In all fairness, the repetition of this phrase increased significantly the closer we got to the destination and the longer we spent in endless traffic jams on the A31 through the New Forest (which, let’s be honest, while it’s a National Park is not a visual feast on a rainy summer day, through a fogged up backseat window). I-Spy simply is not an option here.
Luckily for us our son is a musical sponge, and he spent a serious amount of time quietly learning the lyrics to all the tracks on the one CD we had with us as it looped around and around (radio not being an option as we in the front seat have seriously different opinions on which station to listen to). These hours of passive listening to repeated songs has paid off in many ways as we now have a child who can correct us when we incorrectly sing along to ‘Never be lonely’ or ‘Fill my little world’ by The Feeling.
While it was a long and tiring drive, we all survived surprisingly intact, with the grown-ups perhaps slightly more frazzled and desperate to know ‘why aren’t we there yet?’ than the relatively happy 6 year old in the back seat.
Perhaps as grown-ups we’d lost the ability to view the journey as an adventure, an experience which signified the start to an exciting week’s holiday or, more likely, we’d just failed to prepare enough for 9 hours on the road.
So, if you’re planning any travel over the holidays, whether it be a day trip in the car or a long haul flight with children, here are some handy tips to remember to do before you set off:
- Charge up all devices required for playing games, listening to music and so on. Check (and double check) that you have chargers with you, otherwise the trip home will not be something to look forward to. This is one of those occasions when screen time rules can be bent…
- Books are great for keeping kids amused on the trip – especially if they can be discussed, altered, hacked etc. Making stories up one paragraph at a time between all people in the car can be great fun and a very revealing insight into the workings of the minds of your kids (and your partners!). Beware of the risk of car sickness with too much reading though, and use the books more as prompts for younger ones.
- Snacks, finger foods, drinks… stocking up will save you a fortune at expensive service stations which you will not be able to avoid as the little ones will no doubt express an urgent need to pee every 30 minutes or so! (Keep empty plastic bottles, again, for that urgent need to pee every 30 minutes or so…). Make sure you spread the snacks and treats out so you’re not left with only one lollipop 30 minutes into the journey!
- Play the Back-Seat-Sat-Nav game… this is one made up by our son who absolutely can’t stand the sound of the Sat-Nav. Once he realised he’s never going to win the “turn the Sat Nav off” whine… he turned it into a game which we all enjoyed… it’s a little like Simon says but begins with a Sat-Nav instruction, ie “at the next roundabout… raise your left hand in the air”, or “in 300 yards….scratch your nose”… this can be played with or without the help of your actual Sat-Nav. Without the Sat-Nav instruction, you’re out!
- Think long and hard about your musical selection for sharing in the car… Take headphones for backseat passengers for when they absolutely insist on the Frozen sound track, yet again. Remember, take more than one CD!
- Comfort essentials will help your kids relax and sleep some of the journey, blankets, teddies, pillows, even slippers can all help your children feel less stressed once the tiredness kicks in.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, try and keep the atmosphere in the car fun and enthusiastic! Front seat stress and frustration with traffic, weather, diversions and all the other joys of holiday car travel (in our case radio-station-wars) will be mirrored in the backseat, and a car full of grumpy travellers is no fun for anyone. Remember, this is supposed to be a holiday! Happy travels!