Recently we took our 2.5 year old twin boys up to Scotland. A four hour car journey door to door. Whilst we can’t class this as a long distance travel, with a little bit of planning and preparation we could make it smoother and easier journey.
Luckily we were meeting grandparents at the other end who had done a food shop, taken the cots and some toys and books which did help cut down on the over packing. We would also have access to a washing machine whilst away so didn’t take ALL the clothes! However, after a very tense game of car packing Tetris - the car still looked like 12 people not four were leaving town.
To make things easier for us, we kept our everyday change bag (it’s actually a back pack) in an easy to reach place and small Tuppaware boxes with favourite snacks (a car journey is not the time to introduce a new food – you want things you know they like and want!) as well as a couple of spill proof sippy cups filled with cold water. We also packed more than we would normally have in the back pack – change of clothes inside a ziplock bag so if there was any kind of full body change needed (they are still in nappies!) we could put the dirty clothes inside the bag, seal it up and deal with it at the other end of the journey!)
Picking the time to set off
Our boys still nap in the middle of the day, so we decided we would work with this. We left just after they had eaten lunch and would normally be getting sleepy. This meant that the first hour and a half of the journey was during their nap. This really helped them and us (we got a whole hour of uninterrupted adult discussion!) We have also travelled with them in the car setting off just after their normal bed time – meaning they fell asleep in the car.
Picking the time to set off around their schedule can really help the journey along.
We only stopped once on this journey and it was a chance to get out, everyone stretch their legs and grab a drink. We also did nappy changes here. We factored a longer than normal stop (pre twins we would have probably done this journey in one blast or stop simply for a coffee to go!) so that the boys were not in the car to get too bored and frustrated. If you can look at your journey and find service stations with something more than the usual this is a real bonus – a play area for example.
No one wants to be a confined space with a small child or baby who is bored, frustrated and vocal about it. We packed and placed within easy reach a range of hardback books and toys such as dolls, threading items, light up items, dinosaurs. We also didn’t allow the boys to be able to see / reach all the toys at once. This way if we were heading towards a cranky moment we could pull out a toy as a distraction.
I had a couple of new toys for the journey too – things they hadn’t seen before so were really excited to explore playing with those!
We also had a variety of children’s stories on audio which proved helpful as a distraction. I haven’t done it (yet!) but a friend of mine uses a tablet hammock for her Ipad. I think if the journey was more than four hours we would have borrowed or bought one. There is a whole host of educational shows or simple kids TV programmes - you can download them in advance. Do not forget to bring the charger or extra batteries for your device !
You also don’t have to rely on snacks, toys and devices – we also sing songs together – Old McDonald, five cheeky monkeys as well as talking about what we can see out of the window (who can see a red car? Who can see a lorry?) to make the miles disappear!
Make sure you have their favourite comforter toy / blanket and that is within easy reach at all times!
They might cry
Just like some days with children can be challenging, some car journeys can be too. We luckily had less than 15 minutes of crying and that was right at the end of the journey – which stopped as soon as we arrived and they were in the arms of Poppa and Amar! But if they do cry and nothing is working to soothe them – you might simply have to drive with it. That can be tough but they (and you) will get through it.
Written by Hannah Cain
Hannah is co-founder of Hello Cain and Ivy - Creators of bespoke handcrafted keepsakes and magical letters for children: