Monday, 23 October 2017

FAMILY: 12 Tips for Surviving a Long Journey with a Toddler and Baby

Two weeks ago we went on holiday to Cornwall, which is about a 5.5 hour drive from where we live. To say I was nervous about the drive is an understatement, thanks to being involved in a serious car accident last year I am one nervous passenger and then the pressure of keeping a baby and toddler happy meant I knew we needed to be organised. On the months running up to the long car journey I started to collect different forms of entertainment as and when I saw suitable things, which meant that when the day came we had a good size stash of entertainment to be enjoyed both on the journey and at the holiday cottage. I'd highly recommend doing this, especially if your child has a favourite character magazine because they only tend to come out once a month.

Leave early/late - We went backwards and forwards with the idea of leaving really early in the morning and final settled on leaving at 4am. This was for a number of reasons, mainly so that that the children would sleep for a big bulk of the journey, but also to avoid rush hour. If you are passing any major cities or towns that get congested around rush hour it is worth avoiding them at those peak times. We were passing Bristol, so we planned to get there just before rush hour, enjoy a run around and then get back on the road when the traffic had cleared. This worked really well and probably cut over an hour of sitting in traffic off the journey.
Magazines - There are so many magazines aimed at children of all ages and as I mentioned earlier it can be worth collecting them on the months running up to your long journey. Isabella really likes the Peter Rabbit magazine, so I picked up a couple of those and a Peppa Pig one for something new. I also removed the toys that weren't suitable for in the car, due to being either choking hazard, get lost or too messy.
Books - These are a staple in our car wherever we're going, especially the more familiar stories so that Isabella can almost 'read' them to herself. If she knows the story well she'll go through the pages, look at the pictures and repeat lines from the story. Board books worked really well when she was younger, but nowadays she tends to prefer 'normal' books.
Use back of the seat storage - I picked up this one from Mothercare in the sale for £3 and it was such a useful addition to the car. We popped all of the things we'd need easy access to on the journey, such as snacks, spare clothes, entertainment, drink etc., so that they were easily accessible. The car was really full and the idea of rooting around trying to find things when we stopped wasn't ideal; the back of the seat storage made life a lot easier.
Stickers - If you're toddler is anything like mine then stickers will be a popular choice! Isabella can often be found with legs, arms and face covered in stickers when in the car, but if it keeps her happy then I'm not complaining.
Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Colouring - I picked this up from B&M Bargains for £4.99 and it was perfect for both in the car and at the holiday cottage. Inside the pack (which you can see below) there are colouring pages and what look like felt tip pens, but they only work on the colouring pages. They won't mark other surfaces, so there's no risk of felt tip on other people's walls, furniture or your own car. 
Stop for a good length run around - A good stretch of the legs is essential for everyone, not just the children. It also gives you a chance to feed your baby, have a bite to eat and a coffee if you also went for the early morning approach!
Download something to watch on a tablet - This was an absolute last resort for us because we knew that as soon as Isabella watched anything in the car she would start wanting that every single journey. We didn't actually end up using the tablet, but it was reassuring to know it was there as a back up if we needed it. iPlayer has loads of cartoons you can download and if they aren't watched on the journey then they can always be enjoyed during the holiday.
Soothing noise - If you're baby is soothed by white noise then taking some way of playing it can be a saviour on long journeys. Poppy loves the Summer Infant Soothing Turtle* (read all about why here) because it plays a variety of calming sounds, lights up and is transportable. We've been using it on long car journeys since she was born and it works wonders, particularly when she stirs and needs that bit of support to help her go back to sleep.
Snacks/drinks - Goes without saying really. Snacks like toddler friendly puffs, raisins and fruit pouches are perfect for 'on-the-go'. Although we don't let Isabella eat when she's in the car (due to the risk of choking) the snacks came in handy when we stopped.
Children's music CDs - These may drive parents slightly crazy, but lullabies and nursery rhymes are a hit with children. We have a few personalised CDs, which say Isabella's name and she loves singing along to them. It always impresses me how quickly children pick up the words to songs and how long I'll still be singing them once Isabella has gone to sleep!
Story CDs - Along the same lines as the music CDs, but perhaps slightly more calming are the story CDs. Familiar stories, like the Julia Donaldson range, can be picked up for a good price on websites like The Book People.  

The combination of all of these things really helped to make our journey to and from Cornwall a lot more enjoyable for everyone. We only stopped once during both journeys and Isabella enjoyed working through all of the entertainment. 

What are your top tips for surviving a long car journey with children?

Feel free to leave a comment - I love reading every single one :)

Helen x



  1. This post takes me back to how I used to drive my parents mad in the car with the 'are we there yet?' question lol

  2. Hope you guys enjoyed your stay here in Cornwall (in our part of England). That's exactly what we do too when visiting my in-laws up in Beds. It's also roughly a five-our-trip. My daughter also likes to draw in the car, although I keep warning her that it might give her a head-ache!

  3. I remember using all of these whilst travelling with my daughter, long journeys could be a nightmare if we didn't have her favourite toys with us.

  4. Oh no sorry to hear about your accident before. Well done for taking the drive and I agree that snacks are a must!

  5. We did Scotland with ours which was a 9 hour journey. Have to say they did brilliantly and Fun Kids Radio was a big help

  6. Brings back memories of when mine were little and keeping them entertained in the car :)

  7. We have not really done any really long car journeys with the children, these are great tips for when we do though x

  8. We've only one one long car journey so far and little one was too young to be distracted by any of those things but now he's getting older (and forward facing) , can't wait for the next chance to go on a long journey said no mother ever hahaha. At least there are things to help now :)

  9. Those markers sound AMAZING! I have to say stickers are a no in this family for travel, because although he CAN get them off himself, my son doesn't ever want to do it by himself, so stickers are a group activity!

  10. The big one for us is snacks!! We try to bribe the kids to stop whining with as many snacks as possible, hehe!

  11. Great tips! The longest we ever went when our kids were little was just over three hours and the first hour passed like a dream until my then three year old woke up and asked every two minutes "are we there yet?" haha I agree with the stretching off legs - I know the temptation is whizz down as fast as you can, but a little run around can make all the difference. Totally agree with setting off early, two - we used to do that and as you say, they then sleep a lot of the way!

  12. Snacks is sooooo important, too! But yes, these also look like great things for long trips too :)

  13. sorry to hear you had an accident but it's great that you dealt with the anxiety and these are some fantastic ideas to keep the little ones entertained. You are much braver than I

  14. Great Tips here. We always make sure we leave early or late, or if we can to coincide with the long nap!

  15. I don;t know how you guys do it day in day out, my niece drives me to exhaustion in one day!

  16. We don't have a car, but I've done some of these on long train journeys. I always save up magazines for long trips too :)

  17. We put together travel packs for long car journeys and they seem to work really well. They usually include crayons, paper and some toys. I think films and music are good ones to include as well.

  18. I totally agree with leaving very early. Leaving early saves time, energy and a whole lot of headache. The last time we travelled, we got to our destination much earlier completely cutting out the rush hours.

  19. I totally agree, travelling off peak while the children sleep is the best plan!

  20. Leaving at 4 a.m. is brave, but it makes perfect sense: I remember when I was little, we'd always set off at 2 or 3 a.m. because my mum found it much nicer to drive when we were still half-asleep and there was no traffic :)

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