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Are we there yet? IAM RoadSmart's essential guide to surviving a journey with children

Are we there yet? IAM RoadSmart's essential guide to surviving a journey with children

Most people know that travelling with children can be quite stressful. With a bit of know-how, it needn't be a hassle. Rebecca Ashton, Head of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, is on hand with some useful tips for making sure everyone makes it through the trip without any family fallouts.

Take a break: Where possible try to plan your stops at fun places where everyone can get out of the car and release some of that built-up energy.  Some motorway service stations have children's play areas  - the list can be found here. If none of those are on your route then you could consider looking at other places with a play area, just off the motorway.

A break where children can have a run around is much more fun than a stop with nothing that interests them. Obviously, the type of stop depends on the age of your children, but these links should help with all but the stroppiest of teenagers! 

Staying connected: For those teens who are inseparable from their smartphones, check out free Wi-Fi hotspots and consider budgeting some extra data for the journey. Keeping them entertained means you can concentrate on the road ahead and your generosity will be very much appreciated and help to keep you in the good books for a while - although no one can promise for how long. It's important to remember that your youngsters won't consider the consequences that could come with distracting the driver, and with their natural ability to work the latest technology why not let them take the stress out of operating the infotainment system if they have one.

Another top tip is to remember the charging lead (and adaptor for the car if necessary). That way, the nightmare of a dead battery will simply pass you by. 

Managing expectations: A family trip or holiday can be very exciting to children and they don't really understand the timeframes or any of the tasks that must be done before you go. Be mindful that excitement can quickly turn to the dreaded "are we there yet?" if you don't prepare.

Boredom is one of the worst things about a journey for children, so try and give them something to do. Involve them in the journey if you can – we all remember as a child counting caravans or a certain colour or make of car; why not give this a try? 

Of course technology can help to entertain, just as we like a screen to look at when flying. If your children can be entertained with a programme to watch or an electronic game to play, it's worth downloading them before you set off. Remember: if children are occupied they aren't distracting the driver. 

Dress appropriately: Comfy clothes and layers rather than a big jumper make it easier for your little ones to keep comfortable and, depending on the age of your children, easy access to a change of clothes might be a good idea.  A young child will need to have their 'go bag' close to hand along with all the essentials they might need – teething rings can be kept cool in a small cool bag along with any other items that are better fresh. You can even get small fridge units that plug into the car if you think it would be helpful. 

Safety snacks: If you are taking drinks and snacks for the journey choose them carefully, you don't want to risk a choking situation or anything too sugary that boosts energy or makes them feel sick. 

The power of time: Travelling with a full car including luggage, kids and possibly even the family dog can be very stressful if you let it, however those worries can be dissipated if you give yourself plenty of time to plan, pack and prepare. Think about what you might need to reach on the journey and keep these things to hand. If your children are old enough, involve them in gathering what they might need and share responsibility when it comes to the packing.  

Four-legged friends: If you have a furry member of the family with you, a good walk before you leave is essential – for more information click here.

Rebecca said: "Before any journey it's important to remember to do your vehicle checks. If you're planning on leaving early to get a head start on the traffic, it's always worth considering doing them the night before you set off.

"Finally check the route on the morning of your journey for any unexpected road closures or delays. Being prepared is the best way to start off your trip."   

Here are some useful links: for vehicle checks. for general travel advice. for child car seat advice.

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