How to do it

How to survive family car journeys

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Are we nearly there yet mummy? A phrase which, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t often hear from my daughter on our car journeys.

Cartoon style cars go round on a kids ride - my tips on how to survive family car journeys

Not because she’s great at entertaining herself, but if we want to survive family car journeys, I know there’s no way I can concentrate on the road AND directions unless she’s occupied.

Which is how we’ve managed a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, trips with long car journeys in Cambodia and Oman, and more jaunts along the motorway in the UK than I can count.

Along the way we’ve negotiated unexpected brainteasers as I try to merge onto a multilane motorway (Not now! Not now!) and the discovery that just like her mother, she gets car sick if she tries to watch a film, read or draw, which rules out books or tablets.

But there are some things which work: from activities for a road trip with kids to my other tips for keeping kids entertained on a road trip, here’s how to survive family car journeys.

Have a soundtrack
A failsafe for toddlers with miniature attention spans – after almost losing my voice singing to her on one (relatively short) journey, I created her own Spotify playlist to guarantee we wouldn’t run out of tunes.

Our car in the mountains of Gran Canaria with views down to the sea - amazing though the scenery might be, a soundtrack will entertain younger kids more. My tips on how to survive family car journeys

Tunes beat views for toddlers

Now she’s older, she has very firm opinions on what she’d like to listen to and I don’t see that changing once she’s a teen either! So I’ve created a variety of playlists with songs that everyone can tolerate and download them to my phone, before playing them through the car stereo. In-car technology is getting ever better, but cables to connect are almost cheaper than chips.

Top tip: A special playlist is a great way to remind you of the holiday – quite a bit of Beach Boys featured for our California drive. I also discovered you need far more songs on the playlist than you think, in order not to be fed up by day 3.

Pack snacks
You can never have too many snacks! Ideally something which won’t melt, doesn’t need your help to open, isn’t too sticky and isn’t so sugary they get completely hyper.

You can also never have too many wipes… Snack cups which don’t spill are useful with toddlers, as is a more relaxed attitude to crumbs.

Listen to a story
This is my secret weapon – we started with Julia Donaldson stories before moving onto longer books, including Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, The Worst Witch and now Harry Potter.

These can quite literally keep her entertained for hours, and I’ve loved hearing stories from my own childhood again this way too. I download from Audible to my phone before we set off.

Car driving towards a field along a track - make sure you know your route before setting off: my tips on how to survive family car journeys

Know your route!

Plan ahead
The secret if you want to survive family car journeys is to make life as easy as possible – which means getting organised.

Check your car over and make sure you’ve got petrol, windscreen washer fluid and so on – then scope out your route in advance. I’m a big fan of Google Maps and Waze, but any Satnav which factors in traffic works. Who wants to make the journey longer because you’re stuck in a jam?

And while no-one wants to consider breaking down or being in an accident, make sure you’re covered just in case. Some car insurance such as Aviva’s policies, includes vehicle recovery.

They have also partnered with the RAC to offer add-ons including breakdown cover, and onward transport, to get you and up to seven passengers to your destination.

Play a game
Revisit all those car game from your own childhood, and find the ones you all enjoy – we’ve never managed a game of I Spy without frustration all round, so that particular classic is off our list.

But 20 questions is a great option – currently we play unlimited questions, as my daughter gets very very inventive. You need all the help you can get to guess things like ‘gravity’…

Another favourite is the memory game, ‘I went to the shops and I bought…’, with each person working through the alphabet. Sneakily educational for pre-schoolers and the first years of primary school too.

Time it right
The days where she’d fall asleep as soon as the engine started are long gone – but if you can plan your drive around naps, do! I still time return journeys for her bedtime so she dozes off along the way.

Dress kids in pyjamas or something comfy like leggings, plus a blanket and fluffy animal to snuggle. Then I just need to scoop her up to put into bed at home.

My daughter behind the wheel of a car - timing travel to help kids sleep or stopping to avoid boredom are two of my tips on how to survive family car journeys. Putting here in charge, is not!

Have a stopping strategy
Official advice is to stop every two hours – although anyone travelling with a potty-trained toddler or pre-schooler might be lucky to get that far between toilet breaks. My daughter can now last up to three by which time we both need a change of scene.

Tempting though it is to get to the destination as fast as you can, for long journeys, pick a good stopping place and make it part of the trip. In the UK, National Trust properties are great to explore – and for lunch in the café – rather than a pitstop at service stations.

Whatever you choose, knowing stopping points along the route helps break the trip into shorter chunks.


How to survive car journeys with kids - activities for a road trip with kids to my other tips for keeping kids entertained on a road trip, here's how to avoid calls of 'Are we there yet?' #roadtrip #familyroadtrip #cargames #familytraveltips #mummytravels

Disclosure: compiled in association with Aviva*

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