Are We There Yet? Surviving Car Journeys with the Kids

[Image - Josh Felise]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Dads everywhere dread those four little words. Fear not, we have some tips that will keep your kids from kicking down the backseat!

You can’t really blame your children for getting restless on long road trips. At their age, they are bursting with energy and being cooped up in the back of the family wagon offers little chance for release.

When it comes to placating your pint-sized passengers, the best strategy is distraction. If you can keep their minds off their incarceration, the whole family should be in for a happy and stress-free journey.

Follow these tips and you might just make it to the other end in one piece!

Appetite for distraction

When little angels are hungry they soon become little demons, and hungry kids plus close quarters is a recipe for backseat bedlam!

We’re not supposed to bribe our children with food, but long journeys are an exception. Keep a good stock of snacks for the long road ahead. This is also a good chance to slip them a bit of fruit (they’ll eat anything when they’re hungry!)

Bear in mind that nothing will ruin your car’s upholstery quicker than young kids with food and drink, so make sure you’re one step ahead. A Car Seat Gripper from the ISI Mini Travel Range could be a smart purchase, sitting beaneath your child’s seat and protecting the fabric from any inevitable spills.

If you’re travelling all day, you could also pack a lunch. However, it might be better to break the day up by stopping somewhere. Everyone will be happier once they’ve stretched their legs and filled their bellies.

Under the cover of darkness

It may not always be possible but, if you can, try to schedule your journey for midnight.

True, you may have to switch around your sleep schedule to ensure you’re fresh for the trip, but the kids will nap right on through. If the price of a peaceful journey is a little planning ahead, it’s definitely worth considering.

I-Spy: An oldie but goodie

This one is an old favourite but part of the problem of playing it while travelling at high speeds (like on the motorway) is that the object in play probably disappeared miles back.

Why not try a different tact, make a list of things to spot (a cow, a bridge, a plane etc.) and have the kids tick them off as they go. The first one to get them all wins – essentially a scavenger hunt that you can play on the road!


For those with slightly older children, you might find distracting them with games isn’t enough. Why not suggest they keep a photo diary instead?

Hand them the digital camera and ask them to document the journey. Challenge them to find the most interesting shots possible and make notes as they go along.

When you get back home you can print them off and even put together a scrapbook. This one won’t necessarily occupy them permanently but it’s great to fall back on when other options are wearing thin – “How’s that photo diary coming along?”

Keep it tidy!

At home, you probably have drawers and boxes all packed to the brim with things to keep your kids entertained; colouring books, toys, playing cards, board games, the list is endless!

Cramming all this into the back seat can be messy. Invest in something like the ISI Mini Car Seat Organiser to keep the backseat tidy and toys easy to reach. Just hang it from the front seat and fill it with all your best weapons of mass distraction. Your little passengers can even use the tablet viewer to watch films on the move, so time to hide Frozen!

Let them navigate

Map-reading is quickly becoming a lost art. Teach your kids that blindly relying on the GPS system is a fool’s move by introducing them to an ‘old-school’ map. This will be an invaluable and rare skill later in life. (Although, you might want to discreetly keep the sat-nav on just to be on the safe side!)

This navigational responsibility will give them a sense of duty throughout the journey so, instead of fighting them for peace and quiet, you can bond as a team.


If all else fails, always have the electronics charged and at the ready! Juice up their PSPs, tablets and other gaming devices and let them escape to another world.

Or, if they aren’t gamers, a tablet or portable DVD player is great for keeping them mesmerised for the duration! Just queue up a few of their favourite Pixar movies and they’ll be no trouble at all…