Monday, 22 September 2014

5 things to pack when going on a road trip with small children

This weekend we went to Liverpool.

Liverpool is not across the world, but if you are stuck on a motorway with two little people in the back of the car, and if they have exhausted their limited supply of patience, catching up on sleep, sibling sing-a-song and other things which help to pass the time, well - you may as well be travelling to south east Asia via the Moon.

Still, we love a good road trip. While I may not particularly enjoy the frankly huge effort of packing (for the whole family, invariably) I do enjoy it once we are all in the car, seat belts on, giddy with anticipation of a few days spent in a new place. Or perhaps an old place (we used to live in Liverpool) but a new hotel. Or perhaps both the place and the hotel are not new but then the friends, oh the friends are very very old not in age but in how much life we've shared together, and that makes the road trip, the packing, the toilet stops, the overpriced Costa from the services, and even the occasional meltdown (and that's just my husband when he realises he's missed our junction and now we're stuck in a traffic jam), absolutely worth while.

But if you want to have a bit of mercy on yourself and make it as easy as possible on the younger members of your family, you may want to try the following:

1. Ipad - in fact, this one is so crucial I may put it as points number 1-5. Yes, I used to the be the parent who was against technology. I used to worry about screen time, I used to do quotas, limits, deadlines, whatever. Then, I learnt that having an Ipad with you can turn a painful situation into quite a pleasant and relaxed one. For example, a long leisurely lunch with friends in a fashionable eaterie - ever tried that with a 22 month old and a 3.5 year old? Well, we eat out often especially when we go away for the weekend or on holiday, and while it helps that this is a type of situation that children are simply very used to, it also helps that we don't let them get bored. When they've finished eating, and the ice cream is gone too, and the colouring-in has lost its appeal, and they've tried just sitting quietly for a bit and then finally they just want to either get down or go home, we put Peppa Pig on! And everyone is happy. The children are delighted to get an extra time with their favourite screen friend. The adults are happy to enjoy an extra glass of wine and a good catch up with a friend. We have also used the Ipad wedged in between the front seats and kept the children entertained in the car, when we've been stuck in terrible traffic and the journey became just too long for them to endure 'cold turkey'. A tip: if going abroad, make sure you load up your BBC Iplayer with episodes of their favourite programs while you're still in the UK, because it doesn't let you do it once abroad.

2. Pull ups - well, this one may be a matter of opinion but, although Ana has been potty trained for almost a year and a half, we do find that sometimes we are in situations when it's not so easy to get to the toilet and making the decision to put a Pull up on her just takes the pressure off. This is the child who has only ever had a couple of accidents, ever, so she doesn't particularly enjoy the regression in into anything nappy-like, BUT if you are stuck on M6 because there has been an accident, wearing a nappy as a total one-off can prevent a lot of discomfort in a small child whose bladder doesn't yet function with as much control nor has as much capacity as an adult's.

3 & 4. Aquadoodle travel set and a magnetic drawing board - all children love to draw and colour but it's not really convenient in the car because it's hard to hold the paper, the crayons drop out of their hands and roll under the seat in front etc. We invested in one Aquadoodle travel set for Ana and a magnetic drawing board for Sacha (because his comes with a pen that's attached by a string so if he drops it, it doesn't fall down) and they will happily scribble for ages.

5. Calpol - I know Calpol is not exactly hard to come by and most supermarkets sell it, not to mention pharmacies. However, if you have ever been in a hotel room in a strange city with a small child who suddenly starts to run a fever in the middle of the night, you will know that it's not so great having to look for the nearest 24 hour Asda or the duty pharmacy, especially if both adults have had a glass of wine and can't drive, so then you then have the issue of taxis etc (you would think that a taxi driver would automatically know the nearest place you can buy Calpol at 3am - well let me assure you that's not necessarily the case). Lots of potential complications (and I've been there so I've seen how something so simple can end up being quite stressful) so it's much easier to bring some with you. Children get ill so suddenly, often without any warning - being prepared makes it easier for everyone.

These are my essential items, I guess. These, and of course the big suitcase, the little suitcase, the pram, the portable changing bag, and the toys bag....but hey, a weekend is a long time, right?

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