Whether you’re going half way across the world or just a couple of hours down the motorway, the prospect of travelling with children can easily induce dread and cold sweats. For kids, boredom and restlessness can set in quickly as longer journeys can feel like a lifetime. So how do you make sure a family trip doesn’t end up in tantrums, tears, and stressed-out adults?
Travel company National Holidays recently asked a group of kids under 10 to describe their perfect coach, resulting in some fun and whacky designs that would certainly keep them entertained on any long journey. While creating an eight-year-old’s dream coach might be impractical in reality, we were still inspired to come with some simple and useful tips to make travelling with kids a more enjoyable and stress-free experience.
- One of the most important things you can do if you’ve not travelled with kids before, or if you find you’re always rushing around from place to place, is to just take things slowly. Young children don’t really lend themselves to strict scheduling, so don’t try and pack too much in to a holiday or day out. Everyone will be much happier if you have time to explore and take things as they come.
- Bring things to do! The prospect of sitting in the back of the car for an hour with nothing to do is basically a child’s worst nightmare. Without going overboard, bring plenty of activities and entertainment for them, such as car games, toys, or a portable DVD player. A tablet loaded up with kid-friendly apps is also excellent for keeping them occupied. Just don’t forget headphones.
- Similarly, it can be a good idea to have a few things on standby for younger kids when eating out. For many children, sitting at a table with nothing to do (eating notwithstanding) can be just as dull as sitting in the back of a car. A colouring book or a small toy cam be a simple way to keep them happy once their attention on the food starts to wane, which can also give you a chance to eat your own meal.
- Pack some hand sanitiser and portable baby wipes for day trips. They can be invaluable for wiping things down and de-germifying hands before eating when there’s no bathroom readily available. There’s no need to become paranoid about sanitising, however; just see it as a handy and quick alternative when it’s not possible to get soap and a sink.
- When going on holiday with younger children it’s best to book accommodation in advance, if only for the first couple of nights. There’s nothing worse than dragging tired toddlers around trying to find somewhere to stay. It’s also prudent to check hotels and guest houses online first to see if they cater for your needs, as well as if they offer any special family rates or deals.
- It can be good practice to engage your kids with the destination of your day trip or holiday before you go so they can feel more involved. You could explore some of the local history, maps, animals and plants online, or read books and watch films set there. This can also be a good way to pass the time on the journey, allowing the children to ask questions about the destination, as well as asking them what they know and think about it.
- Remember to take frequent breaks on long car journeys, stopping every couple of hours to let the children stretch their legs. Service stations can be absurdly expensive when it comes to snacks and refreshments however, so it’s worth packing your own provisions before setting off.
- While older children can usually occupy themselves on long car journeys, you could give them a responsibility such as navigating or marking off checkpoints on the map so they are more involved. You could also ask them to read the guidebook and work out what’s best to see once you get there. This can be especially good if you have younger kids too, who inevitably demand most of the attention.
- With very young children it can be a good tactic to make long journeys just after lunch, or even let them eat lunch in the car when you set off. This means they’re occupied for a while, as well as it being a fun treat for them. It also means they’ll nod off afterwards and give you a few hours of peaceful driving time to make some decent progress. Just be sure to wake them a little while before you arrive so they don’t have to be up and active immediately.
Do you have any other tips to share?