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How to Survive a Road Trip with Young Children

Hands up if you love a road trip!

Friends sometimes tell me we are mad to attempt driving for hours and hours as a family. With four children, you could think it would be an easier option to stay at home during holidays, but I always find that after a couple of days at home, we all get cabin-fever, start bickering and our house looks more like a bomb site than a family home.

Since both sides of our family are far from London, we have always travelled a fair bit to see them and we go to France or Devon for most of our time off work. Last summer, we attempted our first big road trip with four young children. The first leg, to my mum’s in the North-East France, took 12 hours, and going from there to Perpignan in the South of France took us another 14 hours (traffic was horrendous).

This half term, we are off on another road trip to the Scottish Highlands whilst our builders are at home every day to move on with our loft conversion (fingers crossed!).

Here are my 20 Tips & What to Pack for a Road Trip with Kids:

  • Plan Outfits

My first tip would be to pack their clothes with them, or at least show them what you have chosen for them to arouse their interest. Whenever we travel, I get new pyjamas and toothbrushes for all of them. They love that little tradition.

With four children, it would be easy to forget something, so within their shared suitcase, the children have their own eBag Packing Cube. The medium ones, which I got from Amazon, are perfect to fit all clothes for each child. In their bags, they have five outfits, including underwear, socks, a jumper and a spare pair of pyjamas. One of these outfits is suitable for running around outdoors and one is smart enough for an evening in a nice restaurant. Each outfit is rolled together. That way, clothes take less space, stay crease-free, are nicely colour-coordinated and you know for sure you have not forgotten anything. It will make your life much easier when you are away.

  • Pyjamas

Always pack pyjamas in the front pocket of the suitcase. That way, they can easily be found as soon as you get to your destination so the children (and you) can get comfortable and ready for bed quickly.

  • Travel Bags

Let the children pack their own travel bag the night before the journey. It will get them excited about the trip and that way, they cannot blame you for forgetting their favourite toy. My little ones all have small backpacks that are the same size. They can choose what they bring but everything they want to take must fit in the bag. When they have finished packing, I always ask them to show me what they have chosen, and I make sure they have at least a book, teddy and travel game each.

  • What not to Pack for the Journey

A few things are not allowed: sharp objects (scissors from the pencil case, compass…), balls that could be thrown at the driver or tiny Lego pieces that could (would) be lost.

  • 10 Minutes Before Leaving

Let the children run around, have something to eat and go to the toilet.

  • Water Bottles

Have a sports cap water bottle for each of them, plus a couple of extra ones. They are bound to drink all of it, drop their bottle under a seat, get sick…

  • Comfortable Kids

Make sure they have everything they need to be comfortable: a comfy outfit, a warm blanket each, a teddy they can use as a pillow.

  • Breaks

Hubby can drive for hours and hours without stopping but when we manage to convince him to stop; we all enjoy a good stretch, trip to the loo, coffee, etc.

  • Footwear

To make stops on the way as smooth as possible, shoes for travelling should be practical, comfortable and easy to put on and take off. Our little ones always wear their wellies with fleece insoles or Crocs for long car journeys. They take them off in front of their seat as soon as they get in the car, so they can easily be found when we stop.

  • Just in Case

Keep a spare change of clothes, nappies, extra wipes and coats within easy reach, just in case. Emergency blankets take no space at all. We always have a few in the car.

  • Enjoy the Car Journey

It is important to encourage them to make the most of the road trip itself rather than letting them have DVDs, games or snacks straight away. It is nice to enjoy simple things like the scenery, point at sheep or horses, play games (be the first one to spot a car with a registration ending with ‘N’ or play ‘I spy’) all together.

  • Music

We are really lucky that our children love rock music (thank goodness). Some Status Quo always seems to get everyone happy, wriggling and singing (parents included). We also always keep an instrumental version of the Frozen soundtrack for emergencies (by that, read ‘screaming children’). Once you start putting on kids’ music, there is no turning back, so we really only keep it for desperate times.

  • Entertainment

Pack some entertainment that will make the journey more bearable when things get tough. In our car, that can come out anytime between ten minutes of setting off to a couple of hours. My iPad (with in-car charger) is always in my handbag. When needed, we rotate it between the children (5 or 10 minutes each).

  • Films

For long car journeys, we also have a couple of DVD players and the children all pack 5 DVDs each. I never give them to the children straight away.

  • Wipes

Have plenty of wipes within reach of everyone. We have at least a pack on each row of seats, to mop up water spillages, clean hands covered in chocolate or potential sickness.

  • Snacks

Have lots of snacks at hand. Although the children always eat a big bowl of porridge before we leave, they invariable get “starving” (their word, not mine) about 3 minutes after setting off. We always pack plenty of fruit, sandwiches, crisps, biscuits and individual packets of sweets.

  • Happy Parents = Happy Children

Think about yourself, too! Hubby likes a travel mug full of strong tea. I love a takeaway latte, book and blanket. I also pack breakfast biscuits because I never take the time to sit down and have breakfast before a long journey. My favourites are belVita biscuits or chocolate digestives. If we are going somewhere new, I also like to read about the place we are going to on the way there (never before! It is my little treat).

  • Sat Nav

How did we ever survive long car journeys before Sat Nav? Arguments over the best way to go, hours of driving the wrong way because of poor map-reading skills, having to faff with maps…

  • Agree Who Is Driving

That could save arguments.

  • Enjoy Your Trip!

If two whole days of your holidays are spent travelling, then the journey itself is definitely part of the whole experience. Embrace it, make it fun, try not to get grumpy and remember you are on holiday!

How to Survive a Road Trip with Young Children - Tips & What to Pack for a Road Trip with Kids


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions and photos are my own.

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