It looks set to be another ‘staycation summer, with four out of five of us planning to holiday in the UK this year, thanks to pandemic travel restrictions. All of which means more of us than ever will be piling into our cars and hitting the road with our loved ones.
We’ve rounded up the following survival tips to help keep you and your kids calm, safe and entertained – whether you’re travelling for one hour or five.
Plot, plan, pack
Before you go, make lists for ‘food and drink’, ‘entertainment’ and ‘comfort and calamities’. Within each list, you can jot down everything you’re likely to need: essential snacks and drinks for the cool bag; toys, colouring and sticker books; iPads and headphones; blankets, comforters, wet wipes, travel sickness bands, plastic bags, etc. If you’re travelling in a remote area, a portable potty could be the best thing you pack (and remember the loo roll!).
Dress kids in layers that can be taken on and off as necessary, and have a spare change of clothes to hand, just in case of accidents. If you’re travelling at night, put little ones in their pyjamas before setting off on your road trip. This can make a sleepy arrival far less disruptive.
It sounds obvious, but make sure everything you’re likely to need en route is easily accessible. Pack with military precision, and use breaks to tidy up and reorganise – eg get rid of rubbish from the car.
On a long journey, check to see where you can stop for a decent break, other than a service station. Somewhere the kids have a chance to run around and you can stretch your legs (or feed a small baby comfortably) will make all the difference.
Is the family pet coming, too? Don’t forget to ensure four-legged friends are kept safe, too: a well-fitting dog harness is a must on a car journey. Bring their favourite toy, blanket, water bowl and treats to keep them entertained and comfortable on the car journey.
Our mum bloggers’ tips
Colette Burgess: We’re Going On An Adventure
Colette lives in Manchester with her husband Dave and children Ben (11) Chloe (9) and Amy (7), along with Poppy their brindle boxer puppy. goingonanadventure.co.uk @goingonanadventureblog
Jade Lloyd: The Parenting Jungle
Jade is from Devon and shares her home with partner Stuart and children Leo (10) and Norah (3).
Consider car travel time
‘When we travel by car, the first thing we consider is how long the car travel time will be, and if it’s reasonable for the kids to travel in one go before they (and we) lose patience. As they’ve got older, those times have stretched out and we can now do around three or four hours at a time in the car. Once we’ve figured that out, we tend to plan our road trip around mealtimes, so that our stops are for lunch, etc, which breaks up the journey into stages and gives everyone something to look forward to.’ Colette
‘Pick foods that will fill kids up. I always reach for easy car-travel-friendly options like sliced apples or peppers, cereal bars and that good old classic, the cheese sandwich. Put water or squash in a non-spill water bottle chilled in the fridge overnight (or the freezer in summer, as it also acts as an ice pack! Just make sure you don’t fill right to the top). And never pack anything that can be squashed, squished or smeared, like chocolate. Avoid dry crackers at all costs – you’ll be finding crumbs in the car seats for months afterwards!’ Jade.
Entertaining the troops
‘Along with all the kids’ toys, books and games, etc, something we’ve found that really works is to set challenges for the kids: “Can we go two hours without stopping?”; “I wonder if we can beat yesterday’s drive?” And don’t forget the old classics like “Who can see the sea first?” And “How many red cars can you spot?” You’ll be amazed how quickly the travel time passes when they are concentrating on what’s going on outside the car.’ Colette
Keep calm and drive on
‘Tantrums happen if kids feel ill, are too hot or bored. We always have the car windows down an inch (unless it’s freezing outside!) and adjust the car seats to window level. Younger children often hate being strapped in a car seat, so we try to travel early or late, when they’re likely to sleep. Travel activities are your saviour – car games, sticker books, small bags of toys, electronics, headphones and books (audiobooks for bad travellers). Plan breaks where they can run around.’ Jade
Always ensure your family car is fully taxed and roadworthy before you travel. Do the basics – check tyres, oil, water, tyre pressure, etc, and fill the tank the night before (it means one less petrol stop). Double-check the car seats are fitted securely if you’re using them, particularly if it’s a hire car.
Invest in a basic car breakdown kit for the boot, including items such as a torch, jump-start cables, an empty fuel can, a spare tyre and jack, and a high-vis jacket. Windscreen cleaner and wipes, spare plastic bags, an umbrella and a travel blanket are useful, too, and always make sure you have a first aid kit on board.
UIA offers both car insurance and travel insurance so we have got you covered this summer. Check your car insurance is up to date and you have the right breakdown cover. Keep your car insurance provider emergency contact details both on your phone and in the glove department. Keep the car manual in there, too, in case you need it in an emergency.
If you are travelling overseas on a long road trip or hiring a car to explore the local area, it’s best to be safe and have travel insurance, too. It’s that extra cover you never know you might need and it could save you money in the long run.