Hooray – summer is finally here and with it plenty of sunshine, temperatures circling the 30 °C mark and sunlight past 9pm. Whilst it’s the perfect time to take a refreshing dip in the pool, work on your tan and enjoy relaxed evenings outdoors, July and August are also the most popular months to pack the bags, lock the doors and go on holiday. In Europe, travelling by car has always been a favourite choice among families with small children. From going abroad to exploring parts of the country you live in, driving not only gives you greater independence and flexibility – think of unavoidable toilet breaks or much-needed restaurant stops – but also offers up more space to fit in all the necessary stuff you need on holiday into your car, whether that’s entertainment options, snacks or a change of clothes. Now with the pandemic adding an extra level of uncertainty to long-distance travel, road trips are more popular than ever.
However, as parents ourselves, we are very much aware that long journeys with small children are not always fun. Spending several hours at a time in the car with kids who get tired, hungry and bored is no easy endeavour. It requires meticulous planning to keep all passengers happy – or at least reaching the destination with the same number of travellers and without a searing headache. You might be looking forward to a getaway with the kids, or a destination family vacation, but are your children ready to take the road for so long?
To help you master the art of long journeys with small children, we have reflected on our own experiences and compiled a list of tips and tricks that we hope are useful to families travelling with little ones.
1 ° Adjust your car seat before you go
An enjoyable car journey starts before the ignition keys are even turned. Whilst our little ones should definitely be comfortable, we must also ensure that they are as safe as possible. The right car seat should cover both of these requirements – if you need help on this, check out our top 9 tips for choosing a children’s car seat.
Once you have decided on a suitable seat, the correct installation of it is just as important as having one adapted to their height and weight.
A poorly installed seat can not only put your child at risk, but it can also have an influence on your kids’ comfort while travelling. We recommend double-checking the proper installation of your children’s car seat even before you go.
For more peace of mind, here are some of the safety indicators you should look out for:
- The headrest of your children’s seat should always be about two fingers’ width above the child’s shoulder.
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When using a Swandoo 360° Rotating i-Size Marie Car Seat, for example, the Eye-Level Indicator helps you to easily adjust the headrest to the recommended height. It’s a simple visual guide that can offer your kid more safety and better comfort.
- If you are installing a car seat with ISOFIX connectors or an ISOFIX base, keep an eye on the green indicators.
Swandoo’s Albert i-Size Car Seat for babies, for example, has a three-green-points-system that will indicate the safe installment of the base and seat. You will recognise them on the ISOFIX connectors, on the support leg, and on the i-Size base.
- Make sure the harness straps are always pulled tight and don’t slip down your child’s shoulders. Of course, it’s important to give your children enough breathing room, especially because your child is going to be resting in this position throughout the entire journey. To ensure the harness is adjusted correctly, we have an easy trick for you: The Pinch Test. Want to find out more? Just follow the instructions in this short video.
No matter which car seat you are using, always refer to your car seat’s manual for more detailed information on how to properly install your seat.
2 ° Keep your kids warm and comfortable in the car
You may have a long list of all your children’s clothes and other important supplies you need to take on your trip, but have you thought about the essentials for the car ride?
Here is a packing list of car essentials to make your drive more enjoyable:
- Enough diapers and wipes for the road
- An extra set of clothes and underwear
- Band-aids and emergency kits (this should be in your car in general 😉 )
- Two or three small toys
- Enough snacks for the whole family
- A warm blanket
Wait a minute, did you say “blanket”? With 30°C and above? Yes, especially the last item on the list is super important, but often forgotten. Whilst it might be hot and sunny outside, the temperature in the car can quickly turn quite cold with the AC on. To avoid your little ones arriving with a snotty nose, we recommend always having a pair of blankets in your car. (Besides they also come in handy when stopping for a spontaneous picnic.)
For safety reasons, we advise you to place the blanket on top of the harness, covering your children only AFTER they are correctly fastened into their car seat or infant carrier.
The same goes for winter travels. To ensure the highest safety, children shouldn’t be dressed in too many thick layers of clothing. If your child is using a jacket or coat, you run the risk that the straps are not tightened properly to the child’s body, creating a dangerous loosening of the harness. For this reason, we advise you to take off bulky clothing and cover your little ones with a blanket after securing them in their seat to keep them warm and safe.
3 ° Prepare a list of numbers in case of an emergency
Another piece of advice we would like to share is listing all important phone numbers of relatives, important institutions or even your baby car seat retailer and manufacturer, especially when travelling abroad. We do hope you will never have to use any of these numbers, but just in case, this emergency list is going to save you a lot of time – and nerves.
Equally important, in case you are travelling abroad, is to familiarise yourself with the various car seat regulations of your destination as laws slightly vary from country to country. A good starting point is our guide to UN-ECE and European car seat laws, check it out!
4 ° Take it easy and take short breaks
This might sound obvious but one safety issue that is often overlooked on long road trips is taking regular breaks.
Long car rides can easily become exhausting – not just for the driver, but also for children resting in a rear-facing position. Not to mention the risk of the driver falling asleep increases after driving for long periods at a time.
Our advice: take a break every two hours to stretch your legs, and give your child and co-passenger a break from sitting in the car. Once you arrive at your destination, we also recommend to briefly take your baby out of the infant carrier before connecting the carrier on the stroller.
5 ° Entertainment is FUNdamental
“I spy with my little eye” – who remembers playing this game in their childhood?
A classic for a reason, this easy car game is a great way to keep toddlers and older kids entertained while on the road. When sitting in the car for too long, kids can quickly become frustrated – we know – but with a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, time will just fly by.
Another idea to waste a few hours in the car are basic association games, whilst audiobooks and music are also FUNtastic options to pass long stretches of time.
6° Keep your kids motivated with treats
Once you’ve run out of things to spy on or the audiobook has reached its end, you can always keep your kids busy with snacks. Veggies, fruits, sandwiches, granola bars, and cheese strings – all these will keep your kids motivated and satisfied during a long journey.
It might seem like a lot of planning at the beginning, but don’t be discouraged – if you stick to these tips, your next road trip with the kiddos will feel like a breeze. After all, car journeys create great family memories!
Are you ready to take on the road? As car journey experts now, the only thing that’s left to do is deciding on where to go this summer. Let us know where you’ll be spending your holidays and share your best roadtrip moments with us by tagging @Swandoo on Social Media and including the hashtag #SwandooOnTheRoad.