How to survive the overnight drive from 'up North' to Cornwall?

(45 Posts)
nomoreminibreaks Mon 15-Jun-15 20:17:12

Hi - just as the title suggests - we're going to drive down to Cornwall in a couple of weeks and I think we're going to drive down overnight with a 4yo and an 18 month old (who still has never slept through!). I'm hoping DS2 might do better in a moving car but can't base this on anything so I'm nervous about him screaming and waking DS1 up too. Any tips for survival? DH and I plan to share the driving if that helps. Also route planner says 6 hours, so do we keep them up late before we set off? Help!! shock

OP’s posts: |
FreeButtonBee Mon 15-Jun-15 20:27:43


What time does your accommodation become free? You don't want to arrive totally knackered and not be able to get in. So work back from that.

We tend to do dinner, bath, pjs and some relaxing TV while we do the last of the packing of the car. If you can manage keeping them up until setting off time that is best as I've found waking them to put them j to the car results in major tantrums.

Make sure you have stopping off points worked out. We often park in the outer edges of service car parks away from all street lights, leave the engine running and do a driver switch over. Stopping will cause them to wake and they won't just drift away again!! Ditto making sure the car is totally tanked up with petrol, drinks/snacks for kids and you. Nursery rhyme CDs can be a saviour although start to grate after the 4th repetition!!

hesterton Mon 15-Jun-15 20:29:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

formerlyofLadysmith Mon 15-Jun-15 20:31:43

We go from the NW to Cornwall several times a year. Although we have talked about it we have never done it overnight as just can't face it! We set off about 9-10am in the morning, hope to get 2/3hrs done, stop for lunch & runaround, start off again around 2pm, hoping to push all the way through but sometimes have to stop for fish & chips. It generally takes us around 8hrs with stops.

fredabear Mon 15-Jun-15 20:32:58

Where are you driving from - up north is a big place! When we went we had a stopover in Exeter, meant we had little left to do - but we are way up north. We once drove through the night to Dover, with twins who have always been good sleepers. They didn't fall asleep until half an hour outside the port, then we had to wake them to go on the ferry. Never again!

formerlyofLadysmith Mon 15-Jun-15 20:33:18

What hesterton suggests is what we used to do when we were kids (also traveling from NW to Cornwall regularly) but I think my parents dealt better with sleep deprivation than DH does...

CMOTDibbler Mon 15-Jun-15 20:38:34

I'd book into a cheap hotel maybe an hour from your destination, then leave home at 6. Even if you get there at 1am, that still gives you a decentish sleep before the dcs wake up, then you get a nice breakfast before finishing the journey.

WeAllHaveWings Mon 15-Jun-15 20:40:13

We did overnight a couple of times with no bother, nice clear run both times, third time we did it dh lost concentration and "lane changed" onto the hard shoulder and had to swerve to miss a lorry parked there.

That terrified us and we pulled over and booked into the next travel lodge.

Driving to Cornwall is hell during the day but I wouldn't do overnight again.

Kez100 Mon 15-Jun-15 20:44:35

Not sure anywhere is cheap in.summer! St Austell travelodge might be. If that's on the way, it might not be. This would help the wait before check in.

I'd say 6 hours isn't too bad. Plan to leave in early morning and to be close to your destination for a breakfast stop at 8-9 and beat the traffic.

Be careful on your check in time though. It might leave you with hours to wait.

coolaschmoola Mon 15-Jun-15 20:45:36

We drove from Lincolnshire to Looe, which is only about 20 miles into Cornwall, a couple of weeks ago with our three year old. We were towing a caravan so restricted to 60mph and with two stops it took us ten looooong hours.

Luckily dd is used to long journeys and was happy enough with toys, dvds etc.

Once there we decided that it was an evil journey and broke the return journey up by staying overnight at the halfway point which was Tewkesbury (very nice as it happens!) We did five hours Saturday including one stop and five hours yesterday with one stop.

Our sat nav claimed it would be seven hours... It wasn't.

coolaschmoola Mon 15-Jun-15 20:47:33

The traffic wasn't bad on either leg either. We left at 6am. The main issue was lots of tiny, twisty roads which slow traffic down to 30mph max.

TwartFaceBeetj Mon 15-Jun-15 20:48:18

We done it quite a few times and always set off about 4,

We put the dc in the car in pj and duvets /blankets. Usually get to Exeter services around 8 have breakfast, dress the dc, then set off again, they are normally awake with toys and and chatting for about an hour then drop off again. Or we stop to look around bodmin or Truro (depends where we are going)

The motion of the car seems to keep them asleep.

BIWI Mon 15-Jun-15 20:50:43

As it has often taken me 6 hours to drive from SW London to Leeds, I'm very sceptical that it will only take you that length of time to get from 'Up North' to Cornwall.

I wouldn't drive through the night, because you'll be tired.

Is getting a hotel en route out of the question? I'd be tempted to set off at around 7pm, (so once the rush hour has died down), and drive for about 4 hours, then have the next morning for the rest of the journey - you should get there in time for lunch.

To keep the children entertained, how about a story CD or portable DVD player? We used to drive regularly 'Up North' or to the SW and story tapes (in those days!) were what saved our sanity. As long as it's not Thomas the fucking Tank Engine

Highlandbird Mon 15-Jun-15 20:52:18

I'm doing an 8 hour drive with my two, similar age, this week, to visit family. I'm doing the first four hours in the evening, staying at a travelodge overnight and then doing the next four hours in the morning to get there for lunch time. Don't trust myself to drive in the night, but DH has done it before with me keeping him company / chatting the whole way. DCs don't sleep as well as I expected in the car though.."..

TwartFaceBeetj Mon 15-Jun-15 20:53:09

Setting of at 4 dosen't seem so bad for us as I use to and dh still does get up at 5 in summer. So it was only an hour earlier.

SandraMelandra Mon 15-Jun-15 20:53:19

We do exactly as twart. Put sleepy dcs in car at four am, breakfast and get dressed at Exeter. It works brilliantly for us, as they go straight back to sleep once we're on the motorway.
About a 9 hour drive in total, but only the last 3 all awake. smile smile

rockybalboa Mon 15-Jun-15 20:56:59

We live in Cornwall and regularly drive down from various parts of the country visiting family including Up North. We usually leave at around 5/6pm for a late arrival. Driving during the day is horrendous because the traffic is worse, the kids get bored and you have to stop at services for meals (even if you take packed lunches) and you will lose 45 minutes minimum by the time you have eaten, dealt with nappies, toilets, dragged the kids out of WHSmith etc etc. Getting up early in the morning is also horrendous because a) you have to wake the kids up way before they are ready and b) unless you leave literally in the middle of the night you will hit morning rush hour and you will still have the meal problem. If you go to bed and then get up at 1/2am to do the drive you will be shattered driving and also shattered for the rest of the next day. We have tea at 5pm and set out asap after. Put the kids in their Pj's. Take snacks and drinks and only stop for one 15 min pee stop (we have to go in shifts as at least one child will be asleep in the car at the time). Even if it takes around 7 hours with stops you'll arrive at a decent ish time to get a sort of normal block of sleep. We have it down to a fine art now!

Although this does kind of depend where you are staying down here. Obviously we just walk into our house and go straight to bed but if you are renting somewhere then that might be more difficult. In that case maybe travel down to somewhere halfway in the evening, stay overnight then do the rest in the morning.

Duckdeamon Mon 15-Jun-15 20:58:42

We did the 4am starts to the far far south of Cornwall as a child, also occasionally driving into the night and arriving at caravan parks in pitch black, parents bickering, which DM still shudders about!

Don't think overnight drives are a good plan tbh, tiredness causes accidents.

I recommend Dorset!

Artandco Mon 15-Jun-15 21:00:05

Yep I would also set off early hours rather than before bed.

Keep kids up until 9pm, then all of you sleep until 4am. Decent 7hrs sleep for adults before drive, and not enough for kids so they still fall asleep.

Kids in car in pjs and blankets. Dress at service station 3-4 hrs in.

This is how I drive from London to Berlin with the children. Means we are on 6.30am ferry from Dover, And can be in Berlin by early evening even allowing for stopping.

scribblescrabble Mon 15-Jun-15 21:01:03

6 hours is very, very optimistic!! grin we travel from Cheshire to Falmouth twice a year, set off straight after school, stop for tea at about 7pm and stay at the Holiday inn express in Exeter, usually get there at about 10.30pm ..... we then set off at 10 the next morning and arrive at about 1pm .... have a fab time wine

TwartFaceBeetj Mon 15-Jun-15 21:04:08

Your parents must have got lost, duck grin

We've got to the lizard by 11am latest

GobblersKnob Mon 15-Jun-15 21:05:10

Admittedly we stay with family so have the luxury of arriving whenever we wish, but we have been doing a six hour drive to Cornwall many times a year for the last 11 years (when we both learnt to drive, pre-dc's we used to take the train).

When they were little we used to leave either about 5pm and get there for about 11pm or about 10am, stop for lunch and arrive at 5pm. Tbf we probably did evening journeys more in season, day journeys out of season. Though they are widening sections of the A30 meaning it will not be quite so torturous in season.

We have also had near misses driving at silly o clock after leaving very late and won't do it again, too dangerous.

Maybe I am lucky, or maybe it's because both dc's have done endless long journeys down to the south since they were weeks old, but mine mostly sleep day or night, though we do have an extensive collection of story cd's and things to find on car jouneys books wink

Artandco Mon 15-Jun-15 21:08:43

Scribble how is that possible to take so long? It's only about 250miles. Even if you drove only 50miles an hr the whole way that's max 5hrs. Leave at 3pm, you should be in Falmouth by 8pm.. I assume you often drive faster than 50 on the motorway also

wintersdawn Mon 15-Jun-15 21:16:52

We live South East and regularly drive to parents in Yorkshire, it's 5 hours by route planner and the only time we've done it during the day it took us 8!

Ever since then we pack car, go to sleep, wake at 2am, bung kids in car under blankets literally as we are about to lock the front door, get engine running and go, it takes 4 hours driving time and we normally add 30 mins stopping for a long breakfast at 6am. The kids happily sleep, helped by the movement I think and when awake love watching the other headlights in the dark.

Other big advantage of travelling at that time is no queues for loo or coffee in service stations, you can literally park at the door.

Potterwolfie Mon 15-Jun-15 21:17:43

We drive to the far South West from the North West several times a year to see family. DCs are older now, but we've always tended to set off at around 5am (they used to LOVE getting into the car in their pyjamas, with a little breakfast pack-up, so exciting!), then aim to get to Bristol in one go (Gordano service area is great, there's an Asda there where you can get breakfast or snacks) and then we make it down to our destination, which is usually another three hours from Bristol.

Try to avoid leaving Cornwall on a Saturday unless you leave it until later in the day - it's changeover day and often turns the A30 into a car park.

Due to the risk of tiredness, driving that distance at night is something we would do in an absolute emergency.

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