Last week we took a trip. We visited Minehead in Somerset. This, if you are any good at geography, you may know is a long way from our house. A long, long way. We decided to break the trip up overnight on the way too Somerset but it still consisted of two 2.5 hour journeys on the way down, and a 4.5 hour on the way home.
Thankfully Spike still naps. So we planned the journey on Sunday to coincide with her nap and she slept almost the entire way to Stratford-Upon-Avon. She woke up about half an hour from our final destination and we we happy to babble nonsense in her direction to distract her. You see if she had realised she was still in the car she would be annoyed. She dislikes the car and being in it for too long. She did look a bit dishevelled when we got out though. We had a half hour journey away from Stratford-Upon-Avon later in the day and she wanted to walk!
But for the second half of our journey we set off at 8:30. She never sleeps that early. So we headed to Mcdonalds, I know – bad habit, treated her to half a hash brown and got on the road.
Preparation is key
I purposely made sure that for all our journeys we had some of Spikes toys close to hand. Her toy bag was within easy reach of all seats. And for the parts of the journey I knew she’d be awake we had already agreed who was driving and who would sit next to her. We got in the car after breakfast and she said “Sit with me mummy!” I’d done the driving the day before so that was the plan anyway. We got on the road and I entertained her with a soft toy. That lasted a whole five minutes. So I decided to whip out the good stuff – an Activity Book!
Tiger Activity Book
For £3 in my local Tiger I stubbled across an activity book the week before our holiday which was the perfect kind of thing for Spike. I’ve seen loads of activity books but they all looked too advanced or required colouring pencils. This one was purely a sticker book. With pages of colourful animals at the front and pages of props, clothing and moustache stickers in the back.
I knew that Spike would enjoy it a lot so I picked it up and packed it in her bag. I was right – we had 40 minutes of peace while she stuck her stickers on the animals and showed me them proudly.
At just under 2.5 Spike is still very much prone to the sleepy dust that most children find in their car seat and after the 50 minutes or so of playing she succumbed to an early nap and stayed asleep until we got to Minehead! It was an impressive nap but one obviously needed!
The journey home
This was the journey we were dreading. We contemplated leaving on the Thursday night and letting her sleep all the way home. However that would mean a solid 4.5 hours of driving for us and the risk that she’d wake up when we got home at midnight and wouldn’t want to go back to sleep when we were knackered.
We also contemplated leaving at nap time and getting as far as we could then stopping for the day. But nap time is usually 12 and most things would be shutting soon at 2-3pm. So we chose to leave as early as possible and aim to get 3 hours into the drive before stopping at Trentham Monkey Forest.
Again we were prepared. We had bags of toys but the holiday must have worn Spike out and she slept almost straight away. I was driving and T sat in the back with her in case she woke up and needed distracting. 2.5 hours later she woke up. We’d swapped driving by this point and I was in the back, happy to bird feed her lunch that I’d packed.
Car seat safety when it comes to eating
I know that feeding a toddler in the car can be considered a risk due to choking hazards. However I always make sure I avoid the common choking risk foods and I only feed Spike when she can be monitored whilst we’re driving. I think Snacks are always going to be one of the biggest must-haves during long journeys with kids! she had soft cheese sandwiches, a piece of fruit, yoghurt and fruit yo-yos and she was fine.
The last hour before our stop over
We played a game of “what colour is that lorry” as she’s learning colours and did lots of counting of cars as she’s learning to count. I kept her happy with her sticker book and her Peppa Pig drawing easel. I also had an emergency back up of Peppa Pig on my phone, just in case!
Our chosen stop over point
We spent quite a while in the Monkey Forest, where Spike wasn’t allowed to sit in her pushchair or be carried too much. We purposely chose somewhere where she could run around and stretch her legs because we wanted to give her a break from sitting for so long and this place was perfect! Then, we went into Stoke on Trent for a wander around shops and some tea.
After our stop over
We jumped back in the car to do the rest of our journey – around 1.5 hours – after tea. It was around 6pm and the sleep dust took over. I’m not sure how, other than pulling out the emergency Peppa Pig, we could have kept her awake for this part of the journey. It was getting dark, it was raining and she was exhausted from holiday. We purposely made it so we wouldn’t get home too late, meaning that when she, inevitably, woke up when we got home we weren’t too tired to stay up with her for a bit.
And that, is how we survived our 4.5 hour drive with a toddler!
What you need to survive your 4.5 hour drive with a toddler:
- Their favourite teddy
- a dummy (if they still have one)
- emergency Peppa Pig on your phone, which needs to have plenty of batteries!
- a distraction toy – preferably something open ended that they enjoy doing but make sure its soft/light and doesn’t have too many pieces