Last school holidays I decided to turn my back on endless days of soft play, trips to the park and marathon DVD watching sessions and go on an adventure with my kids. We packed up the car and headed off on a mini road trip, driving hundreds of miles to visit friends in Oxford, Windsor and Hampton. I am sure less planning went into Tim Peake’s trip to the moon but somehow I managed to get everything packed and ready for the off. I was surprised how many people were shocked that I was making the journey alone with the kids (hubby was working) – “It’s such a long way”, “will you be ok?”, “how will you cope?” were all questions I faced at the school gate. Far from an heroic feat, the trip seemed like a great way to share the burden of entertaining the kids during the holidays and,, with two of the five days spent entirely in the car, I was sure the week would fly be.
So if you are planning a similar road trip with little ones this Easter here’s what I learned:
When a child needs to wee, they need to wee – with a five hour drive ahead of us three year old Henry decided he needed his first wee stop after just half an hour! Yes, it was frustrating but I swallowed the urge to shout and pulled into the next service station (I wasn’t sure on the rules of letting your little one relieve themselves on the hard shoulder). It doesn’t matter how much you ration the drinks, make them go before you leave or tell them to cross their legs, when a little one needs a wee, the need it NOW!
Electronic devices are a must – I have a friend who has refused to let her children have portable DVD players or tablets in the car, insisting they learn the art of entertaining themselves or playing travel games. I am all for a game of I Spy (see below) but time goes so much quicker if the kids are watching or playing on their devices and you can replace the ‘101 Favourite Nursery Rhymes’ CD with something you want to listen to! Of course batteries run out and technology goes wrong but for the chance to give everyone an hour or two of peace and quiet, it’s worth the risk.
I Spy has its limitations – we all love a game of I Spy in our house, especially Henry who is just learning his letters,but once you’ve been on a motorway for 15 minutes you quickly run out of things to spy. We then changed to ‘I spy something coloured with…’ but with miles of grey road, grey sky and grey cars to look at we all soon got bored.
Sweets for the journey are a must – one of the main things I remember from my childhood is being allowed to eat sweets before 9am if we were on a long car journey. My children love this tradition and were delighted that their cries of “sweets for the journey” were met with a positive response before we’d got to the end of the road.
Service stations are an adventure in themselves – when I ask my two what they liked most about our trip they both mentioned stopping for lunch at the services! They’re no strangers to eating out but if you’re under seven there’s something really exciting about the hustle and bustle of a service station. Mine loved looking in all the shops, picking what food to eat and even rating their experience of the toilets! They may be pretty soulless places to us (who wouldn’t prefer stretching their legs at a lovely country pub?) but if you can factor in a stop at the services it will definitely put a smile on their faces.
Kids don’t sleep when you want them to – on a 600 mile round trip, punctuated by not a lot of sleep in various strange beds, I got just ten minutes kip in the car out of my two. Henry decided to close his eyes and drift off just as we were pulling into our first destination and was quickly roused with those magic words “we’re here”. For the rest of the ten hour car journey they stayed wide awake – mostly happy and content but still in need of entertainment and the odd bit of refereeing. How the time would have flown if only they’d kipped!
You can multi-task whilst driving – obviously I was concentrating and in control of my car at all times but as any harassed parent will tell you it is perfectly possible to do more than one thing at once whilst driving – whether it’s referring a squabble, opening a packet of crisps or handing a book to the back seat. You can accomplish a lot over 600 miles. And when you’re stuck in a traffic jam you can get even more done!!
They really do say ~Are we nearly there yet” – pretty much from the minute we set off I was bombarded with dreaded question at short intervals. And whatever answer I gave they simply weren’t satisfied. Neither of mine have any concept of time or distance so it was difficult to explain how long it would take to get to our first stop. I ended up breaking it down into episodes of Paw Patrol and Horrid Henry, with two Paw Patrols making one Horrid Henry and four Horrid Henrys to the hour – this seemed to satisfy them and I feel I have invented a new universal measure of time we should all adopt.
So if you are heading off this Easter I wish you luck – please let me know how your road trips go and please share your top tips for survival!