Something that might be on a lot of parents minds at the moment is travelling with young children. We did A LOT of driving for our recent holiday. The total amount of time we spent in the car with our 4 year old and our 2 year old travelling to and from our holiday gite was 36 hours
We thought we were setting off on this journey fairly well prepared. I had a bag full of colouring books/stickers/magazines/new toys and we had the iPad and a portable DVD player for when things got desperate. We had snacks, drinks, car seat tables and generally felt good about how things were going to pan out.
Here we are waiting to board the Channel Tunnel on our journey down, before we realised what lay ahead for us.
There are something things you just can’t prepare for though, right?
Here are some of the lessons we learned*:
‘Are we there yet?’ conversations
4 year olds have no concept of time. If you say ‘yes, in 3 hours’ that means diddly squat to them and they will probably count to 3 and then get in a huff because you haven’t arrived yet.
Neither should you answer with ‘No’ as my Other Half discovered to his detriment. This will entice your children to repeatedly ask ‘why not’ for the next two hours until you are glaring daggers at your husband for being so ridiculous and the tension in the car has risen to boiling point.
Distraction techniques work better than direct answers in this situation: ‘Oh look, there’s a cow/cloud/red car’ etc etc
Back Up Supplies
You will discover that your children have the uncanny knack of throwing their things into the ‘place of no return’ during the journey. Even once you’ve arrived and the car is empty, good luck finding where those four dummies disappeared to.
Have a back up supply. Trust me, listening to your 2 year old screaming ‘I want my dummy’ at the top of his voice for a prolonged period of time is enough to give anyone a twitch in their eye.
Don’t attempt to unfasten yourself and root around in the back of the car whilst your Other Half is driving either. Not only is it incredibly dangerous but you will probably receive a poke in the eye from your youngest child for your efforts, not find the dummy in question and bang your elbow on the cool box nestled between your loving offspring. The plus side is that they will find your squeals of discomfort hilarious and will be distracted from thinking about the lost item for approximately 5 minutes.
When you have visited the service station, asked your 4 year old repeatedly if she needs the toilet (to which she has replied ‘no’) be prepared for the fact that she will say she needs to go the minute you have pulled off the Autoroute and are cruising down a remote country lane.
By all means, pull over at the side of the road and allow your Other Half to get out and help her go to the toilet. Just make sure that he understands that your 4 year old will say she doesn’t need any help, but if left to her own devices will just squat down and wee into her pants, shorts and shoes.
Kids Can Hear In Their Sleep
You might think it’s safe at 4am in the morning when the kids are certain to be fast asleep to talk about important stuff but trust me, they are either pretending or they have super skills and can hear even in dreamland. Don’t have serious conversations about other people/intimate moments/life changing decisions as your 4 year old will pipe up about them the next day at the most inappropriate moment she can think of. The owner of the gite probably doesn’t want to know what you really think about your boss.
You might pack a variety of DVD’s ‘just in case’ but chances are 5 hours or so into your journey you will be forced to pull out the portable DVD player. If you make the mistake of offering up the all time favourite in your first list, be prepared to watch it on repeat for the remainder of the journey.
It’s a sign that you’ve been in the car for too long when your Other Half quotes the lines of the film word for word and you laugh hysterically at the one liners you’ve already heard 10 times. Take a break.
Don’t Stop Driving!
Don’t assume you can pull over into a layby when it all gets too much and catch 40 winks. Your 4 year old might snuggle up nicely next to her Daddy and fall fast asleep but your 2 year old is too smart for that. At random points you will find yourself drifting off and then waking with a start to the heart stopping fear that your toddler has opened the car door, climbed out and disappeared into the night. In fact, he’ll just be in the boot of the car rooting around for food or on the dashboard kissing the windscreen.
The Journey Home
Everyone will be super tired and fed up on the journey home. After all, there’s not much to look forward to at the end of it. Make suitable plans to keep everyone happy. Don’t expect French shops will be open at 9pm when you’ve arrived at your Hotel for the night. They won’t be.
Your Other Half will spend an hour trying to track down suitable food for dinner before settling on a microwave meal from a vending machine in the hotel’s reception area. Try not to be offended when your two children intimate that the grey looking slop in front of them is the best meal they’ve ever had.
Here we are laughing with relief to be on the final stretch of our journey home:
Have you ever made any disastrous mistakes when travelling with kids? Hopefully if you haven’t, sharing these will make sure you don’t!!
*Unfortunately all these things did actually happen!