Thursday, 30 April 2015

5 Tips for Surviving Car Journeys With Children

I drive a lot of miles each year. Most of these journeys are with a full car. There is the odd one I get to make alone, or with only one or maybe two children in tow. Normally though it is the whole family.

Over time I've learnt how to make these journeys run smoother and slightly less stressful.
Bear in mind I have an 11 year old, an Autistic 10 year old, a 6 year old, 12 week old baby and herself. All these personalities in a 7 seater is never going to be stress free.

For example this Sunday we covered nearly 150 miles round trip to a karate tournament in Ballinasloe, County Galway.

The day began early. We had to be there at 9:30 am. By the time everyone was dressed, fed, watered and forced to go to the toilet, we were late. Not a good start.

I had put diesel in the car the night before so no need to stop at a garage. Sensible move as we avoided the obligatory "I need the toilet!" Just to get out for a walk, and the "Can I get something?" Even though they have been told not to ask beforehand.

Traffic was good, it being a Sunday and we made good time. The journey there passed fairly uneventfully. This was not due to chance, but careful planning and forethought. The S.A.S don't plan operations as thoroughly as a parent of multiple children plans car journey's.

Tip 1: Ensure all electronic items are fully charged.

No matter what age the child, the older they are the worse they are, do NOT leave them responsible for charging laptops, tablets, phones, handheld games or anything else that is likely to run out of power halfway there. They may go a whole journey without turning it on, but guaranteed the one time you don't charge it, is the time they need it. 

 Tip 2: Plan seating arrangements carefully.

I have a set number of seating plans that cannot be deviated from. If #BabyPink and her pram are coming then one of the rear seats is folded up. This leaves the number of seats as follows. Passenger seat, two in the middle (As #BabyPink's car chair is on one) and one in the rear.
Normally herself would sit up front with me, but since puberty hit the Autistic lad, his meltdowns have become more unpredictable therefore he cannot sit anywhere near baby without an adult close by. My preferred seating plan is as follows, 

Rear seat Right hand side: 6 year old.
Middle Left 10 year old (Autistic) Middle Center Herself and Middle Right #BabyPink
Passenger Seat: 11 year old

This ensures that all the major protagonists are separated and their is an adult close enough to stop any physical confrontations.

Tip 3: Do not feed in the car, or give drinks.

Similar in some respects to gremlins, except with them it is only after midnight. Do not feed children in the car. No matter the temptation of, a bag of Taytos will keep them quiet. Do not give in. Crumbs will be dropped, rubbish will be dropped even with a5 bag for rubbish (This will be stood on and ripped, spreading rubbish all over the car), papers and packets will be stuffed into any crack or crevice that can be found, while it will stay growing fur until the car is sold, or money is dropped into the same crevice.
Drinks will be knocked over or dropped, and no matter the type of lid it is guaranteed to be off when this happens. 
If a journey is so long that food is required before the destination is reached allow a stop. Make sure this stop has a shelter so that there is no excuse to eat in the car. 

Tip 4: Before leaving the driveway, decide on the order for music selection.

If you have children and a car you will know that the CD player is no longer yours. You are merely the DJ selecting songs and changing CD's to order. Again it is your responsibility to make sure that all the children's musical tastes are catered for, this usually means the whole CD collection must be brought with you. Never, ever allow the order to be altered, even when they say "I'm not fussed let so and so pick the next song" Somewhere down the line you will be reminded of this act of good faith and they will then expect to pick a number of tracks in a row.

Tip 5: Always factor in at least one toilet stop.

Even though you have force marched them individually to the toilet. In some cases watched or stood outside the door to ensure they did go. There will always be one child who insists that they are "Bursting" forcing a pit stop. Be aware that 5 minutes after this stop, one or more of the others will then decide that they do need the loo after all. Even though they were asked at the previous stop. This will normally be just as you take the slip road to get on the motorway, thus meaning you have to leave the car to make sure they can pee in safety in the bushes. This will also only happen once the rain and wind start.

Saturday night I put all tablets, laptops and phones in to charge. I collected all music CD's into the travel case. For the whole of the nearly two hour journey the eldest lad watched a DVD on his laptop, the youngest played games on his tablet and the middle lad either stared out the window or played on his phone. Somehow we avoided a toilet stop, I'm still unsure how this happened, but I am treating it as a once off, and arrived for the Karate Tournament at exactly 9.30.

I've even driven across France, 8 hours driving, practically non stop without much incident, all because it was planned out way before the car was even started.

Happy motoring...


  1. Ha, ha, as a mum of 4 children, I can say I agree, although we do eat and drink in our car, and yes it does get messy! but at least they're quiet for a bit :)

    1. Yeah mine is only a 97 so they eat in it. Would love a newer car that is too nice to let them eat in.

  2. I own two bottomless pits. They literally can't go more than 40 minutes without inhaling something else! I wrote a rules for kids guide to car journeys. No matter how much I plan and organise something always goes wrong on long car journeys!
    Thanks for linking up #FridayFrolics

    1. Oh so true. That trip was actually one of the smoothest ever.

  3. Sounds like you've got it down to an art form. We've learned to live with crumbs in favour of a peaceful 10 minutes or so :-)


    1. Oh it's taken nearly 8 years. I get too stressed otherwise. Oh yes I'm the same with the crumbs. Every new car I say "No Eating" lasts a day.

  4. Wow, you sound like you have skills! Great tips. Thanks so much for linking up to #TheList x

    1. My pleasure. Thanks for reading and hosting #TheList