Long-distance journeys with your toddler are something you'll need to master if your family live far away or you enjoy holidays. Luckily, with a bit of advanced planning, there are steps you can take to help the trip to go as smoothly as possible. Whether it’s your first big journey, or you want to improve on your last one, these are the things to do on a long car ride to stay relaxed and safe.
5 top tips for long car trips with kids
1) Pack for success
A few days before you go, take a few moments to think about all the things you usually need during a day with your toddler. Write them down so you can tick off your checklist as you pack. Essentials could range from snacks and their favourite toy to their potty. Make sure these items aren't stashed at the bottom of the boot but can be accessed quickly and easily when you need them.
Things you need could include:
Easy to eat on the go snacks. Always bring along more than you think you'll need and pack some bag clips so you can seal half-eaten bags of food to limit mess.
Plenty of water in their favourite beaker. Again, bring more than you think you'll need in case you get stuck in a traffic jam. You can buy cup holders for some car seats to keep a drink close to your child.
Spare clothes in case of spillages. Pack these for your child and you to help ensure you arrive at your destination feeling and looking fresh.
2) Car activities
We can't promise you won't hear “are we there yet?” before you even leave the end of the road but carefully planned car activities can help to keep kids occupied in the car. Remember, you need to keep it simple when you’re planning car activities for a 3-year-old.
A new to them toy can be a great distraction on a journey.
A favourite toy can help them drift off to sleep at naptime.
Pens and pencils can drop under the seat in front and be hard to retrieve when you’re on the go. Instead, give your creative child a sticker book to fill in.
Playing easy games, like I-Spy or spotting different coloured vehicles, can keep them busy and is a chance to increase your toddler's vocabulary and observation skills too.
It can be handy to have a back-up plan in case all else fails. Download your child's favourite programme or games onto a phone or tablet just in case you need it.
3) Plan your journey
Some parents prefer to travel at night, so their toddler can sleep through the journey. If you're travelling during the day, plan your route to include plenty of stops so your toddler can have a run and let off some steam.
4) Car seat safety
Next, it's time to think about safety. Your child's car seat should be the right size for them to keep them comfortable and safe. If you're not sure, read our guide.
If your road trip will take you to a different country, make sure you check on the local car seat rules. Find out more.
5) Car checks
An unscheduled stop can make your journey less relaxing. A few simple checks of things like your oil and tyre pressure before you go can help to prevent breakdowns. Fill up with fuel before you leave too, to reduce the number of times you'll need to stop.
Travelling with a baby means a different set of must-dos. Read our guide to taking a long trip with your new-born.