The escape to the continent: surely the greatest of all road trips! It starts with the excitement of a dawn exodus of the family home and ends many many frazzled, bored, travel-sick hours later in some small previously undiscovered corner of France, Spain or even Italy. These are the journeys that cement family bonds and create memories to treasure, but if the thought of hours in a car with your own tribe is daunting, fear not. Lonely Planet Kids has five tips to surviving a road trip with children.
1. It’s all in the planning
Do your research and find good places to stop where legs can be properly stretched and decent fare eaten. Build these into your itinerary. Then do the same for wet weather options. Write a list for everything you need for the car (read on to find out what to put on it), assemble said items days ahead to ensure you miss nothing – and make sure these essential bits of kit make it to the front seat (and don’t get packed away in the boot).
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2. Boredom Busters
As pilot or co-pilot on your family’s mission to holiday heaven, your role is not simply driver, planner or food provider. You are also entertainer extraordinaire and you need a repertoire of tricks up your sleeves. For younger children, so-called ‘old-fashioned’ games such as I Spy, Guess the Animal and ‘what do the letters on a number plate stand for?’ all work well. Older children enjoy creating and listening to a family playlist, sharing a good audio book or games such as Twenty Questions. Lastly, when all else fails, who can stay quiet for the longest is always a winner…
3. Eat, drink and be merry
An army marches on its stomach and so does a family on a road trip. Make yourself a bag just for snacks, fill it and then repeat. Imagine your worse-case scenario: the world’s biggest traffic jam, inclement weather, a breakdown. It’s all much more manageable if no-one is about to pass out. However, while sweets and chocolate definitely have an important role to play on a long trip with children, healthier alternatives are better for avoiding sugar rushes, dirty hands, travel sickness and the dreaded words ‘I’m still hungry’ two minutes later.
4. Are we nearly there yet?
The question parents dread to hear, especially as it usually arrives way way way too early for anyone’s sanity. The key to handling this is forward planning. Print out your route, mark your stops, get the children to map your progress and answer their own question. For smaller people, explaining the digital clock and how the changing numbers relate to your arrival at your destination can be a good approach.
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5. Embrace technology
Now is not the time to enforce a digital ban so think before you threaten restricted tablet time as a punishment. Then, make sure everything is downloaded and ready to use, that you have the chargers (and in-car adapters) and that the screens are in a good position (children shouldn’t be looking down at them). Lastly, don’t resort to the iNanny too soon. Surprising as it may seem, there is aactually a limit for most kids to how long they can sit watching something silently.
More ideas on how to entertain your little travellers can be found in this PDF which is taken from Lonely Planet Kids’ Boredom Busters. With over 100 ideas for keeping little ones entertained, you need never hear the words ‘I am bored’ ever again.