With a new baby and a toddler in tow, Mrs ATWWAH shares her top tips on travelling in the car with children.
Ask any parent for their most stressful travel stories and at least one tale will involve motorway travel. Long car journeys in the UK are not much fun when there are no children in the car, let alone when there are. With both mine and Mr ATWWAH's parents living at least 200 miles away from us, time in the car with children has become part of our weekends. So, here are a few tips on how to make time in the car as stress-free as possible.
When your child’s car seat is rear facing, buy a mirror that you can position on the back seat, which will enable you to see them at a glance through your rear view mirror. When they are awake, babies also enjoy seeing themselves in it, so it will keep them entertained too.
If possible, plan journeys for nap times during the day. We have often set off on long journeys in the evening after Master ATWWAH's bath so he is in his pyjamas - and this also means we don't need to stop at the services.
With a baby you may not be able to avoid service station stops, but on Mini ATWWAH's recent first epic car journey at seven weeks old, we packed the car and then gave him his milk. As soon as he had a nappy change we were off, so we managed to get at least three hours driving in without needing to stop.
The key to total success is a calm, quiet transfer from car seat to bed when you reach your destination, which is, of course, a fine art!
We have never used kids' song CDs in the car, but I know some people swear by them. For older kids, audiobooks are a good idea, too. We generally listen to the radio or a CD, and as a result Master ATWWAH has developed a decent taste in music!
A small selection of books are handy in the car. The best thing to do is keep a few in the front of the car with you, so that when they are dropped on the floor you can pass a replacement back easily without too much fuss.
Traditional car games like I-spy are great, but the big thing in the ATWWAH car is talking. It's the cheapest form of entertainment, and requires no planning whatsoever!
If you're on a long journey, chances are you will need to stop for a loo break or refreshments. Try to make sure those who can get a chance to stretch their legs when you do stop.
Service stations aren't the nicest places, but often they're the most convenient places to stop. Fresh air can be hard to find as the outdoor seating areas are often designated for smokers. Baby changing areas are often pretty abysmal, and the food offering is usually woeful. If you have the time and inclination consider packing your own food.
Mr ATWWAH often changes Mini ATWWAH's nappies on the back seat of the car with a changing mat - this is not for the faint hearted. When potty training and embarking on a long journey, I ignore the parenting experts advice and pop a pull-up on Master ATWWAH, then change him back into underwear when we've got to our final stop.
Consider making a day out of your journey and stopping somewhere other than the motorway. At Easter we did London to the north east with a stop in York at the free of charge National Railway Museum. It breaks the journey up and is more interesting than an M1 services.
Before we had kids I hated any sort of snacking in the car. But before going on a long journey, it's good to pop some snacks in the car, especially if you are likely to hit delays.
As I hate mess I find this hard and try to avoid anything which will encourage sticky fingers, so I choose rice cakes over chocolate. For drinks, I try to stick to bottled water with the sports style lids, so even younger kids can manage to put the top on.
Try not to get too distracted by what is going on in the back of the car. Obviously if your child has worked out how to undo their seat belt, then pull over when it is safe, but generally crying babies are fine, so try to avoid the temptation of turning around in your seat etc.
As with almost all aspects of travelling with kids, try to retain a sense of humour. I feel qualified to say this having dealt with a car sick episode, which resulted in me being covered in vomit, after Master ATWWAH wanted a cuddle as I got him out of the car to clean him up. He also threw away Mini ATWWAH's romper after a prolific nappy incident in the back of the car.
Thankfully, we have only had one incident of car sickness and that was the grandparents' fault for over-feeding Master ATWWAH Easter eggs and roast dinner before our drive back to London. It wasn't pleasant at all.
To try to avoid car sickness try these techniques:
- keep the car ventilated, put the window down a bit and avoid strong odours from air fresheners and food
- stick to bland snacks, like crackers
- travel during nap time
- avoid books and games in the car and encourage your child to look out of the window and chat
- speak to your GP or pharmacist about medicines to try if your child is prone to car sickness