Endure or enjoy? Long drives with kids… #HiddenDrives;

After reading the latest eBook from Chill Insurance, as part of their #HiddenDrives campaign, I got thinking about when car journeys used to mean scenic routes, time with the family, picks of our favourite CDs, boiled sweets and stops at lovely country pubs for lunch.

These days however, car journeys have a tendency to be about getting from A to B in the shortest time possible. The very idea of a long journey with kids can bring parents out in hives. With the car packed to within an inch of it’s life for every single weather eventuality, a three night trip can feel like an arctic expedition. 

I have become a proper Mum, with sheer refusal to fork out the overpriced food at service stations, and our cool bag has seen a lot of use since it was freed from it’s cellophane a decade ago. Peanut butter sandwiches, crisps, fruit and a few snacks often discarded at the destination, packed in along with a pint of milk because…errr…surely we won’t be able to buy that once we arrive (?!).

The packing of the car too has become somewhat of a slick operation. With a Trunki in each footwell and the bags going in around the pushchair and travel cot ‘just so’ there is even the ability to squeeze the kids microscooters in the boot too. One of these days we’ll be able to travel lightly…surely?!

Stops on route are usually every couple of hours, mostly due to Mums pea sized bladder and over drinking of tea and coffee the morning of departure. That could all be set to change this summer as we embark on potty training round two, in sync with our summer schedule of day tripping and mini breaks. This is going to be interesting…

This year we are making the once every two years journey from our corner of the south east to North Wales. Probably the longest drive with two kids yet, and one that’s set to test everyone’s patience.

So can we make this long journey part of the holiday? Embrace the journey like we used to? Here’s some ideas I’ve been mulling over and if anyone can offer any tips then please, please do!

Finalise the route before leaving

Ever since the invention of Sat-Nav we have been the laziest route planners, rarely considering the path from here to there other than googling the postcode, often fifteen minutes after leaving home. Having been stung by the ‘mind of it’s own’ crap-nav many times, this summer we WILL plan out a rough route and a plan B before leaving the house.

Plan some good stop offs

Whilst planning your route, check if there is anything or anywhere worth diverting to, making your journey day somewhat of a memorable experience rather than just a durge of motorway after motorway. Are there any landmarks worth driving by on your way?

Check for roadworks

With kids or without kids, there is nowt worse than being at standstill when you’d rather be popping open your first holiday beer, and that torture will go cataclysmic if you have crying toddlers or any family member (probably Mum again) busting for a wee. Check ahead for any roadworks to avoid and check again on the day of travel, and on route too if you have a co-pilot.

Safety first

It goes without saying that your car should be roadworthy and legal at all times, but heading off on a long drive is the perfect prompt to check everything’s signed, sealed and delivered. A quick maintenance check (oil, tyres, water, screenwash), an appropriate level of car insurance cover, breakdown cover and a valid Tax and MOT certificate. You certainly do not want to realise your cover has expired when huddled at the side of the motorway with your young children, miles away from home.

Pack activities

It goes without saying that to entertain two under six year olds for many hours in the back seat, that you are going to need to pack stuff for them to do.

For a really long drive, portable DVDs or tablets can be a god send, although don’t expect that to keep them entertained the whole journey. We have had some hellish journeys where the damn DVD player kept skipping and I have to say it caused more harm than good. The same goes for tablets which require WiFi and kids that don’t get the constraints of technology on ‘WANT PEPPA’.

For that reason, I always try to go a bit old school – colouring pencils and a clipboard of paper, some small bags filled with nic-nacs to fiddle with, and some books to look at. A decently packed toy bag wedged between the girls might help keep them occupied for some of the journey.

I spy with my little eye

I have so many happy memories growing up playing games like ‘I went to the shop and bought’ on car journeys, and there’s no denying that playing silly memory games and ‘I spy’ is one of the most simple yet effective ways to engage and play with the children from the front seat. Variations of ‘I spy’ using colours works well for younger children, and you can take turns to play ‘the first to see a …..’. Okay so it’s not as relaxing as listening to Ed Sheeran in silence, but it’s better than the whinge of ‘Are we nearly there yet’.

Carpool Karaoke

Before your journey, prepare a family playlist of everyone’s favourite songs that will keep everyone guessing what’s next and singing along. This can work so much better than just grabbing a naff Disney mix CD – as we learnt the year Tigs would only have ‘Bibbety Bobbedy Boo’ on repeat for a four hour journey. Save your sanity by throwing in Mum and Dad’s tunes between ones the kids will know and love – consider it an education, and let your ears have a rest from the battering of kids film soundtracks at least every couple of songs! Who knows, they could end up becoming huge Oasis fans…

Be a feeder

Long car journeys are probably days you might want to put your healthy eating goals aside, and accept that a bag of crisps at the right moment might be enough to get you another twenty miles in golden silence. Without long pit stops for meal times you can eat on the go and make good headway while the kids are munching through their sandwiches happily. Or, take the opportunity to stop, let go of the miles vs time challenge and let the stress float away over a picnic lunch on one of your stop offs. Either way, on that road trip you can never have too much food.

Timing is everything

With small kids, you might want to plan your journey around nap times, or an early / late start when the kids might snooze away in their PJs. It’s not a technique we have tried but I can definitely see why you would if you were a night owl.

Bear in mind Friday afternoon / evening and Sunday night is always busy due to everyone else doing exactly what you are doing. If you can extend your stay an extra night or leave earlier to avoid the rush hours, you won’t regret it. If you can extend a weekend over to a Friday to Monday stay it’ll make that long journey all the more worth it as you maximise the time-on-holiday:time-in-car ratio.

There is no doubt that driving with kids in tow just ain’t what it used to be. But, with more and more parents choosing to holiday in the UK and Ireland as opposed to the usual european package holiday each summer, driving the family to and from, and around your destination is pretty unavoidable. With the right amount of preparation and planning, you can make those journeys not only tolerable, but enjoyable, and set off on your family adventure, discovering hidden drives along the way.


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19 thoughts on “Endure or enjoy? Long drives with kids… #HiddenDrives;

  1. ruth cartwright Reply

    I like to travel once the kids are asleep, just put them in the car and way we go. Much less stress.

  2. Emma (emmaology) Reply

    Great tips! I always have a bag of toys and colouring books in the car for my 8 year old, sometimes he gets bored on the 5min drive to the supermarket!! You’ve definitely got to be prepared for a long drive haven’t you! #coolmumclub

  3. justsayingmum Reply

    Oh the timing is crucial! Though we have had the leave late at night one hoping to share the driving but soon found out that I can’t keep my eyes open – poor hubby ended up doing the entire trip! Also, I always had a bag for the journey brimming with snacks and activities #CoolMumClub

  4. Morgan Prince Reply

    Oh boy I remember the long journeys with the boys when they were younger. It can be so exhausting! To be honest though it doesn’t get much better when they’re older – they just bicker more and argue over music choices. AND you can’t hope they’ll go to sleep because that just doesn’t happen!
    Hope you have a great trip. 🙂

  5. Winnettes Reply

    I’ve become a bit of a real mum too and always pack a picnic. My husband has banned me drinking anything half an hour before a car journey and I’m not allowed anything for at least an hour in the car so we don’t have to stop! So rude 😉 #coolmumclub

  6. thetaleofmummyhood Reply

    My two are just getting to the age where entertainment in the car is vital. I dread long journeys! #coolmumclub

  7. mumchester Reply

    I always back a picnic too. Infact I never leave the house without snacks Love the car karaoke idea, can’t beat a family sing a long

  8. sarahsurreymama Reply

    We always try and travel when the girls are asleep or it’s just to traumatic for all involved ☺

  9. fancypaperblog Reply

    I feel like my car will never be truly clean again. Especially after road trips! #coolmumclub

  10. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... Reply

    We haven’t done any really long journeys with the kids. We went to York last year but stopped off twice to visit places an break up the journey. The longest we do is 2 hours to Kent to see Chris’ mum. Anya gets car sick so easily accessible spare clothes area must! #coolmumclub

  11. itsadrama Reply

    This brings back memories! Our car trips now consist of spotify getting passed around and everyone getting to choose their favourite. Another ‘game’ is spotify and goes what film this is from?!

  12. Rhyming with Wine Reply

    I’m definitely with the night owls and where we can we tend to leave the night before so that we can don’t have the rush to be up and out by 10am the next morning. We try and get a nice evening meal, do a bath and into PJs and they then tend to nod off fairly quickly if we leave it late enough. We once did South Wales to West Yorkshire (6 hours ish) non stop. Hats off to “Daddy pig” for managing the drive but it was painless for the tots which was great! … But if we can’t do the night thing we too are all about the crisps haha xx #coolmumclub

  13. Tubbs Reply

    It’s easier now the Tubblet is older. She plugs in her own music and plays games on her phone. Conversation?! No chance!

  14. Alana - Burnished Chaos Reply

    Great tips. We always have a few sharing bags of sweets like haribo and keep them in front , then whenever you can sense things starting to get strained in the back we can give them a small handful each and they tend to be happy for another 30 minutes or so. We have to be sure we ration them out over the journey though otherwise the sugar high then subsequent dip followed by another two hours with no snacks left is just asking for trouble!

  15. Helena Reply

    Great tips here. I particularly like the idea of diverting to a place of interest that my kids would love. The hubby would probably try taking us to some memorial park! #coolmumclub

  16. Muffintopmummyblog Reply

    This is a really comprehensive list! We did a day trip at the weekend from the Midlands to the South coast with a baby and travelling at nap times got us through! I think that bit is definitely easier with a baby though! #coolmumclub

  17. Cheryl @ Tea or Wine Reply

    Yep some top tips here thank you! Food is a definite on our list along with Ipads and headphones. We travel to Devon quite a bit and the last couple of hours especially are a killer! We’ve started leaving on a Friday at about 7pm to avoid all the commuter traffic and hope that the kids might sleep (famous last words!). It’s long and not pleasant, but even if it means getting down to Devon at midnight then we can all collapse into bed and wake up fresh for the start of our holiday in the morning!! Thanks for hosting #CoolMumClub xx

  18. crummymummy1 Reply

    We live in the south East & have family in West Wales – I hate the drive! #coolmumclub

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