Growing up, we did a lot of driving on our holidays. We always went on UK-based breaks and I have vivid memories of being in the back of my dad’s car as we drove from Scotland to Morecambe or Weston-Super-Mare. My brother and I had our own personal stereos (they were yellow and very cool) so he could listen to Danny Wilson while I listened to NKOTB. I’d read Sweet Valley Twins books and my brother would read geeky computer magazines like Your Sinclair.
Of course, I’m sure if you asked my mum or dad, their memories of these car journeys would be a bit different – probably them breaking up arguments between me and my brother and having to deal with “Are we nearly there yet?” being asked every 3 miles.
Now that I’m a parent, the tables have turned and I find myself looking for fun things to entertain my daughter on long journeys. We used to time going on long journeys so that she’d sleep for a couple of hours (giving us some peaceful time!) but now we have a wide-eyed nearly-three-year-old who doesn’t nap as much, we embrace journeys to festivals or the seaside and try to make them fun.
Interestingly, a survey by Allianz Your Cover Insurance has found that two thirds of parents find car journeys to holiday destinations their most enjoyable family car trip – more so than the school run, supermarket trips and driving kids to activities (which among them, rack up 12 and a half days of driving a year! Eek!). Jon Lott, of Allianz Your Cover Insurance says: “The summer holiday gives families the opportunity to spend quality time together in the car, outside of the day-to-day grind, so it is great to see that these journeys are treasured by parents.”
So in the spirit of making sure long car journeys are more fun and less glum, here are my Top 5 fun things to do on a car journey with a toddler or pre-schooler…
1. LISTEN TO MUSIC. We have a small selection of CDs – mostly animal based songs and Justin Fletcher albums – to stick on and sing along to LOUDLY as we hurtle along. Thanks to this, I know all the words to far too many Justin Fletcher songs (Hands Up is a particular favourite.)
2. WRAP SMALL TOYS. Gather a selection of small toys (Peppa Pig figurines, play tea cup and teapot etc) and wrap them all individually. Every half an hour, give one to your child, to unrwrap and play with. Even though it’s their own toy, the unwrapping generates excitement.
3. TAKE STICKERS. We recently bought a Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pad with different house scenes that you can stick and restick onto. Our nearly-three-year-old is totally in to it and can happily spend an hour playing with it.
4. SPOTTING THINGS. Our tot is too young to play I-Spy (she doesn’t yet know that tree begins with a T) but that doesn’t stop us playing the spotting game. “Can you find….. a red car?” I’ll ask her. “Can you find….. a house with a green door?” (Note: not as much fun on a motorway)
5. TAKING PHOTOS. My daughter loves taking pics of herself and us on our iPhones. On long journeys, we give her a phone and ask her to take photos of anything she likes – things we’re passing by, the toys she’s playing with, anything. Then we go through them and look at each photo together.
Some extra travelling tips for long journeys with toddlers and pre-schoolers:
1. Always take a potty with you. When travelling to Camp Bestival last week, our daughter refused to use the loo in the service station we stopped at, and then 10 minutes later announced she needed to wee. Thankfully, we could pull off the road and let her wee in the potty. Little scamp!
2. Take lots of car-friendly snacks. We favour Ella’s Kitchen fruit pouches, Organix rice cakes, bananas and apples and raisins. Non-spill cups are good too, although our little one will only drink from bottles of water at the moment.
3. Have baby wipes at the ready to mop up any spillages (and wipe bottoms) and nappy sacks to pop any rubbish into, to keep things clean and tidy.
Do you have any more tips? Please share!
Many thanks to Allianz Your Cover Insurance for sponsoring this post.