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Surviving Long Trips with Kids

Long trips with kids are never gonna be on the top of a parents wish list for summer holidays but there are ways to survive the looooong  journey ahead.

I feel almost like a pro at this whole travel with a kid thing. 

When Agent M was a toddler i went down to "English-land" via a plane. NOT ADVISABLE SOLO with a screaming toddler and a mum with bad anxiety. 
Oh god the flash backs *rocks back and forth*. 

After that hell in the air i decided to go via Train. 7+ hours and 3 change overs can take its toll but being prepared got us through.

Now we go down via car but the preparation is practically the same.

Know Your Journey 
Train- Having a list of exactly what times the trains departed and at what platform was miles easier than having to look on changing boards or ask grumpy station attendants. It will also mean you can head straight for your train without getting caught up in the shops there where your gonna spend money you don't need to. Reserving seats is a MUST when travelling on the railway with kids. Your guaranteed to be sat together (i know this might not be the best thing in the world if your kids are doing your nut in but its better than being spread about the carriage when there are no seats together). I never have problems telling people to move out of seats I've reserved but then I'd rather be a bitch to some grumpy man or woman than have to sit on my suitcase with a small child on a busy train. I've done that before and it is quite possible one of the 7 circles of hell!

Car - Sat Nav is your best friend here. Having printed out directions might seem like a good idea and also more cost effective but the money you spend on a sat nav is worth its weight in gold when you are going somewhere new in and around the Country. The stress reduction is invaluable. especially when travelling with kids. You can pick them up really cheap in shops like cash converters or online so get looking and find yourself a bargain. *Failing that ask your family if anyone has one you can borrow ... Trust me! Its a good idea!*

Think with your stomach
If you know you are going to be on the road/rails from X till Y, think about what meal times will be within that period. If you're going to be starting early having something packed for breakfast will be your lifesaver about an hour or so into the journey. Breakfast Wraps, Muffins and Cereal bars are great to have on hand that wont be really messy. Sandwiches for lunch time makes for a fun picnic on the road (and cost half the price of service stations or catering carts). It will be easier if the packaging is disposable for convenience but a few small tubs wont take up much room in your bag.

You'll know yourself what your kids routine is like and if your Agents are anything like mine, Being hungry is not a state they will stay patiently in for long. Snacks are your friend here. Have some dried fruit or chopped veg sticks in a little tub for that half way point or if they start to get fussy, and plenty of juice/water in the warmer weather. (Yes you will need to stop off for bathroom breaks but you'll need a break from driving anyway and its better than a warm cranky kid in the back loosing his mind cause he's dehydrated).

You can also top up on Coffee - A staple in travelling with kids

Give in to technology
Long gone are the days when you would just keep yourself amused during car journeys and "the wheels on the bus" is enough to drive any grown adult to tears after you heard it a million times so now is the time to ease up on the technology restrictions. At home, day to day, Agent M gets 1 hour TOTAL of techno time. He can chose 30 minutes each of his DS and Tablet or spend the full hour on one device. But once the hour is up, that's it till the next day. 

During long journeys, that rule goes out the window very quickly. I cant expect an 8 year old to enjoy 6 hours in a car without any stimulation. Pre-install movies onto your tablet or phone that will keep the kids entertained. DVD's and Blu Rays tend to come with Digital download codes so you can have a copy of the film on a digital device. We have a few on the tablet so he has a choice of film to watch on the journey.

Agent M watching Pokemon quietly in the back seat

Make sure all the devices are charged fully the night before you set off to avoid any tantrums should the battery die 10 minutes into the film. Same with any portable gaming device like PSP or DS. Yeah you might feel like a bad parent for letting them loose on the devices but trust me ... The journey will be alot calmer!

If your dead set against taking the technological cheat (or don't wanna travel with expensive items) then there are loads of travel games you can play with the kids that will keep them entertained for part of the journey. The AA and RAC have a few good ones ... Plus there is always colouring books and magazine puzzles if they will sit still long enough.

Pack Clever
Every parent knows kids come with so much crap. I mean really. How someone so small can need that much stuff is beyond me. But there are travel versions you can swap out like change mats and you can always share some toiletries with the kids (Johnson's baby wash doesn't come with an age limit and baby wipes will double as face wipes). The only saving grace here is that as they get older, they can go without the majority of it. 
Train - If your little agents are still in the pram stage, get one that is travel friendly. Compact and easy to fold will help you big time on train journeys. Yes the big pram looks gorgeous but on a train you'll be grateful for something small. Backpacks are great too. Train services usually let you have 1 piece of hand luggage per person and 1 suitcase. Put all technology and important things like purse/wallet, ID, tickets, itinerary and any medications in your hand luggage (along with a book for yourself if you can) and snacks in a backpack for the little one to wear. Your only bringing enough for the journey and they will feel like a "helper boy/girl" by having a role to play in the journey.

Car - Having a small child in the car will be easier in terms of baby 'accessories'. The pram/buggy will just pop right in the boot along with any other odds and ends you really need over the holiday. When your kids are a little older they can have all their "entertainment" in a backpack sitting along side them. They can access it throughout the journey and you don't have to keep passing them things when you need to concentrate on the road. 

Having everything in separate bags will help you get to things quicker. Little ones spilt something down themselves or had a nappy leak? Having a change of clothes to hand will make changing quicker and not take too much time out if your journey. 

Relax and Enjoy the ride
Finally remember that its not just your holiday but it's theirs too. Its easy to get stressed out when going on a long journey but the travel is part of the holiday experience. Try to keep your cool and it will make for an easier time all round. You don't want the memories of their summer to be sullied by mummy and daddy getting stressed out and angry ... Cause trust me, they will remember!

Happy Child - Confused Dad (Cause Mum insisted on taking pictures the whole journey)

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