Before you go:
- Plan stops according to the weather and don’t forget to keep gumboots and raincoats handy so you can still get out of the car and run around even if it’s wet. Or pack swimming togs in a handy place if you’re passing hot pools or a swimming pool. Have a look for possible stopping options on some routes here.
Don’t forget lots of schools allow you to use their playgrounds and field areas if it’s the weekend or the holidays.
- Join in with the kids game of tag/football etc – you’ll all feel better for exercising your legs, getting some fresh air and your kids will love that you’re joining in!
Think of your journey as being part of the holiday and have fun wherever you stop. Yes, stopping makes the journey longer but you’ll all feel better for it.
Wake up early and get on the road before anyone else? Wait until the evening rush hour is over and let the kids fall asleep in the car? Time the journey for daytime naps for younger kids? Or just go whenever you’re ready? There are pluses and minuses for each. It’s important for the driver(s) to be wide awake and if possible kept on track by a co-pilot in the passenger seat. Avoiding traffic is a bonus but you might compensate by having to run around a playground at 9pm as all other stopping options are closed. Weigh up which option is best for you but bear in mind that children don’t always cooperate by going to sleep when you want them to and even the best planned trip can still encounter hiccups like accident hold ups.
In the car:
- Have something for rubbish, plastic bag or cardboard box work well.
- Take an empty ice-cream box if you have kids who might be car sick (something solid and with a lid are best).
Toys, activity books with a pencil and reading books are great – get older kids to help out by packing their stuff. Wikki Stix (like a sticky pipe cleaner but without leaving any mess) are a great car activity as they can be used to create interesting 3D designs, letters and numbers but only stick to each other.
- Do you have something that your kids can reach easily (even when harnessed) that you can store their toys etc in? These kick mats come recommended by other families especially because they also protect the seats!
Audiobooks are great for kids that would get nauseous with the above activities. Short stories can entertain even 2 year olds. Have a look in your local library or download audiobooks if your library has an online facility.
- Have an in-car disco whereby kids get to choose the songs (while a responsible person controls the volume!) Or if they can’t agree on the songs to play, be prepared with headphones for devices!
Car games can while away a couple of hours. Have a look here for some ideas or variations on what you already play.
- Take food with you, a picnic, snacks that aren’t too messy or even lunchboxes mean you save money and are prepared if there are any hold ups.
When things don’t go according to plan….
Being stuck in traffic that’s slow moving, or even not moving, due to an unforeseen event is painful. Add kids and potentially hot weather into the mix and it can be a recipe for maximising stress levels. What to do?
Tune into the radio to work out what the hold up is.
- Make use of your co-pilot if you have one (pull over and check a map yourself if you don’t) – look for anywhere to stop for the kids to run around even if this means turning round and going back a little way.
Have an early lunch break anywhere that’s off the road in the hope that the traffic will clear.
- When you stop to get out of the car or pull over off the road, look for an alternative route (google maps can be very useful for this purpose) even if it involves turning back and going a few extra kilometres.
So many people hit the roads, especially when there’s a public holiday, that it’s really important to plan your journey to keep everyone safe and to have a great start and end to your time away.