If you want to wave goodbye to meltdowns and adios to repetitive questions that drive you round the bend, follow our prepping plan to enjoy the journey.
So you have a big long car ride coming up and as the days count down to departure day you are starting to worry that you’ve made a mistake, the whole thing will be torture, the kids’ relationships with each other and you will be tested to the limits and that’s all before you even get to where your going.
In situations like this, a little planning can go a long way so instead of spiralling, take a breath and imagine the fun adventure you could have, a trip that brings you all closer together and adds a few more files in those memory banks. Intention is key!
Plan your trip
How long will you be in the car? Allow for the best and worst-case scenarios, then work out where you going to stop for toilet breaks and essential leg stretching. The advice is to stop at least every 2 hours, so check on the map for suitable pit stops or places of interest that don’t extend the trip too much!
If your least favourite phase is along the lines of ‘Are we there yet?’, then let’s preempt that. Even the littlest ones understand that you can’t click your fingers and arrive, but children struggle with the concept of sometime in the future. Much like in adults, kids’ tantrums are usually caused by frustration from not being understood and a lack of understanding, so the more you can arm them with what’s going on and what they can expect, the more relaxed you all will be.
Take your pens out
Draw a map of your journey, and mark on it the places you want to stop at, for younger ones you could make a key for toilet breaks, snack times and all the other activities you have planned. Make sure your passengers can see the plan, timings and a clock, either for each in a little printout or stuck somewhere for all to see. You could also mark what country or counties you are passing and any monuments they can look out for. So, when the questions come in, you can remind them to see for themselves.
If you’re feeling creative you could include a scavenger hunt, with items to look out for and check off their list throughout the journey. This can be age dependent with weird colour cars or wildlife or as advanced as species of trees. Capture your child’s interests and connect with the world passing by.
To watch or not to watch
Screen time has its place on a long trip but it’s best to set the boundaries in advance. Children who are online for too long have problems regulating their emotions – not the best state to be in a confined space with others in a similar mood, and watching screens can make dropping off a challenge, leaving emotional, tired and ready-for-a-melt-down passengers.
Decide in advance what they can watch and when, and add it to the plan. Maybe pick a movie that has some connection to where you are going or is set in somewhere that you travel through. Download it beforehand (in case you have areas of unreliable internet connection) and have a precharged power bank if you don’t have easy-to-reach chargers.
Go through all the decisions beforehand on who gets what device, who gets to hold it and all the other insanely infuriating things littles-ones can turn into a drama and put on the plan. Remember you can’t argue with the plan, especially if they’ve all agreed to it in advance. It is also worth downloading some backup watching, in case you hit traffic, things get delayed or you need a bit more of a break from all the wholesome family bonding!
Time for Carpool Karaoke!
Create a playlist from everyone’s suggestions. Songs from films, the charts or special ones from your past. Make sure you have each included the same number of tunes and take turns listening to them, singing along is not compulsory but highly recommended. Get the chooser to introduce the song, why they like it and if there are any special memories attached to it.
Fed and watered
Do you know how pubs put out salty snacks to make you drink more? Well in a long car journey, you want to consider those kinds of choices and work them around toilet stops and beyond. Sugary snacks or anything likely to overly energise little ones is best avoided too, seatbelts can be the enemy of the hyperactive and not the nice ‘saving your life straps’ adults know them to be.
Preplanning meals and timings can save a relentless whine of hunger, and expensive petrol station stops. Think easy-to-eat finger food and water bottles with easy-to-close lids with plenty of napkins and wet wipes.
In sickness and health
If you are lucky enough to have wondered why the car in front has a set of clothes dangling out of the closed car windows then you have never been witness to motion sickness.
If you have a passenger that is prone to making a mess, then it is worth trying acupressure wristbands for the journey. Have ginger biscuits or mints to settle the tummy on standby and avoid any rich food in advance. Have a bucket or bowl to hand, a change of clothes and some wipes within reach. Plasters can quickly de-escalate a wounded soul from getting revenge, so worth having a pack in the glove box.
A nap or even bedtime can pass the time nicely and you have the best idea of what times will work the best. Have cushions, blankets and a favoured toy ready and build up to the change in tempo with relaxing music, stopping the screen time or maybe even a guided meditation as long as it doesn’t also work on the driver. If your drive-time continues into bedtime, plan for a stop beforehand to get into PJs, brush your teeth and do all the usual bedtime activities.
Enjoy the journey
Give yourself plenty of time to pack at your leisure and leave the kids out of the car for as long as possible. It can be tempting to strap them all in while you get the last bits sorted, but you run the risk of starting off with frustrated kids. You could also decide on a treat they can all look forward to after the successful, journey is completed rather than short-term bribery or threats. You are embarking on an exciting memory-making voyage with your favourite people, so keep that in mind as you pack the essentials and begin the journey/hit the road.