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Top tips for surviving a long car journey with a toddler

We don’t have a car as neither of us learned how to drive. We kind of always meant to but it just never happened and now driving lessons are too expensive and owning a car in London is not something I think my carbon footprint would approve of. It does though make our world a little small and now that we have Milo I’m beginning to realise this more and more.

Milo is obsessed with cars. And lorrys, buses, diggers, vans, tractors and well everything that moves and has an engine and he loves nothing more than a trip in his Nana and Granddad’s car – normally over to their house for the day while I work or out somewhere interesting.

We all went to Yorkshire over the bank holiday weekend to celebrate my mum’s 60th in style. That’s five hours in a car with a toddler who is very active and doesn’t drift easily into sleep, even in a car. In fact on our way out, he fell asleep 20 minutes before arriving, on the way back and way past nap time and completely ragged and grumpy, he fell asleep an hour before home, but woke after 45 minutes. I think we only got him to sleep at that point with a huge glass of milk at Little Chef and a traumatic event whilst nappy changing involving a hand dryer. He crashed through fear and being full up.

So how did we cope? Well, these are our top tips for survival:

1. Books – obviously. We don’t go anywhere without them. Maisy’s Amazing Big Book of Words, a new Emergency book that he hadn’t seen before – noisy, but he loves it, picture books for quiet time – Harry and the Dinosaurs, No Matter What, everything Oliver Jeffers has ever written and lots of others.

2. A few new, car friendly toys produced at well timed moments: a scribbler set – we drew pictures of cars, lorrys, buggies, babies and Beru his bear so he could point and name. And Milo drew pictures for us too! Flip and learn puzzle. Hugely annoying for all parents in the car but Milo thought the sounds were great!

3. Some small toy cars to drive up and down the car seat.

4. iphone apps. We’re not lucky enough to own an ipad with all its great apps for mums and kids, but we both have iphones. The Balloonimals app was at least 15 minutes of fun on its own!

5. Regular stops and plenty of milk. We stopped about three or four times on both journeys. There was plenty of running around, proper lunch sitting up at a table, nappy change for comfort and big glasses of milk to fill him up.

6. A daddy who is prepared to sing lullabies and Wheels on the Bus for two hours to try and get his son off to sleep.

I think it would be a lot easier with an older child who can watch DVDs or play games on a console. I remember wearing my Donkey Kong game out on driving holidays with my parents as a child. All in all though Milo was so good considering how boring and out of the ordinary it must have all been for him. I do really wish though that he’d managed a good two hour nap so that we could have some rest too. I miss Yorkshire!

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