Going on a Family Road Trip
As a family of now four, a lot has changed over the years. I met my husband Darrel when my son Kyle was seven years old. We then went on to have our daughter Eva at the end of 2014.
Darrel has travelled quite a bit (before meeting me) and as a child would be driven over to Italy on regular holidays to stay with family over there. So when planning a family holiday in 2014 (yes, I was pregnant with Eva!) we decided to do a road trip to Italy. Kyle was eleven at the time and we planned a ten night road trip, stopping off for a couple of nights in Switzerland and a few places in Italy. Then on the way home one night in France to break up the journey. We stayed near Lake Lausanne in Switzerland, then over the border to Italy for two nights near Lake Garda, two nights in Florence then two nights in Terni (where Darrel’s Italian family are from) which is near Rome and a night near Pisa.
Kyle was fine travelling in the car (in between destinations, we could be driving for eight hours) despite being a sufferer of travel sickness. Surprisingly too, being five months pregnant, my bladder held up!
So we did it again!
After having Eva, her first holiday was a package holiday to Fuerteventura which was all very lovely. But that Christmas we decided to go away to France. Another road trip! Eva had just turned a year old.
That was a quicker drive from Calais down to a place called Amiens, taking a couple of hours.
Then the following summer, we did two road trips! So we were becoming an expert at the whole thing – although at this stage I will confess that I don’t actually like driving. So I did none of it! I was just in charge of the kids.
The first trip that summer was a re-run of our first family road trip to Italy, but it was condensed into seven days this time. However, we hired a people carrier and went with two of our friends. More space in the car and more drivers.
Then the next month, we went to the Dordogne region of France, where a friend owns a house and rents it out. That was a long, long journey because it was just us again and Darrel was the only driver. But we did it again the following year!
But we learned a few things…
Tips for Driving Abroad With Kids
There are lots of things to consider and plan for when you take the plunge and go on your first driving holiday. Firstly, you have to look at the driving laws in each country you are going to. You may need:
- Snow chains or winter tyres – depending on what country and time of year
- A pass for certain countries/cities. For example, you need to pay for a vignette if you use the Swiss motorways (can be purchased on the boarder) or a clean air (Crit’Air) sticker if you’re in Paris
- Stickers for your headlights if you drive a British car (unless your car already has sensors on). Because when you drive on the opposite side of the road, you need to deflect your headlights away from the oncoming drivers so you do not dazzle them. Top Tip: Buy a couple of these packs of stickers, as we lost one driving through a lot of rain in the mountains
- First aid kit, fire extinguisher, breathalyser, driving license, GB sticker – check the law for each country you go through
- Children between three and twelve need to sit in the back of the car
When we planned our trips, we actually booked everything online. We used Google Maps to see where we would be passing through and looked in each area for a decent bed and breakfast. We have been very lucky so far, as every place we have stayed in has been great. We’ve even found a couple of gems – and have re-visited them.
What else to consider when travelling
Once you have booked where you are staying and planned your route, you need to consider:
- Sat nav – make sure it’s offline and it’s up to date with the European roads
- Print off your maps – as a back up
- Have phone numbers to hand to contact the hotel/bed and breakfast in case you are lost or are running late
- Cash – Euros and British Sterling as well as your card. You’ll need to pay for the toll roads (card is easier – but have a passenger do this, as they will be on the correct side!) plus food on the ferry or train
Entertaining the kids on the journey
I have had experience travelling with a baby, a toddler, a child and a teenager! Of course, I only have two children but I’m considering each year we have done this.
What you’ll need for your baby or toddler
- Toys – and lots of them! If you have the space in your car then that would make life easier. It can be difficult if you can’t sit in the back with your little one (if the space is taken up with a sibling), so make sure you can reach everything. My daughter is constantly dropping toys and books on the floor and screams for me to pick them up
- Sunshade – keep the sun out of their eyes. Especially if you want them to nap
- Snacks – goes without saying. Keep plenty of snacks and drinks with you
- Baby wipes – you’ll no doubt end up with lots of uncomfortable sticky hands and faces
- Nappy bags – stock up on these for general rubbish too. Have extra wipes and nappies, as well as nappy bags and formula or milk if needed on you in the car, not packed in the suitcase. Take pre-made UHT milk or formula as there’s less hassle and it’ll be okay at room temperature. Keep them in a cool bag. If you breast feed then there should be plenty of places to stop off
- Blankets or a muslin. Make sure you child has something comforting and familiar
- Magicool spray. This is great in the heat. Spray on the body to cool it down or around the car if you’ve stopped for a break and the aircon has been switched off
- Calpol/Teething gel – just in case
- Talc. I don’t usually use talc, but it’s useful for hot and sticky bodies that have been in the car for a length of time. It’s also great for brushing sand off at the beach (especially before putting on shoes) – another top tip!
- Music. We usually put on the radio because it’s hilarious listening to some of the stuff they play abroad! I also like to hear the different languages, especially as I’m learning to speak Italian. But if your little one gets bored of that, bring some nursery rhymes or Disney tunes to play for them
What you’ll need for an older child
- Tablet or Phone. I didn’t put this for babies or toddlers as different parents have different views on them. My son will play games on his phone. We download kids movies and puzzles for my daughter on the Amazon Fire, but we limit screen time. It’s given as a last resort – i.e if she’s screaming her head off!
- Snacks – again!
- Travel sickness tablets or Sea Bands
- Pillow. For sleeping or just using as a barrier to put in between them and their sibling!
- Books or puzzles
- Music to listen on their headphones
- Camera – They may want to snap the scenery! Or of course they could use their mobile to do that
- Chargers – Because 1% is a disaster..
It goes without saying – plenty of stop offs to stretch the legs, have a toilet break or snack/nappy change.
If you are potty training then you’ll need to take the potty for toilet breaks. But if you are considering starting potty training, I’d wait until you are back home and in your usual routine if possible.
And have fun! It can be stressful when the kids have a meltdown, but it’s all part of the experience!
Let me know how your road trip goes.