planned a food break in the middle of the journey. Too long before a food break and I'm losing the will to live before we eat. Too long after, and I’m forced to hear the ‘are we nearly there yet’ for the millionth time.. I’ve found that the optimal way for us to travel is to plan an hour break in the middle (especially for those 4-5 hour journeys) where we can fill our tummies, refuel and get excited about the remainder of the trip. Sometimes this is as simple as a petrol station. And other times, like on our recent trip up to Manchester, we’ll head into a village or town off the motorway where we’ve already pre-booked a restaurant. The planning is key, as you want to know there’s a petrol station around half way, or there’s a town en route where you can ensure there’s a table waiting for you when you rock up. That little bit of planning has saved our bacon (excuse the pun) many times!
2. Download movies before you travel
Probably a super obvious one, but we’ve left the house without movies downloaded on our ipad. After months in lockdown, we’d all be forgiven for thinking wifi exists everywhere! We only let the kids watch one movie on the journey, as we find any more than that and their general behaviour in the car dramatically goes down. And we don’t let them start the movie until around 1 hour into the journey. That tends to mean we have to break the movie up between our food break and it gives them a strong incentive to get back into the car and conclude the long drive!
3. Pack lots of snacks
It’s a mystery why stationary kids are always starving.. But as soon as we get into the car, the demands for snacks start. We’ll always have a bag of snacks and drinks for the journey, despite the fact we always stop off to get food. We can often use snacks as a little time killer.. “You’ll get the snack when we get on the next motorway” etc. Works a charm at getting them to stop asking for at least a few minutes!
4. Bring blankets & pillows
Long car journeys always tend to involve a little snooze at some point. We’ve got special pillows for the car to help support little heads as they start drooping down. Especially if your kids are in booster seats, these become super important to help them nod off for that all important power nap.
5. Play family games
We always sneak a game of “which superhero is the most powerful” or “how many red cars can you spot” depending on the mood. It’s a great way to pass some time as a family, engaging together in a topic. And it keeps the kids off their screens for a period of time. What creative family games can you conjure up for your next car journey together?!
I really hope these tips have given you some nuggets of advice that you can use when you travel next with your kids. Car journeys for a long while were a reason for us not to explore the UK together. But now we’ve got more of a routine around it, there’s a world of possibilities that have opened up to us. Good luck with car journeys and enjoy that well earned glass of wine at the end!