Travelling with toddlers: surviving a long car journey

Becky from Munchies and Munchkins is a bit of an expert when it comes to travelling with kids - here, she gives some great tips on long journeys...

So you start to feel like you have mastered this whole parenting thing.. Or at least got to grips with it and THEN you have to take a journey with your very busy..walking..climbing bundle of energy. I don’t mean a trip to your local beach or a short car ride to grandmas but an actual long journey*

*For me an actual long journey is 2 hours plus ..before it was 4 hours plus but then I had a child.

I’m here to save your sanity and share with you every trick I’ve used and all the ones I have planned for this summer:

T is for timing. Timing is probably the most crucial aspect of your journey. Every journey we have ever planned has commenced during the night or at nap time. The reason for this being your child will get sleep and you will get peace for at least one chunk of your journey.

R is for reading. Our current fave is the 100 words book and this can distract Izzy for quite a while.

E is for essentials. Now essentials obviously include nappies, cloth changes, food and drink but also remember if you want them to sleep as they would at home bring their cuddly toys/snuggles/dummy/special blanket. Put this close to top of your list. Now.

P is for presents. Now you don’t have to buy new things as with a toddler you can pull out a few small toys that haven’t recently been used and wrap them in newspaper to pass at intervals if they get particularly grouchy. For older children pop to your local charity shop and spend a few pounds – it will be worth it!

P is for planning. If your journey is very long then plan to stop at a park or even a soft play on route for just 20-30 minutes. Your child will burn off some excess energy and you get a chance to stretch your legs and grab a coffee.

B is for be prepared. Fuel up and pack your car before you even place your child in the car seat. An extra 15 minutes may feel like nothing to you but to your child it could be the 15 minutes that changes him/her from a smiling cutie pie to an angry horror film child.

S is for seating. If you are travelling with a partner/family member try to sit in the back next to your child. It will be comforting for them and much easier for you to console them when you are that close. I’m sure we have all had sore necks from trying to contort ourselves from the front seat.

W is for words. Play a game with your toddler by pointing at things you can see and repeating the words. Car and tree are favourites. They may be too young to play I Spy but word play is always fun. Be sure to praise them when they get it right.

S is for snacks. Pack lots of snacks. Not messy snacks. Make sure it is things they like and have tried previously. No allergic reactions on a journey please.

M is for music. Bring your child's favourite music but also mix it up with the radio and your favourite CD’s. You will be surprised by what your toddler will bop along to. Izzy's current favourites are Johnny Cash, Dub Pistols, The Lumineers and Bon Jovi.

B is for back up. If all else fails have your childs absolute favourite TV programme or film on a portable DVD player or iPad. Only bring this out if a meltdown is imminent. For us it’s In the night garden and there is nothing that Upsy Daisy can’t fix.

I is for interaction. If you sit there reading a book or playing with your phone for the entire journey then chances are your little one will feel left out and get grumpy. Try to allow 15 minutes of gameplaying such as the word game or reading together then let your child have 15 minutes of solo play time.

C is for comfort. When you travel I’m sure you dress so that you are comfortable when sitting for long periods of time just do the same for your child. Make sure they are warm but not too warm, their clothes aren’t too tight and there is nothing poking into them and of course bring a blanket.

S is for safety. Although this won’t entertain your toddler, it is essential to make sure your car seat is in good working order and fitted correctly.

I hope my tips help a little – in the past 12 months we have travelled to France, Portugal, Dorset, Winchester, Devon, London and The Cotswolds which are all a fair distance from South Wales so I feel like a bit of an expert on the subject now. We have used our own car and hire cars. If using a hire car always check that a car seat will be in the car when you get there and that you fit it properly.

Now read: A guide to children's car seats

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