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Any tips for travelling long distances with a one year old?

12 replies

Lisav · 17/08/2001 09:29

We are due to go to France in September and are taking the car with us, but we don't know how to keep our one year old daughter entertained whilst making long journeys in the car.
We will be making a couple of stops in the UK whilst on our way to Ashford, and we plan to stop over somewhere in France as we will be travelling to Dordogne. But we will still be travelling for up to 4 hours in the car.

We will try to work most of it out during her nap times but this is not always possible. Usually she either goes to sleep in her seat or gets very whingey, she is not an active child and does not play very much in her seat. The thought of 4 hours travelling with a crying child makes me shudder. Does anyone have any tips for keep her amused for this length of time?

I want to avoid her just going to sleep as this will ruin her bedtime.

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Jodee · 17/08/2001 21:17

Hi Lisav, we recently did a trip to the SW coast of France with our 15 month old, with a stopover. It was an experience! I think you are just going to have to 'go with the flow' on this one and not worry too much about being in a routine on holiday.
Our son generally slept after about 20 mins of being in the car, and we just put him to bed a couple of hours later than usual and he slept right through OK.
The 'sleeping in the car' thing didn't always work, though. Sometimes he wouldn't go off for well over an hour, and be whingeing. We had loads of toys and drinks and snacks which would placate him for a while but it became very irritating (not to mention giving me a stiff neck!) having to keep turning round from the front passenger seat to pick up a thrown beaker, etc. He would then go off to sleep about 15 mins before we were due to stop for a break and then he would wake up, of course!
If you or someone else could sit in the back seat next to your child, this could be easier, but might not help if you are navigating!
This was our first time on such a holiday and if we do it again we will take the advice of our friends who go to France every year with their family and just did the trip with their 3rd, who was 4 months. They always drive through the night, setting off at their childrens' bedtime and driving almost non-stop until they reach their destination. The husband does all the driving then sleeps for most of the next day, that way the kids are asleep for the whole time.
Sorry if this has not been much of a help, but I thought I would let you know how it was for us!
Good luck and enjoy your break!

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Bluebell · 18/08/2001 14:04

To be honest, I wouldn't worry about her bedtime - believe me, you'll be glad if she goes to sleep in the car! The only advice I can offer are frequent stops for her to have a crawl/toddle around and get some fresh air, plenty of snacks such as cubes of cheese, grapes etc and maybe tie her beaker or some toys to the car seat with short lengths of string so you don't have to keep picking them up.

You could always fly! There's an airport in Bordeaux.

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Cam · 18/08/2001 17:08

We went to France (Biarritz) for the first time with DD when she was 8 months old. She is now 4 and a half and we have been to a different part of France every year (St Tropez, Brittany (3 times), Gascony, Normandy) every year, sometimes twice a year since then. I agree with everyone else here in that you will probably have to let your little one sleep whenever she wants to. We stop at all usual mealtimes and have a good meal and a walkaround but usually drive constantly in between these.(We always stop at a reasonable hour to stay the night - the most luxurious place we can afford as this gives great restorative powers to all of us). It has always worked fine for us, in fact I feel that my child sees it as normal as she has done it all her little life!

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Shiv · 18/08/2001 18:12

When we came home from Australia we did a seven hour drive to catch up with my husbands family before we left and then really long flight Melbourne to Ireland. We coped and the children 2yo and 5 month old survived beautifully. Same advise as everyone else, forget sleeping patterns, they will probably go a bit pear shaped anyway as you are on hols. Lots of little snacks, and four of five of everything you need eg drink bottles so if anything falls you have a replacement ready to hand. I also had two or three little treats wrapped up in brightly coloured paper as a back up for the really difficult times.

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Lisav · 19/08/2001 19:03

Thanks a lot for your suggestions. I guess you're right about the routine going out of the window, it's just that dh and I treasure the evenings together when she goes to bed and will do almost anything to make sure that she is in bed by 8pm!

I guess we will just have to go with the flow. The suggestion of tying her beaker with string was a good one, I don't fancy picking it up each time she flings it on the floor. And I will spend some time in the back with her, but I do get quite car sick whenever I sit in the back for some reason, so I can't do that for long.

We have thought about travelling at night, but it's not really convenient for arriving at destinations, we don't want to turn up at a B&B at 2am! We will plan lots of short stops and just keep our fingers crossed!

Thanks again, I'll let you know how we got on!

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Nusch · 19/08/2001 19:38

We drove from Edinburgh to Brittany (in two days) in July with my daughter who is 11 months. She started the trip by throwing up after 30 minutes - and she's NEVER sick!! - because I gave her too much lunch in the hope it would make her sleep! Apart from that, it was less bad than I feared. I'd endorse lots of the suggestions others have made. Lots of different snacks helped - crackers, fruit, drinks, etc. The sort of toys she likes are noisy or tear-up-able so we took lots of different rattles, musical instruments, bits of paper, small cardboard boxes. She loved drinking out of one of those sports bottles of water, especially if we drank first. Also a muslin to play peek a boo with; and a song tape and some other loud rhythmic jazz and pop music. And as others have said, stops with plenty of crawling around. I did find I had to sit in the back until she fell asleep - like you I get pretty sick easily so would nip into the front as soon as she dropped off.

Hope you have fun!

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Chelle · 20/08/2001 03:17

We travel to my parents place twice a year (10 hour drive) and also a 14 hour drive once a year to sell bulls. We do the 10 hour trip in one day and make sure we stop every 2-3 hours so everyone can get out and stretch their legs, only for a few minutes. As everyone has suggested, lots of snacks, a big bag of toys attahed to the side of the baby seat, several drinks and be prepared to "peak-a-boo" aroudn the seat occasionally or sing your entire repertoire of nursery rhymes. Distration can also work well if things get "hairy", like "oh, look at that tractor/truck/cow/funny man on the side of the road", "can you see a cow/sheep/horse/bulldozer/elephant etc".

Good luck and have fun. If you expect it to be hard going, it is likely to be so...if you expect a fun time chances are you'll have one!

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Azzie · 20/08/2001 12:45

Lisav, we're going to the Dordogne in September too. We've got 2 kids now (nearly 4 and nearly 2) and are planning to do it in 2 days (staying overnight in Chartres en route) and making plenty of stops on the way.

We've done lots of long foreign drives with the kids (including one nightmare non-stop journey home from Switzerland in a hire car when our first child was 9 months). The plus side of driving in France is that there are plenty of places to stop on the motorways, far more than here in the UK. Most don't have restaurants or cafes, but do have loos. Is your daughter walking yet? We found it got a lot easier once our kids could walk - finding somewhere suitable for a baby to crawl is sometimes not easy. If she's still crawling then make sure you've got some scruffy clothes for her. As to the entertainment, with child no. 1 we found that the only thing that worked was to take it in turns to sit in the back with him and read to him etc (exhausting). It has been a lot easier with no. 2 because the older child does the entertaining! On the sleep front, we've never found that the drive has caused problems with bedtime during the holiday (although when we got home at daybreak after a 26 hour drive from Switzerland and our son was just waking up and wanting to start his day it was pretty grim - thank God for my MIL who stepped in and saved the day!).

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Lisav · 20/08/2001 15:52

More tips to digest! Thanks. Where in Chartres are you stopping Azzie? We haven't planned where our stopover will be yet. We're staying near Gourdon in a little apartment once we get there.

My dd isn't walking just yet, neither does she crawl unfortunately. She can walk aided and has just started to take a few steps on her own with encouragement. I might give her a good walk every time we stop. I will definitely have lots of snacks for her and toys tied onto the seat opposite. As for nursery tapes, well my husband cannot stand them and he is doing the driving, so she might have to put up with The Clash or something. I will sing to her though. I can see this being exhausing work for all of us!

I'll be so glad when we arrive! If anyone has any more tips, keep them coming, the more tricks I have up my sleeve the better!

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Azzie · 20/08/2001 18:08

We've booked into an Ibis in Chartres (we usually pick somewhere from the Michelin guide and book before we go, to make sure that the room is big enough to accommodate travel cot etc).

If you're driving the Calais/Abbeville/Amiens route, by the way, there's a good service station just north of Abbeville, on the marshes of the Somme. It has a play area, children's books in the restaurant, a windmill, a pond with fish and ducks, and a tower to go up and look at the view. I think my son would have been very happy to stay there for his holiday when we stopped en route to Normandy last year!

We're staying just south of Sarlat (I last went there on my French exchange, more years ago than I care to remember!). We've hired a cottage, but because it's out of season we've got a cottage for 8 for the price of one for 4 - we only use 2 of the bedrooms, but have the benefit of the extra space downstairs for the kids to run around.

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Janus · 20/08/2001 21:27

This summer we drove from London to SW France in 3 days with our, then, 11 month old. To be honest, the car does have some sort of power in sending her to sleep and I found it really didn't mess up her evening sleep too much at all for those days we travelled. They do say that if children sleep well in the day, they sleep well at night and I think this may be true so as long as she does sleep then I think you should be more or less OK, perhaps an hour later bedtime at the most was our experience. We also did a lot of stop-offs on the French motorways and I found them all to be very good, good changing facilities, etc. Also, the French motorways are sooooo much quietier than English so you cover much more distance than you would in the UK so you'd be surprised how far you get in just a few hours, therefore do stop as often as possible. We drove 6 hours on our longest driving day and I really can't remember it being too much of a problem, just a nice long lunch and some stops and they do seem to cope. We took lots of toys and books and just alternated them when we stopped so that she had something new to look at once we got back in the car. Plenty of raisins, etc, for her to eat or throw around the car too!
Hope it goes well.

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Bluebell · 21/08/2001 12:18

Lisav, relax and enjoy it! You're going on holiday remember - it shouldn't have to be desperately stressful. Yes, she might cry and whinge for a bit but thats just the joy of travelling with babies! I'm sure it won't be as bad as you are expecting, just try and stay calm and relaxed, remember that babies are great barometers and will pick up your mood instantly and reflect it right back at you!

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