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Travelling with children, it’s a bit like using a 9-inch carving knife as a toothpick, very insane and extremely stressful, not to mention the slight danger involved. So how can it be made easier? Well there are a variety of ways with the most effective being leaving the kids behind or tying them up and gagging their mouths. There are more child friendly ways however.
As I have never been abroad in a plane I can't comment on that aspect of travelling with children but I have been on many holidays in Britain that involved a lot of driving. I'm talking two days in the car here, 250 odd miles down to Cornwall towing a hefty caravan. Listen to my words, o wanderers of yore as I prepare to pass to you the secret runes of knowledge concerning the safe and sanity-friendly way to travel with kids. In other words some advice.
Preparation is the key to a long car journey with kids. Everything must be sorted out before the day of the trip, be it a day trip, or the start of a holiday. Never, and I mean never, must anything be left to the last minute. This is when it all begins to go downhill. Pillows get left behind, the kids forget to go to the toilet, the car has a flat tyre, and you can't find the keys. All these things contribute to make the journey even more stressful than it would have been.
Children, don't like stress however old they are. If the parents are stressed then the baby cries, or the older brother starts throwing things at his sister. Not complimentary to a happy car journey I think you will agree.
One very important thing to plan is the route that is to be taken. I am going to be quite controversial here and say that in my experiences, no one, especially women can read maps. Sure you can read them at home but when the irate driver e.g. me is shouting and going red in the face, when a car blasts its horn and cries of "Mummy, I need the toilet” and "Can I have another sweetie?" are coming out you like no surround sound system ever made then it is nigh on impossible to read a map.
The route must be planned and whenever the car is stopped for toilet breaks, lunch, a rest etc it is a good idea to check out where you are on the map and where you are heading as it saves circling roundabouts many times or taking the wrong turn. When in rustic areas like Dorset, Devon or Cornwall it is wise to stick to major roads as being down a country lane with a big caravan and a tractor coming the other way comes highly un-recommended. Also, if an area is known to be busy, don't take a risk, bypass it completely even if it puts you out of your way, there is nothing worse than being stuck in a traffic jam with kids in the back.
Make sure to get the kids comfortable before you set off. If everything is nice and calm at the start then it is more likely to stay that way. Make sure the children have plenty of room, don't assume that because they have little legs that they won't mind that huge sandwich cooler taking up the foot well. Pillows are a good idea as this can encourage younger children to fall asleep during the journey.
The radio, or tapes can have a major effect or the state of your children during the long car journeys. Personally I find that a trip down to the library to borrow some story tapes is well worth it. Choose some that are of interest to your children, not the things you want to hear. I highly recommend the Harry Potter tapes because despite the high costs, they can often provide you with eight hours of near silence from the sweet cherubs in the back seat.
Sweets are often used as a prime way of calming down children on a long car journey. This is fine so long as no chocolate or chewing gum is involved. Chocolate tends to melt in kiddies hands creating a tremendous mess and your back seats will be sticky and stained. Chewing gum has a rather fascinating habit of sticking in young girls hair and generally making everything sticky. Other sweets are fine so long as you know you children are not likely to throw up through gorging themselves on candy goodness.
For older children between the ages of 10 and 16 a book or magazine can be very helpful in aiding the ease of the journey. Also, if you are feeling very kind and have some spare cash a Gameboy is a great idea, just make sure they agree to keep the annoying sound down and make sure to pack sufficient batteries-those things go through them almost as fast as a radio controlled car.
As my lashings of wisdom and experience gradually drain from me I leave you with these words of advice, if all else fails, sleeping pills can be bought over the counter in many chemists :D
PS-Alternatively, you can choose to ignore my advice and splash out on one of those really swish cars. You know the ones, air-con, CD-changer, sat-nav, TV's, DVD's and PS2's built in to the back seat. A costly alternative but it is entirely your choice.