Making The Car Journey from Hell easier

Car from hell?

Car from hell?

Anyone with 2.4 children and a week’s holiday away from the 9 – 5 slog, each year has been there. The car journey from hell.

What can go wrong? Anything and Everything. What can be done to avoid these? Very little. Below I’ve listed a few common issues that occur during the family drive, how to resolve or prevent them, and avoid crashing and making a car insurance claim.

“I’m Huuunnngrryyyy!”

It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we misjudge how long our kids will go without needing food. A 2 hour or more car journey will turn sour quickly if you haven’t got food on hand to satisfy them instantly.

What makes the best car journey food? I’m glad you asked, because it’d be a rookie mistake to give them any of the following:

  • Crumbly bread
  • Crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Sweets – especially not mints
  • Sticky Fruits
  • Yoghurt
  • Soup
  • Ice Cream

All of those make a ridiculous amount of mess, and if you’re stuck in the car for all that time, mess quickly becomes unmanageable and irritating for your kids, who despite having caused it, aren’t going to want to sit in it! Avoid ANYTHING THAT SMELLS too, because no doubt at least one child will not like it and moan that they can still smell it for the next 3 years. Giving your nippers sweets can result in a sugar overdose and cause hyperactivity (including jumping around, kicking the back of the driver’s seat and trying to escape out of the window whilst going 70mph over Dartford Bridge. Oh yer, and Ice cream melts…!

Instead of these obvious faux pas, consider the following, pre-prepared and kept in the front in a cold bag:

  • Carrot Sticks
  • Sliced Cucumber
  • Sliced cooked meat
  • Cereal Bar

These cause less mess, don’t melt and release energy slowly. Keeping your kids satisfied longer, and without giving them a power surge, these treats are also relatively healthy, and don’t encourage sudden, unavoidable bowel or bladder movements…

“I need the toilet”

You’re 10 minutes into the journey and suddenly they need to the toilet, just as you’ve picked up the A1 southbound, and the next service station is 45mins away. You told them to go before you left, but they never listen (or lie and say they did anyway). There’s not a lot of advice to give in this situation. It’s not easy weeing in a moving vehicle, and pulling over isn’t always safe. If your child really can’t wait, have an empty 2 litre cola bottle on standby for them to wee in (if you’ve got girls, you’d better have a funnel or something ready too!).

“I’m Borrrrrrrred!!!”

Amusing your children on a long journey can be tough. There are lots of things you can keep them occupied with, that take just a little preparation beforehand.

  • Make a list of objects, scenic features and animals that you might see on your car journey.
  • Divide the list between your children, try and give more to the older children as a challenge.
  • Put a tick box by each one

The idea is simple; the children have to spot and then tick off, everything on the list before the end of the journey. There’s no winner, the challenge is in completing the list.

You don’t want to rely on those head rest DVD players or handheld games console, because this can result in kiddies getting violent motion sickness, and further distractions for the driver.

The children start to argue

Children do argue. But there is a time and a place, and being stuck in a car for so long isn’t going to make it any easier, or any less avoidable. How do you resolve an argument? Telling the children to “stop or you’ll turn the car around” isn’t going to work. If anything it might just make them argue more as they go into the ‘(s)he started it!” loop. Instead, a better motivation for them to be quiet is to play another game. If you’ve not prepared the lists, then perhaps challenge them in the following ways:

  • Play I-spy
  • Play the number plate game
  • Play “who can keep quietest the longest”

The last game will keep them quiet; until they figure out they’ve been tricked. Whatever you do, don’t try and bargain with them to keep quiet, they’ll only start to play up, just to get a treat.

“Are we there yet…??????”

The most common, and annoying moan of all…the dreaded:


How do you deal with this? There’ll only keep asking, and asking…and asking…and asking…

I’m about to give you a golden nugget here, and all it requires is a little preparation before you set off.

  • List the main landmarks along your route. Alternatively, if there’s nothing that interesting, write the road designations (A1, B452 etc) and put them in order, along with how many miles left of the journey, and what time you’d expect to reach them (Google Maps is great for this). You could even draw it onto a timeline-come-map.
  • In the car give each child a copy of this and tick off the landmark, or road sign and have them record the actual time you reached it, compared to the estimated time.

This is educational, as well as fun. It teaches kids about distance, about time and locality. Couple this with your other games you’ll have no trouble from your kids.

So there you have it, a survival kit for those long journeys with your kids. Do you have any other methods that are sure to work?


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