Some children cope better with long car drives, some cannot stand them good. We are pretty lucky and since Lu is out of his baby car seat, he is doing fine. We drove often for longer distances since he was born so he is also used to it. Despite all of that, we still hear the “are we there yet?” question many times. It´s important to understand that long drives are a a bit of a challenge for our little ones and that´s why we try to make them as comfortable as we can. So, how do we do it? Here are some directions, ideas and tips:
I believe it helps if your children are aware that you will be driving away a few days before you actually leave. LET THEM KNOW IT WILL BE A LONG DRIVE and explain what awaits them once you reach your destination. In our case the really long drives are usually visits to grandparents so Lu already knows it is far away (around 1000 km in one direction) and we will be driving through lots of tunnels, which he´s always excited about. LET THEM PACK THEIR OWN THINGS and make them feel involved! If they are already bigger, GIVE THEM A ROAD MAP to watch while you drive.
WHAT TO PACK?
Besides all the things you will need for your holiday, you probably have to pack extra items for the car drive. We take a small pillow and a blanket for Lu, one plush animal, a few of his favourite cars and books, food and snacks and his toy camera (that keeps him busy for a while). Another great idea is to pack a “surprise bag” in which you put some nice toys, maybe you even buy something new, a colouring book or something like that – the important thing is not to tell about it to your kids. It will make a great surprise and might take another half an hour of fun play
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Fill up the tank a day before, so that you don´t have to make a stop directly after you leave the house. Double check if you packed everything so that you don´t have to drive back at one point. Prepare food, water, coffee and all the other things your child will need at the back of the car. Don´t forget small money for the toilets on the way. Make sure every body went to the toilet before you leave home!
WHEN TO GO?
We used to drive in the night, so that Lu could sleep it through and we would switch at driving a couple of times, so that we also got some sleep. The down side of night drives is that parents can be very tired the next day, but have to jump after a very happy energised kid, who got lots of sleep. As Lu is bigger now, he doesn´t mind longer drives in the day, so we stopped driving in the night. If you want less traffic, drive on a Sunday, at least in EU the big trucks are not allowed to drive on the weekends. Think of rush hours and calculate when you have to leave home in order to avoid them. If you are driving shorter distances every day, use the time of the day when your child is most likely to fall asleep. Make sure that you reach your destination before dark if you want your kids to fall asleep in the bed and not in the car.
I have no intentions of making my son even more energetic than he already is, when he is supposed to sit in the car for hours! So, no sugar! We usually promise him that he will get an ice cream once we are there or a chocolate or what ever his favourite sweet thing is at the moment. So, he knows something good awaits him at the end.
FOOD & SNACKS
So, if no sweet stuff, what then? I usually make small ham&cheese sandwiches and pack an extra box of chopped vegetables (cucumber, pepper, cherry tomatoes and carrots). Anything they can eat alone there at the back of the car without getting themselves completely dirty will do. Chopped apple is also a good idea. And some salty snacks or peanuts or just plain bread for emergencies 😉 Sometimes we stop for a quick bite along the way and eat a soup, to get something warm in our stomachs.
TABLETS YES OR NO?
I say NO! It´s not like Lu never watches TV at home and he is also familiar with the tablet, especially on rainy days, but I would never give it to him in a car. I can´t imagine he would watch cartoons for 10 hrs (he probably wouldn´t have done it so long anyway, but still). Besides, I think once he gets it in the car, you are doomed. He will probably expect to get it always, also then when it would not have been even “necessary”. We also don´t take it when we go travelling and he is fine with that.
GAMES TO PLAY
Ok so no ipads. What then? There are many things you can do. Lu is usually okay with just driving and watching out of the window for the first hour. Then he gets some food which keeps him busy for a while (he likes to eat). Then he goes through his books. Then we observe the other cars and trucks and learn the brands. We count bridges, tunnels, Christmas trees, cows or whatever there is to count. If we are lucky, he falls asleep for an hour. Sometimes we sing and “dance” or at least we try 😉 We describe a person and he has to figure out who that could be. We make funny noises and he has to repeat them. We talk about where we are driving to and what we will all do there. In about 2-3 hours the landscape usually changes quite a lot, so we can again start to count something new or watch some other animals.
1 PARENT + KIDS
Definitely more difficult as when there are two grown ups in the car, but also doable with some extra patience. The key to success is to be as relaxed as possible. Explain to your children that you will have to be really concentrated on driving so you can´t pick up whatever might fall on the floor or hold their hands or something like that. Sometimes it helps if you say the police could stop you and if they see everything is not like it should be, they could give you a ticket. That totally works for us at the moment.
Be prepared that unexpected things can happen. You could get stuck in traffic for hours, so calculate that in your drive plan. Your kids can get carsick – we drove a lot with Lu since he was born, so we already know he doesn´t have those problems. If you drive alone and they drop a toy to the floor, make sure they understands you cannot pick it up. The weather can get really bad, especially if you drive in the winter, so maybe check the weather conditions before driving off. At longer drives, take as many stops as you need and never drive when you are really tired. Your kids can get into bad mood because they get bored – try to use the stops wisely and let them run around for a while to stretch their legs. Many times there will be also a children´s playground which you can use.
OUR ROAD TRIPS WITH LU SO FAR:
– 1500 km through Oman
– 2000 km through Morocco
– 500 km through West Sicily
– countless kilometres through Germany
– more than 10 times 1000 km to Slovenia and back to Germany
– 2000 km just mom + Lu (to SLovenia and back)
– over 4000 km in Croatia
– 500 km in Bosnia and Herzegovina
– 800 km through Lappland, Finland
– 1500 km through Portugal