Car journeys with kids can be heavy going.  Like most of you, I suspect, we have had some real shockers!  We live in Dublin, I’m from Cork and have family in Donegal too so we’ve done a few long hoofs around the place.  The most epic of all was when we were going on our “holidays” in August of 2017.  We were supposed to travel up to family in Donegal on the Saturday of our week off.  Poor Junior, who was 15 months old at the time, had tummy bug no. 183 so we couldn’t travel until we were sure we weren’t bringing it with us.  In any case, he always gets sick in the car – like his Mama!  So, we stuck it out until the Tuesday with Senior (3) asking non-stop about when he would see his cousins – heartbreak hotel stuff!  
Having tried all other approaches in the past, we thought we would try the “pop them in their pj’s at bedtime and set off in the car approach” – boy did that not work.  They howled until we caved and put the iPad on for a bit.  My Mum ‘phoned about 45 minutes into the journey to say there was heavy rain in the north west as she was on her way down to Dublin.  We knew some rain was forecast but, like everyone else, could not have expected what was to come.  Nearly 3 days’ worth of rain fell in 6 hours in the North West.  It’s crucial that I say that many people were very seriously impacted by the floods that night; we were the lucky ones compared to them and I wouldn’t downplay their suffering for a moment. 
So, we were just south of Belfast when Junior got sick everywhere, but he’d just had a bottle.  We consulted with our hosts and decided we would continue on.  Little did we know.  The rain was unbelievable and then the thunderstorms started.  Junior was sick twice more and at one point I couldn’t get out to change or comfort him as there was fork lightning directly above the car.  Senior was terrified by the noise and flashes.  I started ringing hotels as we still had hours to go and the roads were flooding heavily.  There wasn’t a room to be had, though everyone was very helpful.  There were countless diversions, floods, escorts through and around floods – the Civil Defence both sides of the border were amazing.  One diversion took us up over a mountain pass.  The water was cascading in torrents across the road and the thunder and lightning kept rolling on.  Next thing we heard repeated thumps on the car.  We hadn’t a clue what it was until one hit the windscreen – frogs!!  Tonnes of them – it was biblical. 

Eventually we got to Burnfoot, about 45 minutes from our destination, to find the road literally washed away.  No one could pass and there were cars everywhere.  We were there for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Both boys had cried themselves to sleep.  We were trying to stay awake by timing the decreasing diesel levels, seeing if we had enough fuel to keep the heat on for the boys.  It was quite scary.  The Civil Defence and volunteers arrived and literally patched a roadway together.  The spirit and volunteerism was remarkable to see. They somehow managed it and each vehicle crept over the temporary fix.  We reached our destination at 3.55 a.m., having left home 9 hours before.  I will never forget the relief of lifting the boys safely into the house.  We crawled through the Wednesday and even saw An Taoiseach’s helicopter as he came to assess the dreadful damage.  I woke with the vomiting bug all day Thursday and Friday and we drove home on Saturday, back to work on Monday – the “holiday” from hell!

So, in a nutshell, anything better than the above is a bonus!  Ah no, each time we do a long journey it gets easier as the lads get older and we move into a different phase.  Here are some tips that I have cobbled together along the way.  Please add others to the comments below.  Some tips don’t apply to certain ages but hopefully there’s something for everyone. 
 
  1. Borrow the big things if you can – can you borrow a travel cot at your destination? Does a friend have a smaller, umbrella-type buggy you can use on the trip? Make sure you have the buggy rain and sun protection you need. If you are bringing a cot and buggy, put them into the boot first and fit lots of little bags around them.
  2. Check your tyres, oil and fill the fuel the day/night before you set off. Have change or your tag ready for any tolls.
  3. Keep the nappy bag and snacks in the front passenger’s footwell. Take frozen baby food out early on the day of travel so it can start thawing.  Pouches are great for the journeys too.  Bring two changes of clothes per child in it and a top for each adult (in case of vomit).
  4. If you are using bottles or want to warm up a pouch, the Tommee Tippee flask warmer is a godsend at around €25. 
  5. I like using lots of small soft bags rather than big suitcases. I use different patterned carpet bags; pretty cheap and cheerful.  You can have different patterns for different people and the soft bags squish into any spaces e.g. under kids’ feet, between car seats, around the big items in the boot, etc.  They have good handles for looping a spare seat-belt through to keep everything safe.  
  6. Pack everything you need for your first night for all kids in one bag so you just have to grab it at your destination and can sort everything else out when the kids are asleep.  Put it in last – last in, first out!
  7. Consider setting up driving playlists – Moana, The Greatest Showman and Smallfoot all have great tunes. Kids’ audio books are great too. If your smallies are watching a tablet it’s well worth investing in a safe, strong holder for the back of a headrest.  I hate the thoughts of things being loose in the car.  Charge it fully the night before, download movies or episodes and pack the charger.  I also found our youngest would get car sick if it wasn’t on the headrest straight in front of him so you might want to try that, provided the other(s) don’t get sick looking sideways! Consider investing in Bluetooth headphones for the kids for car journeys or flights.  They come with volume limiters and are a good way for them to tune into the movie for time to pass quickly, without driving the adults nuts!
  8. Bring water, and lots of it!  You never know what you might need it for or how long you may be in the car for, as demonstrated above!
  9. Bring lots of wipes – you’ll have your nappy bag if you’re still in that phase – but bring extra and bring for all ages – you never know….
  10. Bring plenty of nappy bags – biodegradable if you can or bio bin bags – they can serve many purposes e.g. bin bag, laundry bag, etc.
  11. If you have a car-sick kiddo, like us, have a high-sided bowl ready for him/her. Sorry to be yuk but it’s easier to sluice this out in a ditch and go again than accumulate lots of plastic bags in the car. 
  12. If you are still in the nap phases, get as far as you can during the first nap e.g. late morning or lunchtime. It will make a huge dent in the journey. 
  13. Plan your pit-stops in advance factoring in feeds, meals, naps, a run-around, etc. using the En Route function of the Eat Play Change App. Stick to beige food for the car-sick little ones – toast, pasta with butter, scrambled egg, banana, mashed potato, etc. Some stops might be for food or a playground and some might be unexpected so you can use the Near Me function as you progress along the way.
  14. Do please add any new places you discover to the Eat Play Change App so others can benefit too and family-friendly pit stops get a boost.  Thank you!
  15. Last but not least, give yourselves loads of time for the journey, and then double it! Ah no, jokes aside, try not to put yourselves under time pressure if at all possible – steady as you go and arrive safely!

Safe journey

Úna

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