Cars, travel and time. If only my ‘mini me’s’ had even a vague concept of them. What can appear like 30 minutes to us time-worn adults can seem like an eternity for those knee-high to a grasshopper. A time machine would be handy.
Last Christmas, faced with mission impossible: a 500-mile car journey with a five-year-old and a six-month-old baby the thought of it brought us out in a cold sweat. To add to the gloom were another 18 million drivers hitting the roads during nearly the wettest winter on record. Yikes.
I had visions of my wife and I packing a pair of wigs in case our hair fell out or some ‘industrial-sized’ ear plugs to blot out the back seat bedlam. The end result? Not needed. With a little planning and lady luck on our side, it was plain sailing. Here’s some tips on how we tackled the epic pilgrimage:
Plan the great escape well in advance by:
● Taking the day before off work to pack and to make sure the car is fighting fit – for example, checking tyre pressures, fluid levels and giving it a good clean. Double check all paperwork is up-to-date, including MOT, car insurance and breakdown cover
● Arrange to stay at friends or family, if possible, half way along the journey, not only to give the children a break – but also mum and dad.
One’s for the road: On the day itself, it might appear like you’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink to keep the nippers out of mischief but it’s worth it. Consider packing the following to make the trip more bearable:
● A portable DVD player with headphones; a lifesaving gadget, providing hours of non-stop play with a choice of DVDs more than you could throw a stick at.
● Light reading – books: The traditional Mary Poppins approach. If you can drag them away from the DVD player, a book is a great way to keep them occupied and offer some quiet time.
● Aged six months there is little they would do with a DVD player other than try to eat it or at least short circuit it with copious amounts of dribble.
● Teething ring, rattles and electronic-sounding toys; these might end up the passenger footwell but they also might send the nippers off to the land of nod for three hours. Bliss.
● Food with thought: There is no substitute for bringing snacks on long car journeys. Above all it helps break up the boredom; secondly it helps fill little tummies to prevent any belly-aching.
● Dress to impress: this is a must since there will be a strong likelihood of spills and thrills not to mention potential damp clothing due to little accidents.
● Lotta bottle: Depending on the age of the passengers, cartons of baby milk and bottles are vital, along with water or fruit squash for the older kids to keep them hydrated.
Any trip starts with a single footstep; and here are some helpful words of wisdom when planning a long car journey with your sprogs: plan early, take plenty of breaks and, above all, take your time. After all, as the saying goes, better late than never…