Road Trips With Kids

If you used to love a long drive, it can be maddening having to listening to the whiney, sing-song "Are we there yet?" when you try to get from A to B on a road trip with kids. Never fear, there are some ways to make the car drives with kids more palatable for everyone. Here are the need-to-knows for everything from the airport transfer in developing countries with kids to how to keep tiny hands and minds occupied on long road trips. 

Car Safety Tips

·  When travelling with young children, particularly infants and toddlers, the best way to ensure they are properly strapped in is to hire your own private vehicle. Most car hire companies will also have travel seats suitable for toddlers upwards (not for infants) and you can email and request to see pictures of these before you book. For infants you will usually need to bring your own safety capsule. 

·  In most countries strap-in baby capsules secured using the seatbelt only (such as the Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix) are within road safety regulations. If you don’t own one you can often hire them from independent toy rental companies or otherwise purchase one and then sell it online later.

·  Alternatively, many parents will put their infants into a forward or backward (not side) facing baby carrier (such as the BABYBJORN) and strap him or her to the adult. Then put the seatbelt between the child’s body and adult's so that the seatbelt can’t choke the little one if the car stops suddenly. This is controversial (our suitcases&strollers car safety expert says this is not safe. You can read his interview here), so every parent should make their own choice about whether you want to pursue this or not. 

·  If you prefer to hire a driver (a good idea in developing countries where the wild nature of the traffic requires some local understanding) then ask ahead to ensure the vehicle has seatbelts.

·  Ultimately you will frequently face situations where there are no car seats and no seat belts. This is standard practice for most locals in developing countries and unfortunately it’s a part of international travel. 

For more car safety travel tips, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a car safety expert here

Entertaining Kids In The Car

The key to keeping restless children placid on a long road trip is to keep them entertained. Certainly you can opt for a portable DVD player and then hang it off the back of the front seat headrest or a charged up iPad might help for a few minutes. But sometimes you need additional arsenal of other tricks to keep them going.

·  Download lots of family-friendly music that won’t drive you mad. (There’s only so many times you can listen to “The Wheels on the Bus”.) Musical soundtracks from films such as The Sound Of Music or Annie can work well. Otherwise chose children’s artists who also amusing for adults – Australian entertainer Peter Combe writes songs that are clever, witty and will make parents and kids laugh.

·  Download audio books. Somehow talking voices (rather than repetitive jingles) are easier for parents to block out and they will keep kids concentrating.

·  Plan your toilet and snack stops in advance. If you let the children out of the car too frequently they won’t want to sit still at all, so pacing the petrol stops so the kids get used to the longer distances will help. If you have kids who have just recently been toilet trained, it's a good idea to put them in a nappy just in case to avoid smelly accidents. 

·  Play all the old fashioned games. “I Spy”, counting sheep, spotting landmarks.

·  Use some cheap plastic tubs to organise the car and separate out toys, food, clothes and other things the kids can access themselves or that you might need to grab quickly so they can be found easily. Be selective about the toys for the car trip – items that are small and can easily roll away when dropped are going to cause you problems.

·  Do all the “homework” you’ve been meaning to do – run through your ABCs or practice the times tables together. It will either be a worthwhile learning exercise or your kids will quickly realise there’s a benefit to entertaining themselves instead. 

For more handy tricks for traveling with kids, read suitcases&strollers' Travelling Tips.