How to avoid the dreaded question “are we nearly there yet?”

10 minute read

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We’ve created the ultimate guide to keeping your little ones happy (and distracted!) on those long car journeys…

  • One fifth of parents admit taking their eyes off the road after being distracted by kids
  • ‘Eye Spy’ is the most famous road trip pastime for kids to play in the car
  • From snacks to games, it’s worth preparing for a long drive
With summer now in full swing, millions of families across the UK are preparing to pack up for long car journeys as they hit the road for long-awaited holidays and staycations, but the thought of a long car journey full of ‘are we there yet?’ is not the ideal way to get you in the holiday mood! With one fifth of parents are repeatedly taking their eyes off the road after being distracted by their children while driving, it’s important to make sure the kids are content in the car, so we have some some simple ways to keep everyone happy on the road, including some-well timed stops and snacks!

Are we nearly there yet?

“Are we nearly there yet?”

The words no parent wants to hear on a long car journey... and more often than not, it's about ten minutes into hours of driving! This age-old question is notoriously known for not helping parents’ stress levels, so grab a cuppa and take notes, because we’ve got some tips on how to avoid it.

Not only that, but we've even got an expert to let us know the formula for a backseat tantrum (yes, really!), so you can try and avoid it! 

T = 70 + 0.5E + 15F - 10S

T shows time to tantrum, E represents minutes  a child is entertained and F shows how providing food and snacks will buy parents another 15 minutes before a tantrum occurs.

The final variable (S) is for siblings – the more brothers and sisters in the car quickening the likelihood of an explosion by 10 minutes


Why not turn the trip into a treasure hunt?

Make a list (in words or pictures) of the things you’re bound to see on your journey. For example, ten red cars, two white vans, a bridge, a toll booth, a boat, ten road signs, a church, someone walking their dog, a yellow house... the possibilities are endless! Give your child the list and a marker or crayon to tick off all the things they’ve seen - and maybe even have a prize ready for when the whole list is completed! If you’re not quite organised enough to prepare this in time (we know there's already a long pre-holiday list to deal with!), then an easy game of ‘spot the yellow car’ can work just as well.


The wheels on the bus

A good old sing-a-long is a classic way of making time fly and keep spirits high on a long journey. So, warm up those vocal chords up and get a family sing-a-long going. From nursery rhymes to pop hits and their favourite film soundtrack, bring your kids' CD’s or create a playlist before your journey so you have all the music you need, right at your fingertips. Be warned though, music choices need to appeal to the entire family so no one ends up with a headache! Alternatively, break out the headphones for the kids - you’ll thank us later. 

Eye spy with my little eye…

The most famous game of them all, ‘eye spy’, is a classic road trip pastime, but often players get bored easily. Variety is key to in-car entertainment, so ‘the number plate game’ is a great alternative option when the kids get fed up. If you’ve never played before, here’s what you need to know….

Someone in the car picks a passing number plate, then everyone in the car tries to find a word using only the letters included on that number plate. The longer the word, the more points you get. This game gets everyone involved, and feels semi-educational, too!

Another quick fix to boredom, travel sickness and hunger, is mints! Everyone in the car receives a mint, and the winner is the one who can keep it in their mouth for the longest time without crunching it (perfect if you're after a bit of peace and quiet)

This one’s age dependant, so make sure they’re safe for your child first.


Screentime or no screentime? That is the question...

Although exploring other entertainment options can be great, there’s no denying that electronic devices can be extremely effective at keeping kids entertained in the back of the car.  A tablet-like device that you can load with gaming apps or their favourite films can keep kids occupied for hours... although we can’t promise that choosing what they want to watch won’t cause an argument!

Music and e-books are also a great distraction, but if you’re looking to save money on expensive audiobooks for children, why not use a voice recording app on your phone to record yourself reading your child’s favourite book to play during the drive?

Car naps... every parent's dream!

Timing is everything on a road trip, particularly the longer ones. Just like you would time your travel to avoid rush hour on working days, you could also think about travelling during your child's nap time. This will help you avoid them napping outside of their usual times and environment, and could mean the sleep for the whole drive! 

We know timing can’t always be helped and keeping your child awake so they don’t nap outside of 'nap time' can be particular challenging - especially for those 18 months and younger. So, perhaps think about encouraging a singalong to their favourite nursery rhymes or have someone sat in the back with them to make sure they’re occupied.

If your journey does fall across nap time, why not try recreating the feel of your child's bedroom in the car. Play the music they normally listen to and bring along their prized stuffed animals or their favourite blankets… the comfier the better!


Keeping the peace

According to research conducted by Nissan, one fifth of parents are repeatedly taking their eyes off the road after being distracted by their children while driving. Breaking up an argument whilst driving is stressful and can be unsafe, but installing a cardboard ‘peace wall’ could be the answer. Building a wall between siblings in the backseat can help bickering, the benefit of this means the wall can also double as a drawing board for your little Picasso passengers.

Never underestimate a service station

Driving for hours with no stops is not the best plan when you have little ones in the car. When planning your journey, planning stops along the route can give your kids a chance to run around, go to the toilet, grab a snack and get some fresh air. It also gives the driver a chance to rest from the chaos (and grab a much needed coffee!). 

On a long drive, do you often find yourself wondering where the nearest service station is – and what it’ll have to offer? Well, we’ve got you covered with our battle of the service stations article.


Packing for snacking

Perhaps the most important element of any journey… packing a substantial snack bag! This can be the saviour of any disastrous trip. Having a constant conveyor belt of snacks provides entertainment, as well as preventing the dreaded ‘I’m hungry’ moans. A mixture of healthy fruit and vegetables, dried organic snacks, crackers and plain biscuits will be sure to keep the kids satisfied without giving them the dreaded sugar rush. Just make sure the snacks are safe for your child to be munching while moving.

What if you break down with kids in the car?

Before heading off on your holiday, it’s important to make sure your car is in good condition and ready for a long journey, as breaking down with your entire family in the car is never ideal. Keeping your breakdown cover up to date is crucial in case the worst happens. 

If the unexpected does happen, you can rely on our Britannia Rescue breakdown cover to get you on the road again with help from one of our 4,000 breakdown professionals.

If you do break down with kids in the car, here’s our quick guide…

  • If warning lights start flashing, pull over and get your car to a safe place straight away.
  • If you’re on the motorway, look for a hard shoulder to pull into. If there’s no hard shoulder on the motorway, look for an Emergency Refuge Area instead. Once it’s safe, get out of your car and wait behind the crash barrier if there is one.
  • If you can’t safely get your car off the road, put your hazard and sidelights on immediately, keep your seatbelt on, and call 999 to report the incident and make other drivers aware.
  • As soon as you’re stopping or stopped, put your hazard lights on and, if you have a warning triangle, position it around 45 metres from your car
  • Call the breakdown experts, Britannia Rescue, to help get you back on the road as quickly as possible
  • Be sure to note your location, whether this is through the car GPS, your mobile or what3words. This will help the Britannia Rescue team find you as quickly as possible

So there you have it, we hope these top tips help you to keep your little ones entertained during those long car journeys, and help to take the stress out of the process for you!

So, before you load up the car, grab a pad and make your final notes… you’ve got this!

  • Have plenty of games and activities prepared
  • Get your vocal cords at the ready for a family sing-along
  • Download the little ones’ favourite shows ahead of the journey 
  • Have a nap time plan in place 
  • Plan your service station stop offs
  • Most importantly, be sure to pack plenty of snacks and water

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