Driving to France from the UK?
Bringing your own car with you on your family holiday to France has many advantages, however the thought of driving all that way with your children in the backseat can seem daunting. Keen to avoid six hours of I spy or the wheels on the bus? Check out our top tips for making the car journey more interesting for your kids and delaying the inevitable chorus of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
We might worry about too much tech turning our children into zombies, but let’s face it long car journeys are one time that that stupefied silence can feel like a blessing! Thanks to the arrival of tablets and smartphones it’s not even necessary to invest in a back-of-seat DVD player (although that could still be a good option if you drive a lot in rural areas). Simply download a few films and make sure you’ve got plenty of battery and enough headphones to go round.
That being said, it’s not always a good idea to start with the technology straight away. Keep it as a last resort for when patience starts flagging. If your children start the journey with the neon joys of an iPad game, everything else will pale in comparison and you might risk a bleary-eyed, post-technology huff when the battery runs out. Make it clear from the beginning that the technology will be available after you pass a certain point on your route, this way your kids will be able to enjoy more ‘old-fashioned’ fun for the first few hours safe in the knowledge that there is screen-time waiting for them at across the channel.
Get out a map and get older kids excited about the journey by showing them exactly where you’re going. This will give them a clearer idea of how long the journey will take, the amount of ground being covered, the towns/landmarks to look out for and the fact that they’re crossing the border into a different country in their own car (pretty cool!). All this might all seem obvious to you but for the kids in the back being informed will make the journey feel less endless.
Preparing a healthy picnic might take a bit more time beforehand but it’s worth it. Carrot and cucumber sticks are a good option and rice cakes are always a favourite (crunchy and moreish but practically made of air so kids can gorge on them without risk of carsickness or sugar-induced hyperactivity…). Of course, it’s a good idea to have some less healthy options too but keep them with you in the front so they don’t all disappear within the first five minutes. If you own a thermos flask why not pack coffee/tea for the adults and a flask of hot chocolate for the kids? It always helps make the picnic feel that bit more luxurious and allows you to avoid the often-astronomical prices of service-station hot drinks.
‘I spy with my little eye’ might make parents on motorways all over the country groan, but it’s far from the only game you can play whilst driving. There are many alternatives out there, here are just two examples… why not share your family’s favourite games in the comments below?
Choose a marvel
Make staring out of the window a competition! Each member of the group keeps their eyes peeled and if they see something of interest on the journey they can claim it as their ‘marvel’. Each marvel can only be claimed by one person (the person who shouts out first) however participants can also exchange/change their marvels. On arrival everyone votes for the marvel they think was most impressive and the person who claimed it wins a small prize.
The Alphabet Game
In the alphabet game the aim is to have a coherent conversation in which each speaker’s line begins with the next letter of the alphabet. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Better than ever before thanks! How are you?’ ‘Can’t believe you just asked me that!’ etc.etc. This requires quick thinking and, particularly if played with older kids with a theatrical flair, can lead to quite funny improvised conversations and characters.
If your kids suffer from carsickness, it’s probably best that they keep their eyes fixed on the road: in this case audio entertainment may be the safest option. Consider downloading some age-appropriate audiobooks or music to make the time whizz past.
As you’re heading to France you could even take it a step further by choosing some French music or a story that takes place in France. For younger kids there are lots of good nursery rhyme compilations to help children learn the basics of the French language (which might even come in handy later in the holiday!). Don’t forget that headphones are a lifesaver if your music tastes differ to those of your toddler!
Last but not least, reduce your own stress by not putting too much pressure on your schedule: factor in extra time for stops, getting lost, traffic etc. Of course it’s tempting to want to get to your Siblu home away from home as quickly as possible but it’s not worth it for the price of frayed nerves and backseat squabbles. Take an extra toilet break, have a wander round that service station and breathe.