Wondering just how you’re going to survive driving abroad with children in tow? Read on for 10 honest tips…
Driving Abroad With Children? Romantic, Or Just Plain Ignorant? 😀
I think we were slightly mad when we embarked on driving abroad overnight with our two children in my Fiat 500X to the South of France.
But, I loved the romantic idea of having the four of us hauled up together, using the car to sleep in, breastfeed in, eat in and change nappies in!
It was certainly a trip to remember, but it did come with a few challenges along the way.
When we embarked on our first car journey to France, Indi was about 5 months old, so she was still exclusively breastfed.
If you read my post about our breastfeeding journey, you’ll learn that she was a snacker, so we had to stop LOTS of times along the way!
Even on the hard shoulder of many French toll roads, which probably wasn’t very legal.
This obviously slowed us down, and if we were formula feeding, we probably could have saved some time by one of us feeding her in the back whilst the other was driving. While going to restaurants check if they have Chairs that are high for the kids to sit.
It’s an experience that needed some careful planning, some great boot space, and a reliable car.
But it’s so great to be able to just take off whenever you want! Hurrah for no queuing at the airport and baggage check-ins. No tutting people when your over-tired kids are screaming!
Wondering How You’re Going To Survive Driving Abroad With Children? Read On…
1. Bring tons of snacks
The number one reason that otherwise happy and healthy children get cranky and irritable is hunger.
Raisins, fruit bars and breadsticks are healthy snacks your kids can wash down with juice as you speed towards the Dordogne. I like preparing a chocolatey snack for my kids when we’re going on a road trip.
You can take food over the water, so pack your car full, and it means that you won’t have to stop as much.
2. Throw caution to the wind, and bring ALL the screens!
Singalong tapes, audio books and family games (such as seeing who can tell a story about characters beginning with the letter ‘b’) will help the hours to fly by.
If your children are old enough for a games console, then I suggest getting the awesome Snakebyte Seat:Mount for Nintendo Switch.
It holds the screen really steady whilst you play games with the removable Switch controllers.
It even swivels round so that if you have other passengers that want to play, they can see the screen.
It fits other tablets too, so it’s been an absolute ‘life-saver’ on long car journeys!
We also have headrest mounted DVD players with remote controls and wireless headphones which have been a journey game-changer!
3. It’s an absolute must to make the journey fun when driving abroad with children
Get your kids looking out for landmarks – the white cliffs of Dover, the sea, windmills…
Little games help break the journey up, thankfully, and even send little ones to sleep!
4. Plan your toilet breaks
If possible, try and all take a toilet break together, as this will reduce the total number of interruptions to your journey.
I know, easier said than done with small children, but maybe a little easier with bigger ones.
5. Give rewards for silence
Are your kid’s squabbles getting a little too much?
Play a game called: ‘whoever speaks first, loses.’
Or, offer a reward such as a small chocolate bar, or a promise of more holiday spending money in exchange for half an hour’s precious silence from older children.
6. Make sure everyone’s comfy when driving abroad with children
Favourite toys, soft blankets to curl up in and a good quality car seat for younger children will work wonders in terms of reducing their tendency to become restless and irritable. Traveling long distances with children can be a challenge for new parents, especially when children do not feel comfortable and safe. As a parent of three, I would never compromise on safety, so you may want to read my updated list of the best convertible car seats, which I published in January 2022.
We took a couple of feather pillows to prop tired bodies on during the nightime hours.
7. Prepare by telling stories about fantastic car journeys you have taken
Before you leave, spend a couple of occasions telling your children how much you love travelling in the car (even if you don’t, and it’s a means to an end!)
Recall some wonderfully exciting car journeys you took in the past (you may have to embellish a few details here!)
This will help them to see the journey as a positive adventure rather than an arduous chore.
8. Consider a physical barrier
Do your kids squabble if shut up together in an enclosed space for too long?
Consider placing a physical barrier such as a bank of pillows or a piece of board between them.
This will help stop them from pinching, poking and hitting each other, or generally getting on each other’s nerves!
9. When driving abroad with children, consider driving at night
Opinion is divided on this matter, but some parents do find that taking all or part of their journeys after their kids’ bed time will usually lead to your little ones spending an hour or two sleeping in the car.
Let me tell you this, though.
Don’t drive at night if you find it hard to stay awake!!
My husband and I had a hell of a journey to the South of France that took far longer than it needed to because of tiredness at night.
Also, I found driving on the other side of the road in the dark was not a fun task, not to mention dangerous too.
Our journey home in the daylight was much more pleasant.
That’s not to say we won’t night drive again, but we would certainly share the driving and get a good night’s sleep before the next trip (how with three kids now, I don’t know.)
10. If your budget allows, try breaking your journey
If you still think it would all be too much, try splitting the journey and spending one night in a hotel at a mid point such as Paris or Normandy. As for us, we loved our stay at Scottsdale resort.
Enjoy the ride!
Travelling long distances with your children in the back seat can actually be positively pleasurable, and a great way to spend some quality time together.
Bonus Tips On Driving Abroad With Kids (Or Without)
- Drive a reliable car.
- If you’re driving a diesel vehicle, schedule an engine maintenance the day before your trip with a diesel service specialist.
- You may also be needing a good services that specializes in injection pumps, fuel injectors, and turbochargers like these turbochargers for sale that fit all diesel engine applications!
- Get the right holiday and car insurance.
- Make sure your car houses your family and luggage easily for a comfortable ride.
- Take cash in the correct currencies for toll roads.
- Phone your bank ahead of your trip to let them know of your journey so they don’t block your cash card.
- Plan where to stop for petrol, pees and coffee!
You’re All Set
Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments…
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Last Updated on June 22, 2023 by Lucy Clarke