After weeks of careful planning, half-term has ended as quickly as it began.
Although I tried to stick to the guidelines that I laid out in last week’s post, there were still a couple of occasions where we fell off the rails.
Luckily, Constance was home early on Friday so we could take the kids on a surprise holiday to Bowland Fell Park. The kids were so enamoured with the place that they’ve been hassling both of us to buy them a caravan of their own, which we’re not going to do even though the Park did have a few handsome specimens for sale (https://www.bowlandfellpark.co.uk/buy-a-bowland-holiday-home/static-car avans-yorkshire/).
I discovered a long time ago that correctly gauging and setting kids’ expectations is absolutely key in keeping them quiet on long car trips. If you over hype the destination to your child, then you run into the problem of too much excitement bouncing around the car. On the other end of the spectrum, if you downplay where you’re going, then your kids will begin to question why you’re travelling so far in the first place.
Constance and I have developed the perfect balance of excitement fuelling chat and ambiguity that keeps our boys in a constant state of expectant confusion.
We don’t tell them how long the journey will take – so there’s no clock-watching – we just tell them where we’re going.
Additionally we never tell them how far we have to go and we hide the Sat Nav, just to really throw them off the scent. If you’re wondering how we manage to avoid tantrums, there is a shameful truth hidden behind the apparent idyllic charm of our long drives: frequent stops.
Anyone who has travelled with kids will know how even the most placid of children will become a screaming mess of noise after more than an hour in a car. Our answer to this age old problem is two-fold.
Firstly, pack all your things well in advance and ensure that you leave early. I mean really early. We leave an extra 3 hours earlier ahead on every journey to allow for the second part of our smart solution. With a little luck your kids will have passed out in the car for the first hour or so of your journey – this means you can make good ground in relative peace and quiet.
By the time your charges have rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and started asking questions, that’s when you strike: pull off at the first of your pre-planned stops and yank the sprogs out of the car.
Bleary eyed and confused, you can then distract them from the potential boredom of the remainder of the journey with your current location. As your kids (ideally) won’t be aware of what their final destination looks like, each time you make a little stop (once every hour or so) they’ll be confused as to where they are and whether its the end of the journey or not.
Of course there are a few downsides to utilising this plan; frequent stops usually entail a more expensive trip, you also run the risk of tiring out your kids before you get to where you need to go.
On this particular day though, our strategy worked.
We left at 6am and the boys slept peacefully for the first few hours. When Saul woke up, Constance clocked him first and made an immediate turn for the next service station where we plied him and his brother with donuts, sending them back into another hour of blissful dozing. By the time they’d roused themselves again from their slumber we’d, thankfully, drifted away from the monotony of the motorway into the more interesting countryside of the Forest of Bowland.
Within an hour we’d reached our destination, Constance and I congratulated ourselves that night with a bottle of champers and hoped that the kids would be as eager to sleep in tomorrow morning as they were in the car on the way here.
They weren’t and we wished we hadn’t had the whole bottle…