I have done my fair share of long car journeys with my toddler from Norfolk to my parents in Yorkshire. We’ve done these trips as a family several times a year since she was a baby and I have now done a couple of journeys on my own with her. We’ve also travelled over four hours by car to go on holiday in the New Forest. And we’ve never had a problem with her screaming her head off, leaving us frazzled, or in danger because we’ve been distracted. The last time I drove with her on my own she didn’t cry or whine at all. A lot of people ask my how I manage. So I thought I’d share my top tips for successful long car trips with toddlers.
My tips to surviving long car trips with toddlers
- Don’t ignore them. Yes you need to concentrate when driving, but I find talking to my daughter about where we are going helps. I talk to her about our plans, who we are going to see, what she may like doing. I’d love to listen to the radio instead, but I know she’s happier and therefore I’m happier, if we chat.
- Sing. As much as I want to sing along to my Ed Sheeran album, I spent about an hour of my last three and a half hour car journey singing Nursery Rhymes. I have quite a repertoire now! If singing really isn’t your thing, you can buy CD’s with nursery rhymes or songs from your child’s favourite TV shows and films. Occasionally I put on a CD of songs we got when we signed up to Tumble Tots.
- Audio books are a great idea too. I’ve not used them yet but The Gruffalo and Other Stories CD
is on my list.
- Make simple games up. Look out of the window for their favourite things (in our case animals and tractors). If they’re older, games like “I Spy” or counting the number of a certain colour car or the number of caravans you’ve seen work well. I used to do the caravan counting on trips to my grandparents when I was a child!
- Provide snacks and water. I know you’re not supposed to let your child eat their car seats, incase you stop suddenly, but I have in the past provided a bag of carrot puffs or raisins. If you’re really cautious pull over into a lay-by for them to eat their snacks safely.
- Take plenty of books and toys. My daughter loves to look at books. I find board books are the best to have in the car. Paperbacks can get torn. I had a stash next to me and kept passing them to her. Because they are her favourite books I knew roughly what was in the books, so again I could chat to her about it. e.g. “what colour is the circle?” (Correct answer, blue!) I find non-noisy toys such as stuffed toys are best in the car because they are less distracting.
- Take regular breaks if you need to. A short 15 minute break to stretch everyone’s legs, go to the toilet, and have a drink or snack, helps break up the journey.
- Stop for a long lunch. We always stop for about an hour for lunch. After we’ve eaten we stretch our legs, run around or go for a walk, even if it is just around a service station!
- Coincide your travel time with naps where possible. After our hour-long lunch stop I knew Miss Belle would be full and ready for her nap. Her usual nap time is after lunch, this can be any time from 1-2pm. We got back in the car at 1pm and she was asleep by 1.15pm. I then had an hour of solid motorway driving in peace and quiet.
So these are my tips for surviving long car trips with toddlers. You’ll notice that I’ve not included using a tablet. Honestly, we’ve never had to use one. However, we have used our iPad on the plane before and I don’t see a problem with entertaining toddlers with educational apps like the KiddloLand App we reviewed. The only thing I’d worry about giving my iPad to my toddler if there wasn’t someone sat with her in the back, is that she has a habit of accidentally deleting photos! So the risk is up to you!
I don’t know if we’ve just been lucky with Miss Belle, or if she’s simply used to long car trips because we’ve done them every few months since she was a baby. But these things are what work for us.
Do you have any other tips for long car trips with toddlers? If so leave them in the comments box below.