Are We There Yet? Long Journeys with Children

We share tips for making long trips with your child easier.

With as many as thirteen weeks of school holiday in an academic year, you're likely to take a few long journeys with one or more children in tow. Even day trips on a weekend can be difficult with bored children in the back, so whether the trip is a necessity or a holiday adventure, preparing ahead of time will help save you from headaches on the road.

Helping Children Get Used to Longer Trips

Very young children, or those who don't go on long journeys very often, can find it unsettling to sit still for so long. Some may not like the motion of travelling. Practice with shorter or medium-length journeys before embarking on a cross-country trek. Create a pre-journey routine, such as packing an activity bag with your child, so they know what to expect.

Plan Your Rest Stops

If you don't need a rest break yourself, it can be easy to keep on driving. Children usually only tell you they need to go when the need is imminent, so it's best to stop even before they've asked you to. Check your route and decide ahead of time which service stations you'll stop at, so you don't forget. 

Keep an eye on how much liquid you're offering your child. You want to keep them hydrated, but avoid large bottles of sugary drink, since an enjoyable flavour and boredom can lead to them drinking far more than they actually need.

Pack Snacks

Long trips can span mealtimes, and a hungry child can soon become a 'hangry' child! Plan ahead with healthy finger snacks that won't leave too much of a mess if spilt (avoid yoghurt or anything with too much sauce). For younger children, consider giving them something during your rest break so they're kept 'topped up' for the duration of your journey.

Tupperware of chopped-up fruit (fresh or dried), raw vegetables, cheese, meats and granola bars are a great place to start for older children. Keep snacks in separate containers and give one to your child at a time, so you can spread the snacking throughout the journey.

Create a Travel Entertainment Bag 

Before your trip, get your child to help you pack a bag full of in-car entertainment. Depending on their age, this can include toys, games, books, electronics and more. You can throw in a couple of surprise activities for them to discover during the journey, like a new book, magazine, or some printed colouring pages.

Play Talking Games

Talk games are classic travelling time-killers that keep both adults and children engaged. Younger children often enjoy games like 'I Spy' and 'car bingo' (spotting a pre-specified list of objects during the journey). Older children might like to play word association or alphabetical games, for example 'I went to the shops and I bought...' naming items in alphabetical order, or choosing a theme and naming films, fictional characters or song names. For families who enjoy a singalong, try coming up with random words and then being the first person to sing a song with that word in the lyrics. Similarly, you could...

Create a Playlist

The shower and the car are the two most popular places to channel your inner popstar. Create a Spotify playlist with your child's help, or choose some CDs to bring with you. It could be fun seeing how many nursery rhymes you remember the words to - carpool karaoke isn't just for celebrities! If your children are DJ-ing en route, implement a turn-taking rule at the beginning, so everyone gets to choose a song before going back to the beginning.

Sanitation Supplies

You don't need your whole kitchen cabinet but some tissues, wet wipes, antibacterial hand gel and a bag to put rubbish in can be lifesavers for long journeys. If your child can sometimes feel poorly when travelling, it's also a good idea to keep an ice cream tub (or something similar that has a lid) in the car, just in case!

Prepare for Naptime

For everyone except the driver, car trips are a great time to sleep. Younger children in car seats may be comfy enough to drift off on their own, but regular seats alone aren't all that comfortable. If you're going to be travelling back late at night, bring a blanket, neck pillow and a sleep mask, if your child is sensitive to light.

We hope these tips are helpful for you. With preparation, car trips with children can be enjoyable experiences for the whole family.

Safe travels!