Long trips in the car with children can be a challenge - and that’s probably putting it nicely. Hours cooped up in a vehicle with the distant promise of something great at the end of it can be difficult for any child and it's perfectly understandable how tempers and patience can become frayed.
But that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. With the right kind of preparation and a little imagination on the part of the adults, car journeys can be transformed from a gruelling slogfest to a genuinely enjoyable experience.
Here are some novel and fun ways to keep younger kids from going crazy on those long car journeys.
1. A Travel Bag
Considering what we now know about attention spans and how their length continues to drop alarmingly, it’s a wonder any road trips are done without distractions.
One of the best is to put together a travel bag with new colouring books and crayons but don’t give it to them until they’re actually in the car and ready to go. Of course, the more varied the contents of the bag the better, with stickers, puzzles, games and draw-your-own comic books all great additions.
2. Digital Camera
These days parents are forever taking pictures of their children but youngsters themselves rarely get in on the action. Of course, we’re not suggesting buying them all smartphones and setting up their own Instagram accounts, but if you have an old digital camera you aren’t using, give it to the kids with their own memory cards to take photos along the way.
This works particularly well if you can create an album or scrapbook with the photos after the holiday. The child will then remember for next time and just like that, you’ve created a nice family travel routine.
3. Pit Stops
However great your time-filling activities might be, your child is most likely dying to get out of the car whenever they can.
Pit Stops are vital on long trips and while it can be tempting to just barrel on through, for the sake of everybody’s sanity, a few stops here and there will make a big difference. Tell them you will stop every 100 kilometres or so to buy them one (non-sugar) treat, which certainly makes the things more interesting for them.
Alternatively, choose a few locations along the way that you think your children would be interested in. Maybe there’s a waterfall nearby or a llama farm, or maybe even one of the absurdly large roadside attractions that you seem to find more of in the United States. Whatever it is, 20 minutes out of the car may not interrupt the schedule too much and will really help everybody.
4. Make them a map
Children often get frustrated in the car because they are not included in the bigger picture. They don’t care what’s 4 hours away, they want to know where they are now, what’s nearby and where the next stop is.
Making your children a simple travel map that includes the route you’re planning to take and perhaps even some of the proposed pit stops along the way will give them a sense of inclusion and control in the situation.
5. Travel Games
Sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned classic to help pass the time. Games like snakes and ladders, guess who, connect four and bingo are all-time classics and can be bought in travel versions with magnetic boards.
Other options might be games that are designed specifically for road trips, such as scavenger hunt, in which children have to keep a lookout for certain things on the road. Car games like I Spy, The Licence Plate Game, 21 questions and even bingo using sites along the way can also be a lot of fun for everyone in the car.
6. Music & Audiobooks
Choosing the right music for a road trip can be a recipe for disaster. Hours and hours of Bob the Builder or other like-minded musicians will no doubt leave parents frothing at the mouth, but likewise, children don’t want to hear music from the 60s for the entire trip.
When it comes to music, either implement a rotation system where each person in the car can play what they want for 30 minutes, or even create your own family playlist so that there is something for everybody.
Audiobooks have come back into fashion in recent years and are a great way to pass the time while sitting in a car. If there’s something the whole family wants to listen to then simply play it through the car speakers or give your children their own headphones so they can listen to whatever they want at their own pace. You can get audiobooks from amazon.com, iTunes or your local library.
Using screens on a road trip is one tactic that isn’t for everybody, but also comes with advantages. Most people seem worried by the increasing amount of time children spend staring at a screen, but in a car is certainly a good option to keep everybody happy.
If they have iPods or iPads, consider buying a “treat” app just for the journey – a game or other entertainment that will occupy them for hours. A portable DVD with some of their favourite movies or TV shows is also going to be a sure-fire winner.
Wherever you are heading as a family, you’ll no doubt have enough on your plate without worrying about what might go wrong. Buying travel insurance online with 123.ie couldn’t be easier and allows you to focus on your loved ones and not those horrible ‘what ifs’ we all tend to ask ourselves. We offer single trip or annual cover both of which come with the option of winter sports coverage.
Our travel insurance covers everything from medical care to missed departure and connection, while also acting as a safety net in case of theft, lost baggage and when you need a passport or travel document replacement.
Getting a quote is quick and easy through our website, but if you feel more comfortable talking it through with a real person or just have a few questions, feel free to call 091 501 674.