Travelling in the car is to us what having your nappy changed is to a weeny one. Natural, necessary yet a little bit annoying.
Mr O and I have spent our entire life together travelling up and down motorways as we’ve journeyed from Luton to Doncaster, Blackburn, Lichfield, Coventry, Liverpool, London and many other places in between…and sadly, because of this, we now know the M6, M1, M62 and M18 motorways (and if you know Mr O, the toilets at each service station!) like the backs of our hands.
Our children, being only small are somewhat lacking in the car travel experience department and are, understandably I guess, not really very happy about us trying to provide such a wonderful, joyous education for them.
Take our most recent car journey as an example…
Our best friends live in Leighton Buzzard. Of course they do. Everyone knows that it’s the rule that your best friends must live at least 1.5 hours away down a very busy motorway!
So it started off very well, with the promise of a little nap (sadly not me!) and a sing song before we reached our destination.
In reality it wasn’t any of this. It was a mixture of awful and even worse.
Henry and Ruby took it in turns to be annoyed. Henry would scream and cry, and then when he’d given up, resigned to his fate once more, Ruby would pick up the baton and start whining about us not being there yet, that she wasn’t actually sleepy, that the nursery rhymes weren’t on loud enough, that the radio was too loud (she was trying to sleep after all!)…
It was certainly one of our most interesting car journeys of recent times.
And then there is this:
The circular sign of doom.
The mark of killer traffic jams, lane creepers, idiots on cruise control…and the fact that our entire motorway network is just full of them, all at the same time, is soul destroying.
We have spent the last 2-3 years filtering slowly through 50mph zones, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually spotted people working. What are they actually doing anyway!? And why has it suddenly become en-vogue to remove crash barriers and replace them with massive concrete walls!? How is that safe!?
So, good people, here are my very special top tips for travelling with small people and how not to end up looking like this:
- Be prepared – tell them in advance that it will be a long journey
- Get them just the right amount of excited – too much excitement will result in endless “Are we nearly there yet?” situations that will make you want to hurl yourself from the moving vehicle. You need them excited to get there but also excited about the getting there itself (the promise of a treat at the half way point usually helps!)
- Take stuff with you – no matter how long or short the journey, let them take as much “stuff” as they want. It will keep them occupied and avoid a tantrum when told they can’t take their “stuff” with them
- Play nursery rhymes – but do a deal with them first, as a parent you simply cannot listen to nursery rhymes for the entire journey as your ears will bleed. Take it in turns to be in charge of the music!
- Spelling games – spot the signs coming up and ask them to tell you how many letters they can see, it usually ends up with them shouting that you’re driving too fast, but it’s a great distraction technique
- Counting games – how many red cars can you count etc. etc. will keep them busy for at least 10 minutes
- Snacks – doesn’t have to be sweets, can be anything at all. But try to individually wrap things or put them in challenging pots that keep them occupied…sneaky, sneaky mummy!
- Don’t engage in small talk – and by this, I mean the talk of the smalls. Just let them witter at you. It’s easier and you can pretend to be a unicorn or something. Or, better still, pretend to be a mute…it angers Ruby, but it might work with your little one!
- Pretend to be asleep – you will be shouted at, you will have things thrown at your head, but if you can keep your face straight you are guaranteed at least 15mins of time with your own inane thoughts
- Tell stories about your life – if all else fails, use your trump card. Ruby loves hearing stories about me, about Daddy, about our parents and about her Uncles. Tell them everything you can. Teach them about your past, and about the past of your family…they will love it.
I’m hopeful that as they get older things will become easier on the travel front…
They certainly can’t get any worse! Or can they!?!
Share your best and worst travel stories with me…I’d love to hear them.
Speak soon, x