Long car rides with kids: 4 mums share their top tips

With the summer holidays quickly approaching, children up and down the country will be counting down the days until they can enjoy the summer sunshine.

Maybe you’re off on an action-packed family holiday, or you have some exciting daytrips planned? Whether you’re going abroad or staying in the UK, you’ll be facing the prospect of entertaining the little ones on the way.

Let’s be honest – travelling with children isn’t always easy. Whilst you know that it’ll all be worth it once you get there, hearing those fearful four words “are we there yet?” half an hour into the journey doesn’t bode well for the rest of the trip.

With this in mind, we invited four of the UK’s favourite mum bloggers to share their experiences and top tips on how to survive those long car journeys when travelling with kids.

Meet the experts…

Name: Jade Lloyd
Website: https://theparentingjungle.com/
Children: one little boy
What she writes about: Jade is a family and lifestyle blogger, cake-eater and mummy to a cape-wearing, jam-addicted five and ‘a quarter’ year old. She discusses tips and offers support to dispel the lingering grey feeling that parents are not ‘good enough’.

Any words of advice for the parents out there that might be planning a long car journey?

“Long trips with kids are daunting but survivable! You just need to plan. I read that car journeys can take a third more time when travelling with small people, so add some extra time onto your journey for safety and sanity! Don’t rush it… you don’t want to leave your house without having drunk your coffee, with your child wearing one shoe, forgetting their favourite toy and leaving your hair straighteners on (I have done all of those).”

Long trips with kids are daunting but survivable! Click To Tweet


What’s the essential item that you wouldn’t leave home without?

“It’s hard to pick just one, but I think it has to be wet wipes. I never leave the house without them.”

What are your top tips for travelling with children?

1.       Take the role of in-car entertainer

“Take the role of in-car entertainer – let’s face it, somebody has got to do it. Variety is key here so make sure you come up with a plan A, B and C etc. to avoid hearing “I’m bored” every five minutes.

“We have a few different car games. A firm favourite is ‘I spy’ with letters or, with younger children, sounds…so “moo” if you see a cow. We make sure we have Disney sing-along CDs for “car-e-oke” (just make sure you’re prepared to hear The Lion King on repeat). Another game we play is ‘spot the yellow car’. Once you see ten, you get a sweet as a reward. If you are really dedicated, you could play driving bingo; the night before, write or draw things that you are likely to see on the journey on a piece of paper that children can look out for, i.e. sheep, traffic lights etc.”

2.       Snacks… take enough to feed an army

“Take LOTS of snacks – enough to feed an army. Chocolate is a big no-no if you like to keep your seat covers beige. Plain foods like crackers are good for those that do not travel well. I always do cheese sandwiches as it seems to help with my little boy’s sickness. I pick crisps that are not too salty and pack things like slices of apple or cucumber, which are nice and refreshing.

“If you have an older child, mints to suck are a good option, but I would not give them to my five-year-old, or younger. We travel with water or squash; nothing fizzy or milky that will upset tummies, or have your children bouncing off the roof.

“Spillages are likely to occur, so have a couple of plastic bags for rubbish, tissue and LOTS of wet wipes (that’s why I don’t leave the house without them).”

3.       Be flexible when planning your breaks

“Stopping for breaks is essential. We try to stop after an hour to stretch our legs and take a toilet break. But, if everything is going smoothly we will try and get to an hour and a half, as sometimes returning to the car can be a battle in itself.

“If you have a child prone to motion sickness, ensure they have breakfast and time to settle before travelling (a plain piece of toast is always a good option). We keep the car cool and make sure he is wearing his elasticated travel band. I’d always advise that you should talk to your GP if your little ones suffer really badly from sickness.”

Have you had any car journeys that haven’t quite gone to plan?

“None of my car journeys go as planned! I have left a teddy on the roof and had a friend’s child take off her seatbelt and tell me she was going for a walk, whilst trying to open the door on the motorway.

“Once my son started screaming “mummy”, so I pulled into a layby as fast as I could (terrified thinking he was ill or hurt) he grinned held up his two pointy fingers and calmly said “which one is longest?”



Name: Pamela Miller
Website: https://www.lifewithmunchers.com
Children: two little ladies
What she writes about: Pamela discusses family life with her husband and two little ladies, sharing their adventures through home renovation, life and all the little joyful things in-between.

Any words of advice for the parents out there that might be planning a long car journey?

“Plan ahead! Write a list…failing to prepare, is preparing to fail. If it does…just roll with it! Each trip you go on, you’ll learn what and what not to do (so pay attention for next time).

“Make the day an adventure for your little ones. With a bit of planning you can make the journey as fun as the holiday itself.”

Plan ahead! Write a list...failing to prepare, is preparing to fail! Click To Tweet


What’s the essential item that you wouldn’t leave home without?

“Tissues! Someone will always sneeze and, believe it or not, paper receipts aren’t a great substitute. This isn’t my advice just for car journeys, but for anywhere you go. Tissues… put them on your shopping list.”

What are your top tips for travelling with children?

1.       Stretch your legs

“When travelling with babies especially, try to leave enough time to stop on the way for feeding time. So try to work your plan around their eating and sleeping timings. Trying to manoeuvre yourself whilst in the car can be extremely stressful, so avoid the hassle. Plan in breaks to feed the children, feed yourself and stretch your legs.”

2.       Layer up

“Remember to dress the kids in layers and remove their jackets before strapping them in to the car, to keep them comfortable throughout the journey. You never know what the weather will be like as you’re travelling, so taking layers means that you can make sure they aren’t too hot or cold.”

3.      Don’t underestimate technology

“It’s probably best to keep this as a back-up for when the excitement of the songs, games and snacks has worn off.

“Technology these days mean you don’t have to listen to endless nursery rhymes or Frozen songs if you don’t want to! Pack headphones for the older kids and a tablet – it will save your sanity.”

Have you had any car journeys that haven’t quite gone to plan?

“I always remember having a car with no air-con on the hottest day of the year. We had to strip the baby down to her nappy and sit holding a little hand fan over her because open windows on a motorway isn’t a good idea!”



Name: Helena Foote
Website: https://babyfoote.com/
Children: two little boys
What she writes about: Helena is a 30-something mother of a little boy who’s nearly four and his 18-month-old baby brother. She blogs about family life and family trips to visit new places.

Any words of advice for the parents out there that might be planning a long car journey?

“Don’t let having a baby put you off travelling and flying. Babies are portable and want to be with their families, wherever in the world you are going to! It’s not as daunting as it seems, if you prepare beforehand!”

Don’t let having a baby put you off travelling and flying. Babies are portable! Click To Tweet


What’s the essential item that you wouldn’t leave home without?

“I’m going to say breakdown cover! For peace of mind when you’re driving long distances with kids, you need to know it’s going to be ok if you break down. So, make sure you get good breakdown cover (with recovery pick up and the extra parts replacement if driving in Europe too).”

What are your top tips for travelling with children?

1.       Take regular breaks

“I plan in regular breaks, no matter how long the journey. We recently drove to France, which I was apprehensive of, but some of the French service stations are fab for kids (there are some really great playgrounds you might even enjoy too). It’s important to have a change of scenery – no matter how brief!”

2.       Keep the travelling troops amused

“Entertainment for our most recent trip included a sticker book, colouring book, and, occasionally an episode of Maisie from Amazon Prime on the iPad. We also downloaded some child-friendly apps like Toca Doctor and Sago Road Trip.

“We did have one crying episode when our oldest became extremely upset that we couldn’t go home because he’d forgotten to pack a ball in his toy bag. It turns out James associates his Uncle Mike with playing ball, so to have suddenly realised they couldn’t play with this together was devastating. Uncle Mike and Aunty Verity came on holiday with us, so we managed to calm him down.”

3.       You’re on holiday. Be flexible and just go with it

“As soon as you set off you’re technically on holiday, so try and enjoy it. On our last holiday, the boys napped much more than they usually do, and I realised that a major mind shift was needed from me, to relax about their routines and getting them in bed on time! They were excited to be on holiday too… so I figured that we could just sort that out during our week away.

“Overall, we managed well! Sadly, it was raining whilst we were there, so I needed some tips myself… on how to enjoy holidays in the rain, anyone?!”

Car journeys that haven’t quite gone to plan…

“A car journey that is particularly memorable is the one when I took my cats to the cattery. My friend was giving us a lift to the airport and the cattery was right next door. Their daughter wanted to come along for the ride because she wanted to see the kitties, but I’ll bet she regrets that decision!

“My cat, Rosie, has always been a bad traveller, and the vet prescribes Xanax. This time we didn’t give her any as it is just a 20 minute journey. So, we set off with her and my other cat in their boxes. Soon Rosie started crying and drooling because she was so stressed. I got her out of her box to give her a cuddle to hopefully calm her down. Alas, it didn’t help all that much because she puked (salmony cat food puke) all over my hoody and jeans. We dropped her off at the cattery and went to the airport where I prepared for my flight by standing in the toilets, trying to wash cat food sick off my clothes. Unfortunately, those were the only trousers I had with me, so I had to get them laundered as soon as we arrived in the hotel in Amsterdam!”



Name: Anne
Website: https://www.raisiebay.com/
Children: five lovely children
What she writes about: Anne is a busy mum of five children, one of whom has hypermobility syndrome. Anne writes about the triumphs and tests of family life, being an older mum and life, working together as a family.

Any words of advice for the parents out there that might be planning a long car journey?

“It’s always busy in my house. With five children (and two under ten) it can be an adventure just getting out the house. That’s just it, treat it as an adventure and your children will too.”

Treat it as an adventure and your children will too! Click To Tweet


What’s the essential item that you wouldn’t leave home without?

“Well of course I could say things like drinks and snacks. But, in reality I’d have to say a sense of humour. A lot can be said for laughing!”

What are your top tips for travelling with children?

1.            Make a day of it

“As well as the toilet stops, we always try to fit in somewhere nice to visit, where we can have a picnic or lunch, to help break the journey up. Look at the map and see where you could stop off along the way. Get your children involved in picking somewhere too, that way they’ll look forward to the day ahead.”

2.            Let the kids choose

“Rather than taking multiple items for each of your children, you could try and take things that they can play together. If they’re entertaining themselves, it gives you a break!

“Whether it’s music, toys, games or food… let them get involved in what pack for your trip. You could give them a mix of things to choose from before you set off, and spread these out throughout the day – as rewards for when they are good.”

3.            Only take non-sugary treats

“Yes, its holiday time and you’ll be tempted to pack some sugary treats, but don’t do it. Yes, you should make sure you have snacks and drinks available, but not ones that will result in an upset tummy. Try fruit or vegetable sticks – that always works for us!”

Car journeys that haven’t quite gone to plan…

“We were once stuck in a traffic jam and the cars were not moving at all. The kids were getting anxious and bored despite having lots to do. I could see in the rear view mirror that the family in car behind us had children too and they looked as fed up as us. So my partner opened the emergency packet of sweets and offered us all one, as well as the family in the car next to us. We were throwing sweets and snacks to each other through the window, which our children thought was hilarious (as well as the people in the car behind us). Everyone was talking, laughing and enjoying a treat whilst we had to wait (only one – as I said before sugar and car journeys don’t often work well). That’s when a good sense of humour comes in handy. It made us all laugh for a while, anyway!”

Have you got any brilliant tips of your own? We’d love to hear them – just leave a comment below!

And if you’re looking for a new family car, check out our Best Cars for Mums 2017 post.

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