Top tips for long car journeys


Whether returning from vacation, or getting in a last minute break around the August bank holiday, many working parents will be hitting the road this month and dealing with the trials and tribulations that travelling with children presents.

For many, this can be a stressful time – as children quickly become restless and irritable. In fact research of 1,000 UK parents by Enterprise Rent-A-Car found that boredom is the main cause of arguments on long car journeys with children (35%), with a further 28% of parents saying it’s why they don’t enjoy car journeys with their children.

However, there are tactics parents can use to make the journey run more smoothly and time off from work is as stress-free as possible.

Dr Carol Burniston, Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist, highlights how to be one of the 44% of parents who said they see car trips as a positive way to spend time as a family:

1. People’s moods communicate themselves easily in confined spaces, so try to take a positive, upbeat attitude into the car. If you don’t feel positive, act as if you are, it will keep everyone in a better frame of mind and help your own mood to improve.

2. See the journey as a part of the holiday, not just a means to an end. This is special close time with your children you will not get back. Avoid checking up on school grades or nagging about homework and don’t see it as an opportunity to tell them off again about what they did last night.

3. Try to be honest about the journey and give your children age appropriate markers about the journey. For example if you are going to have two meals on the way, explain it. If you won’t be there until bedtime, say that too. Telling lies just undermines your children’s trust in you.

4. Don’t make promises you cannot keep. If you say you will stop at a certain time, make sure you do.

5. Have a variety of activities available so that you can swap them out regularly and avoid boredom. You will be able to tell when your children disengage and it’s time to make a change. Young children may want to spot red cars or sing nursery rhymes. Talking books are great at any age. Older children might go through the alphabet naming countries or respond to suggestions to plan their ‘perfect day’ when they are at the destination.

6. Plan your journey with appropriate breaks and stick to your plan. The only exception might be when travelling with young children and they are asleep and you want to press on.

7. If children tend to squabble, try to sit them apart and avoid activities that may cause arguments such as a shared electronic device or competitive games. Encourage turn taking, fairness and respect for even the youngest members of the family.

8. Notice when your children are being good and give them compliments and positive feedback. As parents we tend to interact most when we are reprimanding them!

9. Fizzy drinks and sweets are not a great idea as they can result in ‘hyper’ behaviour and a resulting ‘sugar crash’ when it leaves the system which may make them irritable and grumpy. Try to choose water, milk or low calorie squashes and healthier foods such as fruit or carrot sticks.

10. Remember to pack your sense of humour!

*Picture credit: “Auto stoped highway”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

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