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Travel

Travelling on long car journeys with kids

Published 21st June 2022Read Time 8 min

Our top tips to keep everyone sane on a long car journey

Travelling in the car this summer with kids might be your idea of hell, but there are ways to make sure it is a painless as possible

Setting off on a long journey with kids in the car, be it for a family holiday or just a weekend road trip can be fraught with stress and anguish, but it need not be. Here are some of our top tips to make sure that your time spent in the car with the kids is as pain-free as possible.

  1. Don’t jam in too much.

    Try and ensure that the car isn’t overly wedged with things and this is most important when it comes to the cabin and back seats. Of course, they might want to bring this and that, but draw a line once the boot is full. It is ok to let them have their backpacks in the rear of the car, but try to ensure the back isn’t claustrophobic.

  2. Plan your journey well.

    Ok we don’t think you need to go as far as producing a clipboard and studying maps at the kitchen table but it is a good idea to see just how long it is going to take to get to your chosen destination and remember that it will take about a third longer to travel with children than without and that, depending on the child, about two hours is the most you will probably get away with in one go. Bear this in mind before planning time-dependant drives, such as ones to catch ferry crossings or other deadlines. Small bladders, toddler’s emerging teeth and travel-numb newborns don’t give a monkeys about your Google Maps estimate. Newborn babies should only travel about 30 minutes at a time for the first four weeks of life. Speaking of which, don’t get into the car in Dublin and put Dingle into your Google Maps, as the kids will take one look and see an arrival time four hours into the future (if you are lucky) and already feel bored. Know that you will stop along the way and put those in, instead. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

  3. Tear up the electronics rule-book, to a point.

    As parent you probably have ways to restrict and bribe using that specific corrupto-currency, the phone or tablet. While we would never say to start with one of these the journey, have it in your arsenal of weapons as it can make all the difference. But on a five hour drive from Lyon to Nice, that is not to time to inflict a 30 minute time limit. Use your currency wisely. That being said, there are a ton of other games that you can play that don’t involve a screen (well that do in so far as you might need to look up a few to refresh your memory) but when your patience and ability to tell apart a Volkswagen from a Volvo wains, you always have the tablet to fall back on. There are lots of suppliers doing very good car travel packs, one of the best we have seen is the KeepEmQuiet website which has tons of interesting items.

  4. Snacks, snacks and more snacks.

    Apart from the inevitable bowel movements, there are a few things that are inevitable with kids in the car for a long period of time and that includes being thirsty and hungry. Stopping for either of these things is probably best avoided unless your road trip is less than 10km long, so make sure to load up on snacks and drinks for the journey and use your own parental judgement as to what these should consists of, bearing in mind that the greater the sugar content the greater the volume from the rear seats and the angrier the sugar crash later. Bring a bag to put the rubbish in, too.

  5. Wipes, wipes and more wipes.

    If we’ve to explain this one, you’ve probably never met your own children. Squashed bananas, sticky fingers, crayons, cracker crumbs. These are vital.

  6. Travel Bands.

    Put off the puke, with travel bands, available from any chemist or online too for about €10. These use acupressure to stop kids feeling car sick. They can be worn while sleeping too.

  7. Power Up.

    Not every car has USB ports everywhere and you might very well need the main ones up front for sat-nav and your own mobile phones, so a Powerbank is always a solid idea. We like this one from Anker on Amazon which has 26800mAh so can charge loads of times and can charge three items at once.

  8. Dress to destress.

    Make sure that both you, and the kids are in comfy clothes as you don’t want to be spending time placating a child with an itchy jumper or pokey pants. Let me wear what they like as long as its comfy and the fancy stuff can come later.

  9. Give them headphones.

    You do need to be careful with little-ones hearing, so make sure to buy something suitable, but unless you like listening to Baby Shark 900 times, you might want them to enjoy that particular world, all on their own.

  10. Travel buggy for the win.

    Think you don’t need that travel buggy? Think your toddler will always enjoy walking on their own, even after a four hour drive? Still think you don’t need that travel buggy? Of course you do.

Remember if you are driving in Europe your Irish licence will be fine but if you are going further afield it might be a good idea to get an International Driving Permit and if you are renting a car, AA Travel Insurance has an optional add-on for Car Hire Excess which covers you for the amount of any excess or repair costs you have to pay under the terms of a rental agreement following damage to a rental vehicle. A nice little peace of mind.

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