That dreaded thing: family car trips.
Living in Scotland, my wife and I both have family several hours drive away in England and Ireland.
So every year we pack up the car and hit the road to visit relatives or to go on a family holiday.
It All Starts So Well
Of course, you always start out with a positive mindset.
The kids are strapped in the back and have something they can do to keep them amused.
You’re absolutely sure that the trip’s going to go well and you’re calm and ready to set off.
The first few miles of family car trips can lull you into a false sense of security.
The radio’s on and the sat nav’s got your directions covered.
Then the signs of discord start to happen in the back of the car.
All Hell Breaks Loose
Before you know it, world war three is happening between your kids.
Inevitably it happens on family car trips that involve motorway driving.
You’re driving along at 70 mph and it’s not the best time to be distracted by arguments in the back of the car.
My wife usually tries to calm things down from the passenger seat but it doesn’t always work.
That’s when my blood starts to boil and steam starts coming out of my ears.
I end up losing my temper which is the worst thing to do. And it makes me mean!
The average attention span of the modern human being is about half as long as whatever you’re trying to tell them. – Meg Rosoff
How Do You Stay Calm?
Family car trips for me almost always end up being stressful.
I’ve read numerous articles detailing strategies on how to remain calm and not get irritated in this situation.
Most of the strategies, I feel underwhelmed with and end up shrugging my shoulders because I’ve already tried them.
I think at the moment, my kids are of the age that whatever I do, they will eventually wind each other up on family car trips.
Here are some of the things I’ve tried or considered trying so far. Have any of them worked for you? Do you have any others to add?
Stop As Often As You Can
“Are we there yet?” is every parents’ favourite expression, I’m sure.
Long family car trips can be hard on everyone so taking a break as often as you can might make everyone feel better.
And it will take the kids’ minds off the journey for a while and keep them focused for the onward journey.
My perception of stopping too often though is that it can become boring and that makes things worse.
I’m also not keen to stop for the sake of it because I like to get to the destination as quickly as possible.
Try A Few Games
Games can get everyone involved and are a good way to pass the time.
They can also relieve the boredom and monotony that family car trips can bring.
A classic game is I Spy and that works well in our household.
Taking along some felt tips pens and paper can be useful too to entertain the kids.
Just make sure you take something for them to lean on!
Do You Allow Gadgets?
One of the best ways to keep my kids entertained on family car trips is to let them use an electronic gadget.
They usually each bring their Nintendo 3DS or they play Minecraft on one of our old mobile phones.
But lately we’ve had to cut back on this activity completely as my son gets car sick very easily.
Getting him to focus on something else for a while doesn’t really help.
We haven’t tried car sickness tablets yet. Mainly because he only gets car sick when he’s looking at a gadget.
Hence the reason we’ve stopped using gadgets as a way to curtail boredom for the moment.
Kids Sitting In The Front Seat
I see many parents on the school run with one of their kids in the front seat.
It always makes me nervous when I see it. Although I can see the advantages of having my son in the front so the kids can’t annoy each other so much.
I’ve also read about how dangerous the passenger airbag can be for children though if not deactivated and the car’s involved in an accident.
I think it’s much safer for the kids to be in the back of the car, at least until they’re old enough not to need a booster seat.
It’s not illegal in the UK to have your child in the front seat so long as you use an appropriate child restraint.
As I can’t turn off the passenger airbag in my current car though, that makes it a risk I’m not going to take even though it would make life easier.
Take It In Turns To Drive
This is something I definitely need to do.
Generally when we travel anywhere as a family in the car, I do all the driving.
I like driving and get bored sitting in the passenger seat.
But it can also get quite tiring driving long distance without a break.
It also means I could take it in turns with my wife to keep the kids entertained.
She doesn’t drive as fast as me but if it means we get to our destination with less aggravation then I’m all for it.
Start The Journey In The Middle Of The Night
Going on family car trips myself as a kid, I remember we used to set off in the middle of the night.
It meant we missed some of the traffic and as kids we were more likely to sleep through some of the journey.
Unless I was going on a particularly long journey though, I’m not sure I’d go for this option.
Most times this would come into play, we’re on our way to catch a ferry or can’t get into holiday accommodation until a particular time.
Waiting around at the other end of the trip would be as bad as the long trip itself.
How Do You Cope With Family Car Trips?
I almost always find family car trips stressful.
I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of them too that have been difficult.
Do you have any tips to share that I haven’t mentioned above?
Have you tried any of the things I’ve mentioned already? What was the outcome?