I’m a little worried that by writing this post I may unleash some extremely stressful memories.
The particular journey in question was a short drive from Liverpool to Dover, to Paris.. and back 4 days later.
The reason I’m telling you this story is simply to weave in some tips (& don’t-do tips) in response to Travel Supermarket’s Jolly Journeys competition. Part of me would quite like the free printed sunshield that is offered to all competition entries by http://www.travelsupermarket.com/c/cheap-car-hire/uk/ which is their low cost car hire. I had envisaged a sun shield with a picture of me and hubby kissing to act as the ultimate in entertaining (or rather getting the children to behave).
‘Amuse yourselves or we’ll put up the sunshield!!’
Obviously that’s not a very good tip.
Long trips do require planning. And lots of it.
For littlies I used to have snack packs. If in doubt feed them. Not sweets- obviously. Not if you don’t want large amounts of ‘travelsickness’ (for want of a better word!). When they were tiny babies we simply reconfigured the seating arrangements so I would sit in the back with toys & I had a couple of simple homemade shakey or noisy things to bring out. I did in fact look for a multifunctional toy for my twins when they were babies with the reckoning that one smaller toy with peep holes, things to find & different textures was preferable to a whole bag full. Checking out the charity shops and even swapping toys temporarily with friends is a great way to introduce some excitement to the babies.
Just stop. A lot. Screaming little ones due to heat, boredom or needing a nappy change is akin to slow torture and will inevitably set your holiday off to a fabulous start.
Buy some new music. Beg or borrow it. The sort to drive you utterly bonkers but will quickly hook your kids- and what doesn’t say ‘childhood holidays’ more than a bunch of littlies singing/screaming ridiculous songs over and over again. True, there is only so much of ‘I’ve got a song that will get on your nerves’ you can stand..but most nearly anything is better than whining and crying.
So, back to our holiday. We at that point had a 2 year old, 6 year old, 8 year old, 12 & 13 year old. I had packed like there was no tomorrow. In fact, we help them pack their car bags.
There had to be- pencils (that worked & were sharp). Felt-tips are always going to end up colouring in your upholstery. Trust me.
There was a book or two, paper & a few print out colouring sheets of favourite characters (see the web for free printables). The critical thing is to pique their excitement. Always have a ‘reserve bag’. That bag containing the best colouring books the pound shop can offer. Even novelty cheap pencils & a rubber are enough to entertain. I’d have spare water bottles, some snacks that take a long time to eat..raisins, Rainbow drops- you get the gist, & look out for scratch card type puzzles, wordsearch books (depending on the age of the child) & little toy cars. Cheap Snap-type games are brilliant too.
Back to the story. Liverpool to Dover is a drive and a half. We had taken a picnic & made sure we found somewhere there was grass at a time of day when the kids still had daylight to run around and about and not tread in dog muck or trip over half drunk cans. The problem is that your kiddos are often so wound up with excitement, that they’ll not always entertain themselves well. We’ve done the eye spy. (not good for a two year old), spot a ‘….’. We’ve even had highly successful week long competitions where we had a Landrover versus Defender spotting contest. (Not so good when travelling in France).
Once we’d got to Dover, we’d made such excellent time, we decided to try and get an earlier Channel crossing. After all , our plan was that we’d save money by travelling through the night, the kids would sleep & everything would be wonderful. Us parents would be wasted, but it would help with boredom for the kids at least. There’s another one- if you’ve got littlies who will sleep- try travelling when they sleep- but you risk what happened to us.
We were merrily travelling on the EuroTunnel. It’s not a place to unleash 5 kids. Not if you want to see them in a hurry. We kept them inside the car. The car was truly jammed. 7 people in a Landrover. Plenty of luggage on the roof. Kids were packed in like sardines.
It was now exceedingly late. Way past everyone’s bedtime (including mine). Tempers were frayed; not even the ‘reserve’ bag held any appeal. We pulled into a service station hoping to try and get everyone to sleep. My hubby was exhausted. Seats were wound back, kids squished into the best sleeping positions we could muster & we all went to sleep.
Except we didn’t.
Nobody did. Some started giggling. Hysteria crept in.
Some started to fight. The prospect of sleeping in such close proximity to one another was beyond what they could cope with. ‘He’s got his legs in my tummy’. ‘She’s sniffinfg too loudly’…
World war 3 was looming on the horizon.
Just don’t do it. Let this be a cautionary tale.
Book yourself into a motel. A hotel. A hole. Anywhere with a bed.
After 40 minutes of extreme torment. We waved the white flag. We frogmarched them all out of the car & wandered around the now deserted French service station. Beautifully manicured & elegantly dressed women looked at our bedraggled crew. I’d never felt so English in all my life.
10 minutes later we went back out. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go. You cannot play I-Spy in pitch darkness. Nearly every car was a Peugeot & there wasn’t enough light to do puzzles or draw. Our nerves were too jangled to listen to a jolly kids song CD & if they’d eaten anymore, they’d have been sick.
We even saw a one man tent next to a rubbish bin. The wind was howling & I wondered how the occupant hadn’t been taken airborne with the gusts. Right then, being in a tiny fabric tent was preferable to this nightmare.
So we drove. There was no entertaining going on. Severe lack of sleep & utter boredom gave way to a restless silence.
We arrived at EuroDisney & I pleaded for a place to stay.
I’d have sold my husband for a bed at that point- & I’m sure he felt that way too.
They took pity on us, charging us extra for the luxury of 7 beds. 1 hour later we finally succumbed to sleep.
The moral of the tale?
Don’t do it.
Don’t take your family to the edge of sanity & expect a bunch of beautifully behaved, well rested, super entertained kids. It is so not going to happen.
Save up. stop often & get sleep. You’ll thank me, honestly.
Oh, and maybe get a funny or embarrassing sunshade that you can threaten your teenagers with!