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Planning for Long Car Journeys with Children (and adults!)

You may be heading off for the August Bank Holiday break or just day tripping before the end of the school holiday. Whatever your plans, the best way to a more harmonious drive is to pay attention to the planning BEFORE you even get anywhere near the car!

Think about it. You know there will be traffic and you know you will need to stop – for the loo (you and the dog), for a leg stretch/break, for food and fuel! So, why not put in some preparation and planning (shorthand ‘P&P’) in readiness. Planning a route these days is very simple, either on line (google maps/directions/AA roadwatch) or simply make sure you at least have the postcode of your destination ready for the SatNav. And while you are at it, you could print out a route map for each one of the passengers to follow…that way they will know where they are, learn some map reading skills and maybe even point out some areas of interest or where they would like to stop.

Assign Jobs. This will immediately get everyone involved (but don’t make it a punishable offence if someone doesn’t quite get it right! – if they pack salt & vinegar crisps for their brother/sister/father and they only like cheese & onion, work around the problem, don’t blame them). So, back to assigning jobs. There are a number of things that will definitely happen on the journey. You will all need to:

  • eat and drink
  • have something to do – books, ipads, drawing paper/pens etc
  • listen to something

So, in advance of the journey, you could ask one child/passenger to make a list of what everyone would like to bring to drink and snack on (you then obviously have to provide it!) and get another to ask everyone what they would like to bring for entertainment and they will be in charge of making sure it gets packed into the car.

This category also covers maps/tissues/wet wipes/pillows/rugs etc etc (you get the picture!). Someone MUST have overall responsibility for making sure all these items actually make it into the car.

Watch It!

Films are great for long journeys and helping while away those long, boring hours stuck in traffic or just simply getting from A to B. So with a spot of ‘P&P’, you can cover this. Fortunately there are a good number of DVD options for the car on the market and it is worth checking and doing a bit of research on line by reading reviews about the various products available (for example To purchase, Amazon are pretty good for a range of DVD players or you could try Halfords or Currys who will also be able to advise on fitting etc.

Thank You For The Music!

It is advisable too to have a plan in mind for a fair division of the radio/music. If everyone has their own music to plug into then all well and good. Otherwise it would be completely unfair (and pretty mean!) to expect younger passengers to listen to the cricket commentary for hours on end or The BBC World Service (although this is totally brilliant, highly informative and very interesting). Tell everyone that there will be an opportunity for each of them to choose what they want to listen to. The easiest way is to allow their choice for 45mins/an hour, then your choice and so on throughout the journey.

Plan Your Breaks/Stops

There is nothing more miserable than being trapped in a car and desperate for the loo! We’ve all been there. With a little extra effort the driver/route planner can identify the stopover points (services to you and I) and let everyone know in advance where, when, how far etc. This will definitely alleviate the tension and make for a much happier journey.

So, that’s the ‘P&P’ done and you are all set to go.

Happy travels!

PS: News headline at 6.30am Friday 23 August 2019:

“Five million drivers are set to hit the roads for holidays and day trips on Friday – but traffic is expected to be busiest after 11am” ….

August 23, 2019

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