And so last week we set off on the annual summer holiday to Ireland with the children. Although we live very near a major airport we have discovered through trial and error that we very much prefer to go by car and take the ferry. A long car journey with the children is not everybody’s idea of fun, but we have found its better than air travel, even though it takes longer.
Firstly some of our relatives in Ireland are quite remote and we like to have our own car for the freedom it gives us to do our own thing. We have tried various car hire options but you never get a car that is quite as comfortable & familiar as your own – this is crucial when you are travelling with children. Plus I absolutely love the idea of taking as much as you like, packing everything in the car only once, then not touching it again till destination. The constant humping of suitcases and security that goes with air travel these days is enough to put me off forever.
We can pack large toys and games, great for entertaining the children away from their home comforts. We can happily accept large presents from our Irish grandparents, which have caused real nightmares on previous visits by air. This way, giver and recipient alike are very happy.
The other thing we love about the car and ferry journey is it makes the travel into a great adventure. The kids love the motorway service stations, and as for the overnight ferry, with cabins, play area and disco – they are having fun from the moment we leave home till the moment we get back again.
The only downside to this plan, has been keeping the children entertained, over what are some very long stretches of driving compared with what they are used to.
When they were very little we had endless nursery rhyme CDs – they drove us mad but the kids sang along until they were blue in the face. When they got a bit bigger we invested in an in car DVD player. This worked to a certain extent but was not suitable for some of the more rural roads we drove down, as unfortunately our children both tend towards travel sickness. This also rules out books, magazines, activity packs and games consoles in the car, which I know have been the saviour of many of my mummy friends.
For the most part we have had to put up with various observation and word play games, interspersed with plenty of whining and “are we there yet”. I have also had to listen to ever more excruciating pop compilations, as my children’s taste in music differs ever further from my own, and arguments as their taste differs from each other’s.
This year I had a plan. First of all I purchased some sea bands – this may well be a placebo, but both kids seem to think they help so who am I to argue? I think just the thought that I am trying to help their travel sickness helps them to feel better.
Secondly, they both feel less sick when they are able to suck sweets regularly. Again, I’m sure there is part placebo effect in this, and the idea of getting one over on mummy and getting more sweets than they are usually allowed, but they both know that if there is any whining or complaint of sicky tummies, the supply of sweets will stop, and so it works, for whatever reason!
And finally my secret weapon, new this year. I purchased a selection of audiobooks and loaded them up on various devices (in my case, iphone, ipod and ipad) so that each of them could listen to stories especially chosen for them, and at their own pace.
I thought this would buy hubby and me an hour or two of peace but the results were astonishing. From London to Swansea (180 miles and over 3 hours in the car) we didn’t hear a word out of either of them, apart from my son asking me to change the story to a different disk. It was almost spooky. Not only that but there wasn’t even the slightest mention of funny tummy and we only heard the dreaded “are we nearly there yet?” once, about 10 minutes from destination, because my daughter had spotted the port. It was without a doubt the easiest long car journey we have ever done.
I’m not saying that I would ask for total silence on every journey, nor that we will stop playing our word games or talking to each other, but on a family-visiting holiday like ours, where we may cover up to 900 miles in a week with long journeys every other day or so, it is nice to have a few of those journeys relatively peaceful and stress free. I would thoroughly recommend audio books to any stressed out parents.
For your information these were the most popular choices of audio books as chosen by my daughter (age8) and my son (age 6). I have put links to purchase all of them in the Motivating Mum bookstore.
Little Women (13 hours of audio – great value)
Diary of a Wimpy kid
How to speak Dragonese (read by David Tennant – one of a series)
Billionaire Boy by David Walliams – they both liked this one