Have you ever been put off the thought of a weekend away because of the dreaded long car journey with kids?! We have recently re-ignited our passion for stay-cations. Our two love going on adventures to their “new holiday houses” and get so much out of the trips we are taking. We are just back from a fabulous few days in Cornwall and although the 4 hour trip there was plain sailing we were stuck on the way back making our return journey over 9 hours… all achieved with a 4 year old, a 2 year old and ZERO tears or tantrums!
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We have made the usual mistakes in the past which meant the very thought of long car journeys with the kids used to induce cold sweats … but now we have a few long car journey essentials and tips & tricks that make the travelling a part of the holiday.
Here are our top road trip tricks with kids …
Treat the journey as a part of the adventure:
Set a target at the beginning to spot green cars / tractors [good if going rural!] / aeroplanes [don’t do this if you are heading under a flight path – trust me!] – making the journey fun will cut the time down loads. When our kids are older we will add up number plates but for now we are spotting the latest phonics T has learnt at school on the road signs.
Old shower curtain or sheet across the footwells:
I don’t know about you but I hate the mess in the car that seems to come hand in hand with kids and long journeys so I am well armed when it comes to car hacks that reduce that mess! By using an old shower curtain not only does this catch all the crumbs and half rice cakes that are inevitably dropped but being waterproof it also stops drink spills soaking into the car mats. We didn’t have a handy old shower curtain so I just grabbed on for a couple of pounds from a local discount shop.
Inevitably even with the biggest breakfast ever inside them the requests for snacks will start – usually a race between Daddy and the kids to see who will snack first! So I keep healthy snacks at hand and plenty of them – we take a cool block in a mini cool bag like this one so we can keep fruit fresh as long as possible as well as the inevitable crisps and junk food – at least this way they will snack on healthy stuff first and I can keep the “junk” for later in the journey! Plus I am a sucker for owl prints and like that this folds flat when we’re done.
We have a foldable potty we were given when potty training T and it has been so useful it permanently lives in the car – nothing worse than needing to get them to a loo and being stuck in a crawl on the motorway. At least with this potty to hand you can pull off into a layby and get them sorted in seconds. Plus the tie handle bags with absorbent pads are fab to tie up and not leak until you find the nearest appropriate bin!
I’m also not kidding that I didn’t realise this folds flat to be a portable toilet seat too until we came to use it second time around with S!! So it’s even more useful than I thought!
I have seen loads of tutorials for how to make these yourself but when these car seat pillows are so economical I’ll be perfectly honest I found it both cheaper and easier to buy them! – Hint: these don’t fit in car seat harnesses well … but work for adults until kids are older – don’t judge I’m pregnant and car napping is one of the perks!
Some of my favourite childhood memories are the fun days at Gran and Grandad’s and a part of that was the “late night” journey home. We each had a special blanket that lived under the boot in the car and we would get into our pj’s and snuggle up under these to come home on winter evenings – couple that with the favourites mix tape [oh yes!] and we were in heaven! So grab a blanket for each child and make it seem really special to them to have.
Busy box / crafting tin:
Nope I have not lost my marbles! We have a crafting tin that comes with us – we find the magic pen colouring books so the pens only mark the books – not anything else they come into contact with really good. Perfect for a spot of creativity in the car with zero mess! Also I pick up sets of mosaic art like these which are great for fine motor skills and no mess play! Plus each journey you can pack a new theme in the box.
Car toy tidy:
I started off with shoe holders on the backs of the front seats but to be honest you can get so much in them they started to collect too much and the temptation to fill them meant the kids couldn’t reach the bottom pockets and this lead to more trouble than the dropped toys! I now love these – not only can we pop the tablets in but they are also wipe clean so welly mess is not wiped all over the seat backs and the kids can reach all pockets whilst still safely strapped in.
Tablets / DVD players:
I know some people frown on kids having electronics but the reality of a long flight meant we got over this and invested in tablets and they have been a godsend in the car too. Actually having done our research they weren’t as expensive as we thought and there’s an interest free monthly payment available too [still available at time of writing]. Plus we can centrally control what they see … and can use them for ourselves on our login when the battery has died on our ipad. The real benefit though is that these work on downloads so can be used off line so aren’t affected by bad signal and the tough covers have already paid dividends! We opted for tablets over DVD players so there are games and apps they can play and interact with as well as just watching films – we slipped in a few educational apps that have been a real hit as well as the obligatory Peppa Pig games too.
The way I see it is parenting is a compromise and as we generally spend so much time outdoors especially when away a little screen time in the car on the way there is better than whilst we are on holiday!
Buggy clips on car seats:
Seriously if you haven’t yet practically dislocated your shoulder trying to reach a toy that has fallen into the footwell and can’t be retrieved whilst your child is distraught you haven’t lived LOL! Honestly these are a life saver! If you get the ones with the velcro straps they easily attach to the straps
I love the plastic cereal box trick and the kids enjoy posting the rubbish through the slot – winner winner. If you aren’t a fan of the cereal hack these are a good alternative I have heard good things about – but I’m happy with my cereal caddy for now.
Stops: Plan them!
It’s inevitable you will need them so you may as well do them somewhere nice en route! We stopped in Weston-Super-Mare on the way to Cornwall and it was stunning – we were writing our names in the sand in glorious sunshine in October! Admittedly we lucked out with the weather but I had planned for rain too and good old Trip Advisor had pointed us in the direction of the best chippie in town with indoor seating – just in case.
These are our top tips and hacks for making long car journeys with preschoolers part of the fun – I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and anything to make life easier so let me know your favourite!
Love Ali x
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