Back in May I needed to go to a large family wedding in Ireland and couldn't afford the flight for Aaron and I, so I asked my Dad if we could travel in the back of his car, there and back which meant going by boat.
It was rather brave of me, given that a short car journey with Aaron can be trying and this would be 7 hours with stops (or 5.5. without). That's just here to Wales, then there was the 3 hour boat journey AND the 3 hour car journey from County Dublin to County Mayo on the Irish side!
I would now say to any parent, don't see a car journey as a time for them to get bored, sick or irritated. Better to think that the holiday starts as soon as those suitcases are on the drive and you're on the move.
Plus, the great scenery often begins on the car journey itself:
It's VERY easy to say now with hindsight what worked for us, but it wasn't an accident. Given the length of the journey some thought and planning did go into it.
Things I did in advance:
- I shared my concerns with the husband, so he spent a few days sourcing a DVD player, as this was his idea for what would make the journey pleasant - it was a good one!!!
- This meant I needed to pack Aaron's all time favourite DVDs which was easily done.
- The husband was clever enough to remind me to charge the DVD player overnight AND he went to the expense of getting a car charger for it too - which DID come in necessary - well done Daddy!
- I did a supermarket trip JUST for in-car snacks, which even included a bag of apples AND that Ikea thingy-mabobby thing that de-cores apples. My Dad and his wife were very impressed when I was passing through cut apple segments. I also had lots of bags of Mini Cheddars - so many that us adults had some too. Along with lots of carton drinks, as sometimes it is drinks that can rob you when out with kids, don't you find?
- At one of the stops at Services, I got him a sticker book. Spiderman on the way to Ireland and Thomas & Friends on the way back. They were each about £4.99 but well worth it as they kept us busy for hours!
- The key seemed to be engaging with him, so the only time we could have 100% adult talk was when he was asleep.
- I would advise also having any medication that may be needed and indeed a first aid box but none of these were required on our "road trip" :-)
With the right amount of planning, I learned that (as much as I dreaded it) a long car journey IS possible and at no point were any of us pulling our hair out. Ironically that happened ON the boat as he wanted to run the length and breadth of it and I just couldn't keep up!
The next time we do a trip like this, Aaron will be old enough for things like I-Spy which will be cute. I have seen Anya play it to good effect with her boys. She also plays their favourite toons (like Gangnam Style) in the car whenever they are getting fractious which is a top tip and one that can see the whole family singing along! Energetically it can also recharge the atmosphere, or wake up a driver who is on a long and unstimulating road!
If money is a worry, make sure you have a packed lunch, and things that can be substituted for my sticker book idea.
I didn't have to worry about a budget for petrol/diesel as that was Dad's domain, but I know it all adds up!
Next time we do anything like that Aaron will have outgrown stickers so I will have to be slightly more creative. This useful entertaining print and play games booklet makes sure kids have plenty of fun on a road trip.
Felt-tip pens, books, magazines, magnetic games or electronic gadgets are all good in-car entertainment when space is on a premium!
Don't see the car as a dreaded tight space and... remember you can stretch your legs without getting out of the car. If the driver gets out for some reason, but you're not at "services" sometimes little ones just want an exciting moment out of the restrictive car seat: