Let’s face it: long car journeys with kids can be hard work.
Remember those days of adults-only travel, when you packed light, stopped rarely, and saw delays as a chance to have a leisurely chat? Add kids into the mix, and suddenly you’re in charge of snacks, entertainment, and by-the-minute updates on remaining journey time. Add in map-reading duties and regularly performing contortions to retrieve dropped toys, and it’s no wonder you arrive feeling strung-out.
We’ve done more than our share of family travel, and over the years I’ve discovered lots of ways to make it go as smoothly as possible. Here are my top ideas to help you take the strain out of a family car journey.
Work out your route before you leave
Boring, but essential. Make sure all the adults on the journey know the route; that way you’re not only less likely to get lost, you’ll probably avoid arguments too. And if you have a satnav, use it!
If you can, travel at the best time for the kids
If it’s up to you when you arrive, consider traveling at night, or very early in the morning, so that the kids spend some of the journey asleep. They’ll be less bored, and you won’t have to provide quite so much entertainment.
I can’t emphasise this one enough; preparation can make or break a family trip. Prepare for the worst-case journey – that includes delays, breakdowns and travel sickness – and you’ll be able to deal with a setback so much quicker and easier, which in turn will dial down the stress. Pack lots of snacks, drinks, wet wipes, and a change of clothes for each child, and don’t forget the grown-ups might need their energy levels topping-up too.
Nail the in-car entertainment
Creative car games are fun, but they can be hard work after a while, particularly if there’s a wide range of kids’ ages. If everyone’s flagging, having an in-car movie or favourite show ready to go can be a lifesaver. It gives the kids something to focus on, while the adults take a break from providing the entertainment.
It’s an app that gives your kids a super-convenient way to take their favourite Disney characters, shows and movies with them.
When traveling with the kids; we’ve found that it’s brilliant for battling boredom. You can stream a truly massive array of content at the touch of a button, and we also tend to download a selection of the kids’ favourites onto the DisneyLife app before we leave, so it’s really easy to line them up with age-appropriate content on-the-go and we won’t hit trouble if we lose internet signal.
t also helps us travel light, as we don’t have to pack loads of DVDs and books – they’re all stored inside a single tablet!.
To help the kids view their favourite Disney shows, we’ve been getting crafty making an in-car tablet holder. It’s a great little activity to prepare the kids for an upcoming journey, and also a really practical way to keep tablets secure. Here’s how we did it.
Grab an A4 plastic wallet – the kind with elastic corners. Then open it out and lay your tablet along the bottom edge.
Use a crayon to draw around the outline of the tablet, and mark where the edges of the screen come to. Next, use a ruler to join up the edge markings you made, then cut out a window (this is a job for a grownup).
Put the tablet inside the wallet and do it up to check whether the window is big enough. If not, trim until it’s perfect.
Next, it’s time to start sticking! We had a whole load of Disney stickers, so we used them to decorate the cover, along with some bits of spare wrapping paper. We found that we needed a little glue to help some of the stickers stay put.
When the wallet is completely covered, let it dry, then do the tablet up inside it. Grab a ribbon from an old lanyard – ideally the kind that has a release clip on it – and thread it through the upper opening of the wallet.
Clip your ribbon around the headrest and voila! Your tablet holder is complete.
If you find it’s hanging too low, just unthread the ribbon and tie a knot in it to shorten the length, then reattach. Enjoy!
Allow for stops
You will have to stop – probably frequently – for toilet visits, so allow plenty of time for this, especially if your journey has a deadline such as a flight. We’ve found that letting the kids stretch their legs for ten minutes really helps with the general mood once you get back in the car too.
Old-school family games are brilliant on car journeys. I-Spy works if you limit it to things inside the car, as does twenty questions. Or you could get creative, and take it in turns to add the next sentence to a story; including your kids as the characters in these always works a treat.
Older kids can follow your route on a map or the in-car GPS, or you can give them a list of landmarks etc. to spot and tick off. We’re particular fans of the “yellow car” game, which gives anyone who spots a yellow car 1 point, which points accumulating during the journey. It might sound silly, but it can really pass the time!
Have a family sing-a-long
A good old sing-a-long never fails to lift the mood when we’re stuck in the car, and the Disney classics always get everyone joining in. The DisneyLife app includes music, here are our top five tracks for a family sing-off.
Let go of stress
One last tip – kids can pick up on tension incredibly quickly, and if they sense the grown-ups are in a bit of a panic, they’ll do the same. It’s hard, but if you can stay calm, everyone else will too, and you’ll all arrive in much better shape. After all, family road trips are supposed to be fun, right?
What are your tips for traveling with kids?
I am a DisneyLife Brand Ambassador and this post was created in partnership with DisneyLife who have provided me with a free 12 month DisneyLife membership.