Whether it’s the school run, the weekend or a family holiday, driving with kids can be stressful so if your journey is longer than usual, you might already be dreading it.
As every parent knows, kids messing around in the back of the car can turn a leisurely drive into the highway to hell pretty quickly. It’s actually been revealed that car trips with kids account for three of the top four most stressful car journeys you can take.
So, stay ahead of the game and follow these top tips for driving with kids.
If you’re journey is a few hours long and don’t want to deal with your little ones playing up in the back of the car, why not simply schedule your road trip for when they’re usually sleeping?
This is a great option if you’ve got younger children and works best if you bring along some home comforts to help them slip off without a hitch. Grab their favourite blanket or cuddly toy and enjoy a few hours of peaceful driving while they kip on the back seat. For more information on driving in the dark, check out our ultimate guide to driving at night.
As every parent knows, it doesn’t matter whether you’re heading to the supermarket or France, as soon as the car starts moving your child will want a drink, or food, or both. Stay one step ahead of the hunger games by bringing along some snacks and drinks for the road.
If it’s a long journey, pack a selection of their favourite drinks and snacks into a cool box and dish them out whenever the hunger pangs start. Remember, if you’re planning to stop and snack on the way, always use a designated lay-by.
Gone are the days of passing round the family Game Boy every 30 minutes — these days there are plenty of options for handheld consoles that will keep your kids busy in the car. Make sure they’re fully charged before you head off or invest in a charger you can plug into the cigarette lighter.
Another option if your children don’t have a handheld console is to download some child-friendly games on your smartphone or tablet. As well as the classic Candy Crush and Angry Birds, why not keep their brains trained with a few educational options too?
Don’t fancy going down the console route? Well, you don’t have to. Keep things retro by engaging the kids in some of the car games of yesteryear — just be prepared to explain why 17 rounds of ‘I Spy’ is better than playing FIFA 19 on the Nintendo Switch.
Of course, there are other options if you don’t fancy ‘I Spy’ or spotting yellow cars. If you want something a little different, why not prepare a road trip quiz before you head off? Mix up general knowledge questions with household trivia — think “what’s the WiFi password?” — and see who’s the smartest in your family!
Even if your car isn’t equipped with TV screens in the headrests, the little ones can still enjoy a movie on the road. Download a couple of film options onto your laptop or tablet, or you could even invest in a portable DVD player for the whole holiday.
Get the kids to use headphones if they’re watching a movie to make sure you don’t get distracted behind the wheel. Most tablets and laptops can connect to wireless headphones that will keep them occupied and you undisturbed.
If you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, schedule in regular breaks before you set off. Not only will this give everyone a chance to stretch their legs, it will also mean that you aren’t left frantically trying to the find the nearest toilet.
Motorway service stations are there for a reason, so take advantage of them — especially if you’re not sure when the next break will come. Most have outside areas where kids can run around, which is ideal for getting them to use up as much energy as possible before hitting the road again.
If you’re heading across the country — or several countries if you’re driving around Europe — why not consider breaking up the journey? Two smaller journeys might be preferable to one long one when it comes to keeping the kids occupied, so it’s best to consider your options.
If your itinerary fits, you could drop in on the grandparents for the night or spend the evening with family friends. You could even organise a multi-stop getaway if you fancy it, breaking down the journey into small, bitesized chunks.
If you don’t want to break down on the side of a rainy motorway with screaming kids in the back, carry out some simple car checks to ensure that your car is in good nick before you head off.
Check your fluid levels and tyre pressure and make sure you’ve got enough fuel to get you to the next filling station. It’s also a good idea to give your car a good clean, too. You’ll want your windscreen crystal clear to help your vision behind the wheel, particularly if you’re driving at night.
So now you’re all prepared for driving with kids why not keep up to date with all the driving laws that could affect you on your journey? We’ve got all you need to know and more about the rules of the road, take a look.