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Children on Long Car Journeys: A Case Study

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 30 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Driving Long Car Journeys Children Car

If you are going to be driving to your European destination with children in tow, the car journey can seem like a nightmare in prospect. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to make the situation less traumatic for all concerned, as Kate Meadows 27, discovered on a family driving holiday to Portugal.

Preparing for the Journey

Planning your route before you set off can cut your driving time significantly. As Kate says, “The last thing we wanted was to be driving around in circles with two young children in the back of the car because we hadn't planned our route adequately. Before we left the house at all, we made sure that we had a very good idea of how to get to our destination, and then how to get to our hotel after that. This made a big difference as far as the children were concerned as it gave them less opportunity to get bored and play up.”

Frequent Breaks

Children are more likely to get bored when the car journey is done in long stretches with nothing to break the monotony. Factoring in breaks can refresh their concentration. Kate says, “We made sure that we had plenty of short breaks for the toilet and general refreshments so that the children would have something to look forward to every so often rather than relentless travelling”.

Preventing Boredom En Route

On long car journeys, it is inevitable that children will get bored. If your car doesn't have in-car entertainment in the form of video screens on the back of the front seat headrests, keeping children entertained can be very challenging. To keep the children amused, Kate insisted that they bring their own bags with things to keep them amused throughout the journey. She says, “Both of the children had their own small bags filled with books, games and their iPods so that they could keep themselves occupied. Inevitably though, this only lasted for so long before the boredom crept in again”. To deal with this, Kate played a few traditional games such as I Spy with the children but this was also only a short-term fix.

Encouraging Sleep

For Kate, the most effective option was to encourage the children to sleep through as much of the journey as possible. Kate says, “I made a point of not letting them have too much sugar and caffeine so that they would be more likely to fall asleep. Thankfully, this had the desired effect and they did sleep for a good chunk of the journey courtesy of pillows, blankets and neck pillows to help them get more comfortable. Granted, they did not sleep much during the day and only fell asleep once it started to get dark, so it was probably a bit too optimistic to hope that they would sleep for longer than that!”

Kate's final piece of advice for keeping children entertaining on long car journeys abroad is to be prepared to spend time relieving the boredom. As she says, “Long car journeys are always going to be very boring for children. Bringing along toys and other forms of entertainment will help, but only so far. Try to encourage them to sleep as this will be better for everyone!”

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