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I last went abroad in 1989. I had my first child in 1990. I haven’t been abroad since. Yes, there’s a correlation here somewhere – taking kids with you means more money, more hassle, possible difficulties with buying the usual baby supplies and worries about local healthcare.
Being someone who follows the ‘anything for a quiet life’ philosophy, it is often easier to just avoid travelling long distances with young children, if you can. But of course, that’s pretty impossible. So we try to restrict it to a couple of long journeys a year, including the annual visit 180 miles north to see my relatives.
I have four children. They are aged five, eight, nine and ten, so we have finally got over that wonderful baby/toddler stage where your car is filled with nappies, baby wipes, changing mat, toys et al, so that two adults and three kids’ stuff for a weekend has to be crammed into a Noddy rucksack and a Toys R Us carrier bag.
Besides travelling with the kids, we also take the dog with us too, but she is generally the best behaved and least argumentative of the lot. Thankfully, we leave the cat, hamster, rats and stick insects at home. (Thanks, Mum-in-Law!)
So how do we survive these adventurous treks up the motorway? Ahh, well, this is where my years of experience come into play. Well, you learn by mistakes, they say, and after seeing chocolate sick fly from the back seat to the front, I – strangely enough – have tried not to encounter that again... which leads us nicely onto the first point…
TRAVEL SICKNESS aka Stop The Car And Stop It NOW!
Three of my children have suffered from travel sickness for a while. The good news is that they have all grown out of it. But we still travel prepared, usually with a plastic waste bin lined with a carrier bag as an emergency sick bucket. Take plenty more carrier bags, a roll of kitchen roll (thicker than loo roll) and wet wipes, not to mention a spare outfit that’s accessible – i.e. not right at the bottom of the suitcase on the bottom of the huge pile in the boot! Or just leave the sicky child home with Grandma for a couple of years…
Well, now all my children are old enough to have their own Gameboys, boredom is a thing of the past. Now we get the cry of “My batteries have run out!” instead, followed by the obligatory screaming, tantruming, whining or sulking – depending on your particular child. (Hey, one of mine can do all four at the same time!)
But otherwise, you can buy a load of magazines for the journey. (Make sure you visit the newsagents on the way out though, not the day before, or they’ll have read them already!) If you buy a couple for each child, they can read those then (theoretically, at least) share them with their siblings afterwards.
Taking books, magnetic games, paper and crayons, puzzle books and pens are all a good idea too. Remember though, that travel sickness or nausea can be exacerbated by activities in the car which involve having your head down. I couldn’t read in a car as a child, because I always felt sick, but never actually was. (I’ve always been a bit strange…)
Of course, with all these things in the back of the car, pens and crayons are going to get lost and your strapped-in child (For we all travel with them in age applicable restraints, don’t we?) will be wriggling and moaning that the pen they need (This word usually has 3 Es in) has fallen under your seat and they can’t reach it.
Those bags you strap onto the back of the front seat are ideal for this, as they have compartments for such things. Otherwise, tie some string round the pen and selotape it to the book – or just buy a bumper back of twenty biros and cross your fingers.
TOILET STOPS or How Many Minutes Left? <said through gritted teeth>
Depending on the age of your child, you will have to stop for the loo, as well as food and drink too. On a four hour journey, we usually stop two or three times. Motorway service stations are excellent for this, but be prepared and be firm.
Yes, you can stop here for the loo, then come back to the car (or sit outside in the sun – but this is Britain we’re talking about) for the picnic we made this morning and the bottles of drink we bought cheaply from Asda before we left. If you have forgotten food and drink, this could be a costly error. Expect to spend half a week’s pay at Little Chef or Happy Eater, ring your financial advisor if you eat a meal at a service station. Believe me, these places are expensive.
Service stations are also filled with ‘I want’ sections – mobile phones for your partner, toys and sweets for the kids, TY beanie babies for me. Oh yes, many’s the time I’ve been dragged from a beanie display protesting to my other half that buying a particular cute-faced fuzzy thing is much more important than filling up the car with petrol.
LISTEN WITH MOTHER – Or TO Her, For A Change…
One of the most irritating and distracting things about travelling with kids is the noise level. Well, you can’t really shut them up, unless they go to sleep. If this sounds a good option, travel early in the morning or late at night. The dark outside and lack of stimulation often works. As long as the driver’s wide awake, that’s the important thing.
Otherwise, take along an assortment of tapes or CDs for the journey – or just listen to the radio. Story tapes can be bought quite cheaply or borrowed from the library. Try to combine the interests of all your passengers and alternate favourites. So my youngest would probably want Postman Pat or Bob The Builder, while the other three would be happy with Harry Potter. Throw in a Geri Halliwell CD for me and a Dr. Who audio for my partner and we’re all cheerful. Well, hopefully anyway.
Of course, by the time, you’ve travelled four hours with Felicity Kendal or the Tweenies, you’ll be even more relieved to get to your destination. Believe me, I did an eight hour treasure hunt with only the Hear’say CD.
TO SUM UP…
If the kids feel sick – stop the car quick! If the kids shout – drown them out! If the kids sulk – don’t reproduce in bulk! If the kids complain – don’t take them again! If the kids moan – leave them at home!
Very amusing op. I enjoyed reading this. My son (2yrs 9mths) likes to take his safety straps off his shoulders while I'm in the middle lane of the M25!!! I swear he does it every time, no matter how tight they are! Any ideas??? Thanks, Barbara
LucyBell 08.05.2001 17:17
Ive got a 2 year old and a baby so I still have this joy to look foward to lol.
Freddydog 08.05.2001 11:04
Brilliant op. My daughter suffered travel sickness like no other and we couldn't go down the road without her being sick I learnt the way to travel was with a nappy bucket the ones with a lid so she could be as sick as she liked on the way to the shops and at the other end we parked near a drain (I think you can work out why!) bottle of water hey presto putting the lid on and sticking it under the car (no one ever pinched it and we were in central London - wonder why?!) Then we discovered accupressure wrist bands from Boots and our lives changed.