Saturday, 16 July 2016

7 Things that Always Happen on a Family Road Trip, and How to Avoid Them

For some reason, us parents often have very short memories. We are also gluttons for punishment and so it is that, every now and again, we decide to gleefully pile all the children into the car and take off on an impromtu road trip to visit pastures new. Forgetting, of course, that most children don't actually travel very well and car journeys are often frought with drama and despair, as your car is quickly reduced to somewhere between a zoo and a warzone. So, I've written this list to remind you of why you promised yourself you wouldn't travel that far trapped in a metal box with your kids ever again, and how to avoid some of the horrors that await you if you do.

A fight will break out over territory on the back seat

Territory is important to children and I'm sure you'll remember your own turf wars when you were a backseat dweller. In the old days, the fold down arm rest in the middle could serve as 'no man's land', so that children could have their own area, with enough gap to prevent accusations about who touched whose elbow. If your car does not have a middle arm rest, it may be possible to engage them in a game together, such as a magnetic board game, or a visual game, such as trying to make the longest word, or sentence by collecting letters from passing number plates. For younger children a Travel Play Tray can give them their own space, whilst providing a flat surface for drawing, or colouring.

Something sticky will be spilled

Mason Jar lidded tumblers
If you have children who are happy to drink water, sticking to that will limit the damage if anything spills. If, like me, you have children who prefer the hard stuff, ie; squash, or flavoured milk, you need a foolproof way to keep them in their containers. If your child is too old for a sippy cup but, in all honesty, could still do with one, these Mason Jar Lidded Tumblers make a handy replacement. You can buy them in lots of shops in the summer months, with prices as low as £2. This one came from Matalan, but there are lots of different designs available elsewhere too, including plastic and two-handled versions. 

Someone will inevitably throw up

Motion sickness is caused by the inner ear reacting to motion. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of motion than others, but children seem to be particularly susceptible. If your little one is a sufferer, there are a few things you can do to lessen the chances of a technicolour yawn at the worst moment. Avoid books and reading material and try to encourage the child to focus on a fixed point within the car., This is where a DVD player can prove very useful! Keep fresh air circulating as much as possible, do everything possible to distract the sufferer and, whatever you do, definitely DON'T MENTION THE VOMIT!! 

"Mini Punch" or similar will be initiated

Mini with fighter jet in the background
This is a popular game amongst travellers young and old, where, on spotting a particular car, such as a Mini, or in some cases a VW Beetle, you have to be the first person to wallop the nearest human. As much as this may be hilarious, in some circumstances, it can be risky to allow mild levels of violence amongst siblings, because they don't always know when to stop. If you want to avoid the violence escalating in your car, establish your own rules before you set off. Have a bag of sweets, or similar and award one for spotting the vehicle and not belting anyone.

Someone will say 'are we there yet?'

This has been a staple of car journeys with children since the beginning of time and is the one thing guaranteed to drive everyone completely round the bend. Excuse the pun. There is one way to avoid it though. Give the child the answer, in the form of a map. It's a great opportunity for older children to learn basic map reading, and works particularly well if you are travelling down long stretches of motorway, so they just have one line to follow. For younger children, you can make a simplified map, with pictures of landmarks you will pass along the way. Or, if you are visiting a particular tourist attraction, you can also encourage them to look out for the brown signs!

There will be an argument over what to put on the radio

No self-respecting adult wants to listen to endless repeats of whatever those helpful fellows at CBeebies have shoved onto a CD, for the discerning 2-5 year old market. The back seat dwellers are going to be equally unimpressed with Radio 2, though, so it's in everyone's interest to find a compromise. Audio books are great for holding children's attention, without inducing vomit, and can have the added advantage of also encouraging peaceful slumber in your over stimulated, hyper excited little ones. Bonus.

A toilet will be required five minutes after passing a service station

Pile of empty plastic water bottles
This is not something that is easy to combat. Little bladders (and sometimes grown up ones) can be unpredictable containers and if you gotta go, you gotta go. However, one way to lessen the chance of unscheduled whinging and frantic detours is to plan regular rest stops, whether anyone wants a wee or not. Exit the motorway every hour, or hour and a half if you are confident, and have a five minute walk about in the service station car park. This will not only give your driver a break, but most children love visiting a new toilet, so it might just save you hassle later on and if you don't linger, it really doesn't add much time to your journey over all. Not so helpful for us girls, but having a plastic bottle available for boy-based emergencies may just get you out of trouble too! 



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