Travelling in the car over the Christmas holiday period to visit friends and family can be a little unpredictable. The weather may be rubbish, traffic can be heavier and the darker mornings and early nights can make driving a little trickier. Safety is so important in the cold winter months, but when travelling on long journeys with little ones you also have to think about how to keep them amused, how to stop sibling fights and what you do when you hear the dreaded ‘MUMMY I need the loo’ or ‘MUMMY I feel sick…’ coming from the back of the car. As with all car journeys being prepared is the best advice we can give, and to help, Britax has developed some ‘Top Tips’ to make sure your Christmas journey is a little more stress free…
In a nutshell. Be prepared. Expect the unexpected and add at least one or even two hours to your journey time to cover every eventuality! Here is everything you need to know about travelling in the car with your little ones this winter.
GETTING YOUR FAMILY READY
· Make sure your car seats are fitted correctly so that your children will be as safe and comfortable as possible. This should include checking that the harness and headrest is at the right height for your child. Visit www.britax.co.uk to see how to fit your BRITAX car seat correctly.
· Pack the car the night before, so if you are leaving early in the morning, you just have to pop in the kids, the change bag and a couple of favourite teddy bears and you are good to go!
· Make sure you have extra drinks for the children and a flask of hot coffee / milk for unexpected delays.
· Make sure your mobile is fully charged if you need to keep in touch with family or friends whilst on the move.
· Have an empty plastic bag to store all the rubbish which accumulates during a long car journey – think banana skins, discarded chocolate wrappers, used baby wipes. A bag is also handy if there is an unexpected bout of travel sickness.
· Best in-car munchies? Dried fruit, cheese sticks and the more chewy, less crumbly of the cereal bars.
· Make sure you have a good collection of DVD’s that suit all the children for when they are allowed screen time!
· If you have boys, make sure you have a couple of empty bottles if they need an emergency wee!
· Have plenty of baby wipes for in-car nappy changes, dirty hands and chocolate faces. It is a good idea to get your little ones to wear two thin(ish) tops, so you can whip the dirty one off as soon as you arrive leaving the clean and sparkling one below.
· Store a few surprises in the front seat for those un-timely fractious moments, such as pens and papers for extra games, some interactive books and a couple of little animal toys.
· Although obvious, try and plan your driving time around one or two of your babies or children’s sleep times. Sometimes letting the little ones run wild all morning lends itself to a more relaxed afternoon drive. Sometimes travelling at night may be preferable so they all sleep - although you need to make sure you aren’t too tired and settling a little one into a new environment late at night can sometimes be a bit testing.
· Divide and conquer. Keep as much space as possible between siblings in the back – the closer they are, the feistier they can get. Try a physical boundary like a pillow between them.
· Pack some blankets and have hats and gloves ready should you need them at a moments notice.
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
· If going on a journey that is likely to last longer than two hours, make sure you plan a stop as newborn babies should not be in car seats for longer than two hours at any one time. Research has proven that if in seated position for long periods of time it could lead to restrictions in airways and hinder spinal development.
· Check online before you set off for any major delays or accidents and have in mind key service stations to stop at. Everyone has their favourite service stations on regular long distance drives and clean, family friendly services are a godsend when everyone is a bit flustered and tired. Luckily though, most services stations are now geared up to make your life easier. At Moto service stations you’ll find a Baby Feeding Station with free Organix babyfood, bowls, spoons, steribottles, nappies, bibs and wipes, plus car seat-style high chairs.
· Check out play facilities at www.motorwayservices.info where Britain’s service stations are reviewed and rated. When you stop, try to allow enough time for your toddler or older child have a run around before herding them back into the car. Having the chance to burn off steam helps to minimise squabbling and boisterousness when you set off again.
GETTING YOUR CAR READY
· It is always important that your car is ready to hit the road when travelling in cold conditions. Make sure you have an ice scraper or de-icer, some extra windscreen washer fluid and plenty of fuel in the car! There is nothing worse than stopping 10 minutes into your journey with children to fill the car up, especially if you are travelling at night. Give your car a small maintenance check, looking at tyre pressure, windscreen washer fluid, water and oil levels. Make sure these are all topped up before you start your journey.
· For more information on making sure your car is fit for the road and what to do if you breakdown on the motorway, visit: http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/breakdown_advice/general.html
WHILST ON THE MOVE
· It is no myth, when children hit a certain age, rather than simply cry, they constantly moan ‘are we nearly there yet?’ Keep a mental note of some good ‘in car’ games to while away the boredom that always hits on long car journeys. A few of BRITAX’s favourite ones are;
o Chocolate or cheese: Each person takes turns to ask the question “If you had to choose between the following, which one would you choose?” For example, chocolate or cheese, or perhaps being able to fly or become invisible!
o Granny’s Knickers: Everyone asks one person a question to which they have to respond with the answer “Granny’s Knickers” regardless of the question, without giggling! (For example “What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour?”)
o Guess the Animal: Someone thinks of an animal, others ask questions about that animal - can it fly? is it wild? To which the person can only answer yes or no. Or the person describes the animal and everyone else has to guess what it is.
o The Yes or No Game: You ask one person questions to which they can answer anything except yes or no. If they say yes or no they are out and it's someone else's turn. (What's your name? Anna. Are you sure?)
o Rhyming game - start with a word (i.e. cat, love, chair) and see how many rhyming words they can come up with.
· I feel sick….’ Whose heart doesn’t sink when their child utters those three little words? Especially when there’s no chance of stopping. Nausea is triggered by conflicting information being sent to the brain - i.e. while the inner ear detects lots of swishy motion, the eyes don’t. That’s why it helps to look out, especially at the horizon, or at least something in the far distance - rather than at a book. Breathing slowly and deeply can help too, and opening a window might buy you enough time to pull over safely. If the worst happens, stop when it’s safe so your child can stretch their legs and rehydrate with sips of water.
AND WHEN YOU GET THERE…
· Just when you thought it was all over... Do remember that the children will probably fall out of the car when you arrive, either full of energy, sugar and thoroughly over excited, or groggy, car sick and nervous. Either way, plan for some transitional activity – whether that’s running up and down stairs or sitting quietly in the corner reading a book.
HAPPY DRIVING! AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!