“Are we nearly there yet?” The five words dreaded by every parent that’s been on a long car journey, myself included.
Kids plus confined spaces multiplied by a long car journey is a formula for family rows if ever there was one – clearly, a strategy for keeping the little darlings entertained during long car journeys is essential.
Here are some of the tips and tricks that worked for my lot recently:
The first leg
I don’t know about you, but the first leg of a long journey can be somewhat fractious before the kids settle down. It’s nice to harness the general chatter early on though, starting off with family games like I-Spy, and ‘Who Am I?’. Have you played that one? Everyone asks twenty questions, which can only be answered yes or no, to reveal the identity of a real or fictional person.
A car with a quiet cabin will soothe frayed nerves and make sure everything can be heard clearly. The SEAT Alhambra and Citroen C5 are known for their whisper-quiet rides and offer lots of other useful features.
For I-Spy a car with high visibility helps. The split front windscreen pillars in the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso, as well as the C3, improve the view out the front. Raised driving positions, such as in the Ford Galaxy MPV also give great visibility.
I gather up lots of goodies to take with us to hand out over the course of the journey (but not all at once!) By the time I’m finished I’ve got enough crayons, colouring books, stickers, glue sticks, stampers, and cheap scrapbooks for England. Add in lots of little snacks and travel games like Connect Four, Guess Who and Snakes and Ladders and I’d be getting pretty cramped without spaces to put it all. This is where great internal storage is needed. One such option is the Hyundai i40. There are lots of hideaways including under-floor spaces and adjustable luggage holders. Its boot size is impressive too.
A panoramic sunroof – stretching on way longer than the regular type – lets the sunshine stream in. It gives lots of light to studious kids aiming for the big school prize when they present their summer activity book. If this appeals, take a look at the top end Hyundai Santa Fe.
Gadgets and gizmos
It’s a fact that all kids love gadgets – and after our first stop, we tend to be ready for a bit of infotainment.
The huge range of technology now available in cars includes audio, satnav and smartphone pairing. Mazda’s technology, MZD-connect, ranks highly and is designed so that it can be easily updated. It’s controlled by the touchscreen, voice command or the Multimedia Commander. No, contrary to popular belief, that’s not my seven-year-old. It’s the big knob on the control panel.
The funky Kia Soul has a fun sound system to die for, so my kids would have me believe. It also provides helpful hypnosis as the stereo’s speaker lights flash to the sound of the beat. It comes with a DAB radio, USB and aux connections, and has plenty of legroom in the back.
Want to turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot and improve connectivity on a long car journey? Now there’s an idea. You’ll be able to stream music, watch films, research something of interest on the internet or download a useful app for the journey en route. An onboard Wi-Fi hotspot is an integrated feature of many new cars, including the relatively modest Vauxhall Viva.
When the MP3 players come out, built in 12V charging sockets can stop the inevitable wail from someone who’s forgotten to charge up. Most cars now let you play your MP3 through the car stereo via the Aux cable too. These charging options can also help you extend the use of portable DVD players or tablets. Now, I’m not saying I bought an iPad solely to keep my kids quiet in the car … oh, alright, yes I did!
Usually, despite all the initial chaos, the little ‘uns have dropped off to sleep by the time we arrive at our destination. I tend to confirm this joyful moment with a quick peek in my handy conversation mirror – also known as the eyes in the back of my head, and a fantastic feature of many new cars. The Fiat 500L, a compact MPV, has a fab conversation mirror. Its three-level boot is great too because you can separate out anything that’s become wet or dirty on your trip.