Long car journeys at Xmas - we're looking for your tips(50 Posts)
Yes, we do know it isn't even half-term yet, but here at MNHQ we're trying to get ourselves organised for Christmas, which put us to thinking about all the long car journeys people do at that time of year.
We'd love to hear any tips you have on improving Christmas car journeys - whether they're ideas for making the journey go quicker, preventing bust-ups over directions, packing all those presents into the boot or simply ensuring you all reach your destination in one piece.
Or, if you have any heart-warming or plain funny/awful stories about Christmas car journeys that went spectacularly wrong (or well) we'd like to hear them too.
We do lots of long drives and my top tips are...
1. Invest in DVD players for the car
2. Pack a large bag with interesting and preferably chewy snacks
3. Never drive for more than two hours without a break
4. Be prepared for traffic jams and winter weather delays with flasks of soup and proper food, not just snacks
Factor in plenty of stops.
Nintendo ds re great for older children
Avoid peak times if possible.
Emergency toilet facilities. I will be packing a urine bottle for the dses after a recent panic on the M25 along the lines of "will we make to the next services or won't we" Oh the joy......
Ditto for emergency sick bowl.
Unfortunately most of our long journeys include the M25, it is indeed the road to hell...
I operate a ticketing system with my kids stolen from this website where you can print the tickets.
It's very simple. You divide the journey by a number of miles or minutes and give the kids that number of tickets. (So 200 miles would be ten tickets) and when you've done that number of miles/minutes you say "ding ding ding tickets please" and they hand you over a ticket. My kids love it, and always know how many tickets they have left, so get an idea of how much of the journey there is to go...
With older children, try 'Just a Minute' Good practice for speaking fluently and actually really hard but a lot of fun
I'll be flamed for one of these but it works..
Animals, we play with places and football teams as well.
A variant on I went to the market and I bought. For small boy who found that so boring, I went to the arms dealer and I bought... could be anything for the camp followers (nappies, babies'bottles, food), or arms ( bazooka, gladiator's helmet, elephants and their hot water bottles), you name it or whatever, the force to be caparisoned does not have to be modern or indeed real, light sabres acceptable.
Joke competition. Go round in turns telling jokes, last one wins.
Make up a limerick. No winners, joint effort.
Get them to sing, rounds. You can't sing and fight unless you are a trained performer or chorister.
Wet wipes, plastic carrier bags to put rubbish in, snow shovel, rugs, thermos, chocolate or similar. Soup in a thermos for lunch is usually a winner.
Use vacuum pack bags for clothes to save space and pack a bag of travel potty liners even if your children are too big for the actual potty - always better to wee into a bag with an absorbent pad at the bottom than a carrier with holes in!
Sorry, meant to explain rules. Speak on a given topic for 1 minute without repetition, deviation or hesitation
Try and make sure that the driver has had more than four hours consecutive sleep at some point in the previous week, as otherwise their driving will be incredibly erratic and downright scary.
Speaks from experience of driving two kids including a four month old to Devon earlier this year. Terrifying.
We travelled 11 hours from the South coast (Sussex) to just outside Aberdeen for Christmas last year, I drove all 4 of us (me, DP, 5&7 yr old sons) in my 1ltr Nissan Micra with a packed boot and packed roof box!
We left at about 3pm and drove until dinner at 6pm then drove through the night, the kids slept and I stopped every couple of hrs for a stroll about and some air.
I made sure the car was fit to drive and had new tires and wipers put on. I also double checked the emergency kit in the boot to make sure we were safe if anything went wrong, I am also covered by RAC so was safe from that point too.
It was a big adventure and the boys loved it! I was very pleased with myself mainly because I had never been more than an hour or 2 from home in the car before.
We borrowed some in car DVD players that the boys watched for an hour at the most. The rest of the time they were sleeping or playing games.
DP filled up a spotify playlist with 8hrs worth of music so we all had a sing a long.
We used to travel from East Kent to Bath regularly with 4 DCs. We found that we often had to travel Xmas Eve and that once it got to about tea time the roads had cleared. Put Dc into pajamas, bundle up with blankets and teddies. M25/ M4 good route in the dark for spotting FC's sleigh high above when they start getting bored near Gatwick and Heathrow. Xmas songs on radio.
The kids to bed in the car thing works for us. Means we get time to chat too.
Don't forget adult snacks too
but not wine obviously
The bed thing never worked for us. Example - a 10 hour drive from London to Scotland with our three (small) kids. Left at 7pm and AT NO STAGE did we have all 3 of them asleep.
We do this journey every summer as follows: I drive car and all our kit. Takes 7.5hrs not 10. DH takes kids on train- takes 5.5hrs.
I enjoy peace and quiet in car. Fab!
Get up at 5am - lift DC in their PJs and put them in car at 5.30am - put them on the loo if you feel you need to. They will be stupefied and may go back to sleep, even if they don't, because it is dark they will doze and be no bother!
Hand out buns like chocolate brioche when everyone is properly awake and put on a story CD. Stop about 8.45am/9am and get everyone changed out of PJs and have a good breakfast (by this time if you have been on the motorway you should have done 200miles). Back in car at 9.45 and drive to 12.45. Watch DVDs if you have, more stories and games. With luck you will have done 400 miles by this time and may be at your destination! Treat yourselves to a nice pub lunch and pat yourself on the back for such a stress free trip.
Works without fail for us - Central Scotland - Oxfordshire - would never to any different now.
Upinthehills - that was my idea for trip to Scotland from London this year - on the dreaded Saturday before Christmas. You've confirmed it for me!
Sadly can't do my car/ train combo due to the trains being to £££ already.
The main thing on that journey is to get up past Manchester etc before the traffic gets heavy. Have had so many nightmares on the M6 around Stoke etc.
Do it! Worth getting up early - otherwise it will take all day.
If it is snowing, don't go!
Wish I'd taken my own advice a couple of Christmases ago
We made the mistake of setting off to come home from Cambridge to Brighton on the Sunday because DH had work and we figured ŵe could take our time! The downside was that the roads had not been cleared. We nearly crashed, wiper wash froze and it took us about 10 billion hours
that may be a slight exaggeration to get home.
My new tip for Christmas driving is don't do it!
Harry Potter CDs saved us from killing each other on a very delayed drive back from Cornwall - JK Rowling and Stephen Fry are saints! Also good for older kids has been the CD dramatisation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials - the unabridged version from 2000, not the shorter later one which messes with the story too much for me, CDs of Old Harry's Game and CDs of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue from the BBC. Ebay is great for these. Also, as everyone has said, sick bucket!
Story tapes / cds. Absolutely brilliant.
WE got a lot from our library, but ebay is also a good source.
Weather permitting, leave home at the DCs' bed time and get at least part of the way or leave early in the morning before the rush "hour". Story tapes. Music - I kept Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells just for long journeys. The children loved it (it was the version with the growly voice). Stop and have a break for half an hour with somewhere to run around if possible.
Or stay home and play hosts (if possible).
Radio 2, Christmas morning, Ed Stewart and Junior Choice. Nostalgia alert, good fun to sing along. I've not yet done Christmas with my son, but I have done a lot of driving (typically south coast - north east England) at Christmas and driving on Christmas day is blissful. Particularly leaving at 1 am in the morning (after midnight service).
Put the kids in onesies with blankets and pillows. Christmas music blaring or a dvd. Take a flask and supplies in case it snows. Allow time for breaks and traffic.
When the children were small I always drove at night even in winter, but that was fine because I like night driving better. Much less traffic on the road, no rush hour and no heat of the day/glaring sunshine if it's summer. I found night driving more restful to the eyes. I'd stock the car up with everything we needed and literally put the children to bed in the car, snuggled up in their car seats with extra cushions, blankets and duvets wrapped around them..They'd chatter for a while but as time wore on they'd fall asleep and stay asleep even if I stopped for a "comfort break" on the motorway.
These days I do Christmas driving on Christmas Day, if I leave early there's nothing much on the road and no lorries on the motorway and it's bliss....
Just come back from a 7.5 hour car journey outwards and 6.5 hour return journey to visit the rellies - one word - iPad!
Complete and utter life saver - lots of interactive books downloaded for DD, interactive cbeebies magazine, about 20 hours of cbeebies downloaded on iPlayer and a million apps ranging from useful (phonics) to inane (Hello Kitty) and creative (Drawing Pad).
Our smoothest and happiest journey yet - DD was thoroughly entertained.
Should add this was in combination with lots of regular stops for wees, running about and food.
Also, we make sure we go late in the day so that DD can do something very active in the morning.
Contrary to other people's advice, I'd say DON'T travel on Xmas day.
it might be quiet roads, but surely the best thing about Christmas is when you don't have to go anywhere, just lounge around and relax, with all the stuff, food, people you want.
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