Are we there yet?
For our holiday to Brittany last week, it was the first time we’d travelled abroad with our son. As we were going to our in-laws’ house, and for ease, we thought we’d take the car and hop on the Euro Tunnel. This way, we could fill the car with baby gear and stop whenever we needed to. Thing is, it’s a six-hour drive from the other end of the Euro Tunnel to my in-laws’ place in Brittany – which becomes an eight-hour drive when you add a toddler to the mix and all the stop-offs needed for feeding, nappy changes and leg-stretching. That’s a long time for a nearly-15-month-old to be stuck in the car for.
I have to admit, I was anxious about the long drive, but it went fairly smoothly, with minimum meltdowns (from us as well as the Small One). And with that experience now under my belt, I thought I’d share my top tips for long car journeys with a toddler (because preparation equals stress-reduction in my book):
- Downloads – we made sure we had a fully charged iPad bursting with episode upon downloaded episode of Peppa Pig and In The Night Garden and an iPhone filled with sing-song counting games and animal pictures ready for whenever in-car toys, songs, snacks and other distractions weren’t enough
- In-car toys – I had a bag in the back specifically just for toys – anything that made a noise, had fiddly bits to busy himself with or wheels. I also made sure I had a new toy he’d never seen before, for extra distraction minutes
- Snacks – I had another bag with mini packets of raisins, rice cakes, cheesy crackers, cookies, bananas, satsumas, etc. This bag also contained wipes, a bib, tissues and antibacterial handwash
- A plastic bag that can be used as a bin – one for the front for all the adult food waste and one for the back for baby detritus
- Nursery rhyme CDs – we had a generic one and a lovely one calles Silver Balloon that sings his name in every song (a lovely, personal gift from a family member). Audio CDs of stories are also good
- Snuggle toy – or whatever helps him nap
- Extra-large muslin – can be folded up and used as a pillow for them, tucked into the window as a makeshift sunshade, used as a lightweight blanket, snuggle toy, bib, blah, blah…
- Magicool spray – or any facial spritz that can cool them down if they get a bit sweaty stuck in the back
- Insulated sippy cup – his normal sippy cup was too small for a long journey, so I got one of the tall ones with the foldaway straws, and added some ice cubes to it to keep it cool for as long as possible
- The Pacapod – or, just make sure your changing bag is cleaned out and organised with all the essentials close to hand, or you have (another) separate bag just for nappies, wipes, changing mat and nappy sacks in case a speedy change is needed on the back seat
- Songs – me, Hubby and my sister-in-law (who was travelling with us and made an excellent companion for my little one in the back) were all joining in with a selection of child-friendly ditties on the cusp of a couple of meltdowns. From Baa Baa Black Sheep to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes to Hickory Dickory Dock (complete with made-up parts and silly voices), it was like an afternoon with CBeebies at one point
- My sister-in-law – she was amazing and so helpful at looking after / feeding / entertaining / soothing / distracting my toddler as she sat in the back with him. I strongly recommend taking a third person with you if you can! I’ll see if I can hire her out…
And for our enjoyment during the long drive? Well, as long as the bubba was happy, we were happy, so we didn’t need much to keep us going except a good selection of music when he was napping or otherwise engaged, a shedload of sweets and a stash of Red Bull. Ah, how the definition of Road Trip changes when you become a parent…
Been on / going on a long drive with a young one yourself? Let me know how it went!