How to Survive a Long Car Journey with Children

travel sickness

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

25 thoughts on “How to Survive a Long Car Journey with Children

  1. Sarah Hall

    We did something similar the last time we went away, although we havea portable DVD player and took DVD’s with us – we got each of the boys (3 of them) to choose 3 DVDs each and it worked a treat, each took it in turns to watch a DVD, randonly chose the first one by drawing straws and then in age order – I have to say I think it is an excellent idea. I didn;t really think about audie books 🙂

  2. Pingback: Motivating Mum UK » Blog Archive » Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules

  3. Pingback: “Are We There Yet ?” Travelling With Small Children

  4. Audrey Ross

    Long car journeys can be very tiresome. I can imagine how it feels with kids asking if you are there each and every minute. It is very interesting to see how you manage to keep your kids busy at many points of the journey as this will make you travel when you are more relaxed. Thanks for the tips.

  5. Jeremy

    It is better to enjoy with kids on the go instead of just scolding them for things. This includes engaging them in creative works and making them learn about the place they are about to visit.
    Jeremy who writes about coach hire Dublin

  6. Sonia

    I love it and thanks for the great tip. My kids are still young so audios might not work yet at 2 and 4 but great to know for the adventures to come. To date, i have avoided long distance car journeys but am feeling better already if any were to come up 🙂

  7. Adam

    Well, if only every family trip could be this easy. It seems like you had a great time going to your destination. When I drive only a hour from my home, my kids are saying, “Are we there yet?” It is as if every parent expects this phrase to leave their kids lips at one point into a road trip.

    Thank you for this article.

  8. Bhavna Sharma

    Thanks for share.I love it and thanks for the great tip. My kids are so small and Really Long car journey can be tiresome with hire a right exclusive car for travel is big problem.

  9. Rakesh Narang

    I think bringing along an iPad and a buddy will be a better option. iPad has animated books which will keep them engaged, and your buddy and enjoy them too. Meanwhile, you can focus on the road. I was recently reading this article which said having kids around while driving is even more distracting that talking on a cellphone. So, take care!!

  10. Jess and Brandon

    It’s beautiful to go travel it your all family, but sometimes it’s a little harder with kids. With your tips, from now one the journey would be amazing. Thank you for the post.

  11. Hottub Hideaways

    I love the title of this post! Is it even possible!

    We promised to never be those parents, but now we load up the car with I Pads, Computers the lot! Just to preserve our sanity!!

  12. Mariana Gerzanych

    Thanks a lot for this nice post. Motivating mum is really a good blog to follow. Traveling with children is really problematic. This can help on that fact for sure. Good job.

  13. Cambel

    Hey Debbie! You’re shared an amazing article. I really enjoyed reading how to survive a long car journey with children. Thing is traveling with children is very painful & my children gets tired whenever I travel with them, but travel gets more enjoyable when loving individuals stays together. Thus, I’ve noted all the crucial tips require to keep in mind to survive a long car journey with children. Hopefully my next trip will be stress free for my child.

  14. christopher

    its really not so easy to survive long journey with children.we have to do full preparation about everything before suggest very helpful tips..

  15. Cassandra Surette

    Interesting Article! I always take my kids favorite music CD’s, blankets, pillows and favorite small toys. I also keep coloring books and crayons which keeps them occupied and surprise them with a new one when the car gets moving.

  16. Jhon Lingkon

    As a parents always have to think twice befor going any journey with childs because they are very sensitive, such article help us much.

  17. Matthew White

    Hi I will be travelling to Canada on a 9 hour flight with my 2 year old daughter, are there any tips wo keep her entertained during the long flight?

  18. lawura from road bike

    Nice article i am using some toy’s, chocolate, drink’s, music, book for my children while they are long traveling.


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