I remember when I used to drive a pristine car. Now my car is littered with biscuit crumbs and empty juice boxes, and it smells a little bit too. Your car used to be your ticket to freedom, but now it’s purely functional – a torture house on wheels, as you drive for hours on agonising end towards your much-needed holiday.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are ways of cracking the complex algorithm of how to keep your kids occupied while you’re in the car, so that you can avoid starting off your holiday feeling even more frazzled than you did the day before you left.
Here are seven ideas to keep your journey as calm and pleasant as possible and to arrive at your destination not completely worn out:
1. Be realistic
The sooner you realise that your journey will take longer than it used to before you had kids, the better. The reality is that you’ll need to stop at least every 2 to 3 hours along the way: little people – particularly toddlers – need regular breaks to curb boredom, go to the loo and run around in the fresh air. If you do need to break the journey up and stay overnight somewhere, choose somewhere scenic (and family friendly) and make it part of your holiday, rather than seeing it as a delay.
2. Give in to the iPad
While limiting your child’s screen time is generally a good idea, it’s worth breaking this rule on a roadtrip for some parental sanity. To feel less guilty about it, preload your iPad with educational games so that your tot is learning something while also staying occupied. If you have more than one child and only one tablet, either work out clear sharing schedules (good luck!) or buy something that allows you to hang the iPad over the back of a headrest, so all the kids can watch a movie together.
3. Singalong/music CDs
Unless you’re travelling with a newborn, give up your dreams of listening to your beloved music collection that’s gathered dust while you’ve been parenting. Instead, pull out the nursery rhyme CDs and make a game of singing along with your kids.
This is a great anticipation tool that helps break the journey into chunks. Set the expectation for fun snacks every half an hour, so they have something to look forward to. Raisins, rusks, sticks of biltong – go for dry snacks that won’t make too much mess and require a change of clothes.
5. Old-fashioned games
There’s a reason games like “I spy” and car cricket have been around forever – they’re still entertaining and require but a bit of mental effort. Plus they help teach skills like spelling and Maths and they’re a great way to get the adults involved too.
6. Surprise gift bag
Kids love toys that come with novelty and excitement, not necessarily an expensive price tag. Go to your local Clicks or Dis-Chem and buy a handful of cheap toys (bargain bins are great for this!). Wrap them up individually in colourful paper and give one to your child for every hour that passes. You can also use these as rewards for good behaviour.
7. Digital camera
Most people use their phones to take photos these days, so if you have an old digital camera with a playback screen lying around, consider letting your kids use it to take their first selfie series during the journey. If there’s one thing they’ll love more than taking the actual pictures, it will be looking at photos of themselves on the camera afterwards.