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Thirteen tips for long car journeys with kids

As the great Easter getaway begins, founder of parenting network Britmums, and mother to three, Susanna Scott shares her tips on how to keep both children and parents happy on long car journeys.

''Over the Easter weekend, it is estimated that there will be more than 20 million cars on the roads. This could mean longer journey times, irritable children and frazzled parents. Does the thought of a long car journey with kids make you break out in a cold sweat?

I remember being stuck in rush hour traffic years ago in the outskirts of Lyon, France with a colicky, screaming 3-month-old in the back seat. My sister developed a migraine and my blood pressure went up a few notches. I vowed never to do it again.

Two more children and several long hauls later, I've picked up a few tricks that I use to make car journeys more enjoyable (and even fun!). These suggestions focus on school-age children, but there is something for all ages.

1. Packing

Soft bags are easier to squish into a packed car. We check what the accommodation provides beforehand and we only take essentials. But don't forget a travel stroller! They come in really handy for a tired 6-year-old that can't walk one more cobblestone street.

2. Wipes.

You can never have too many wipes. They are very useful for wiping sticky hands before (and after) snacks or cleaning up a leaky apple juice box.

3. Books

My daughters all devour books. Before a trip, we will go to the library or second-hand shop to make sure we are stocked on their latest favourite author. And we always pack a couple of bedtime stories.

4. Music.

Audio adds a different dimension to car entertainment. But be careful, pick something that appeals to the entire family because unless you use headphones, the driver can end up with a huge headache! We play music that we all enjoy - The Beach Boys and ABBA are always popular on our journeys.

5. Electronics.

I hate the idea of kids staring at screens all day, but we make an exception when it comes to travelling. The girls know handhelds are primarily for long car trips, so there is a "new" and exciting factor when they come out for journeys. And in emergencies, my iPad makes an appearance.

6. Travel games.

In the 1970s, I remember playing "Volkswagen Zap" during car journeys in our mustard-coloured estate. Brush up on popular guessing games, such as "I Spy", "Twenty Questions" and "I'm going on a camping trip…". We also bring pint-sized board games, like Snakes and Ladders and Auto Bingo, but beware of tiny pieces as they are easy to lose between seats. Finally, search the internet for word games and kids crosswords. These can be great time consumers!

7. Backpacks.

Let each child take their own activity pack, or if they are too young, pack it for them. Kids can do a lot with simple colour crayons and blank paper. (Needless to say, you may want to leave the Sharpies at home!)

8. Snacks!

There's something about a long car journey that makes you think "food!". The problem is that it can make the car very messy. Pack healthier snacks like cereals, crackers, cheese cubes, and grapes in zip-lock bags, and make sure you bring a rubbish bag to stash all the trash.

9. Frequent stops.

Little legs need to move! Take advantage of rest stops and play parks along the way.

10. Surprises.

Everyone loves a surprise. They shake things up a bit. Wrap a small toy or sticker book in an old newspaper and a pretty bow. They'll love it.

11. Bribes.

Yes, sometimes we resort to bribes (shock horror). The key with a bribe is that you use them sparingly and for little ones, there is an immediate reward. For our girls, we will promise a little something at the end of the trip such as a magazine or sweet.

12. Arguments.

My daughters are close in age and inevitably they squabble when in close quarters for an extended period of time. Have one adult (not the driver) deal with the involved parties. If you can't do this, pull over to a safe spot. Don't lose your cool.

13. Chill out!

Kids don't need to be entertained every minute of the day. Everyone benefits from some quiet time, and just staring out the window and talking about what they see outside can be entertaining enough.

About the author: Susanna Scott founded the BritMums influencer network in 2008 and is often quoted as a pioneer in the mum blogging space. Susanna has been named a top female entrepreneur and features in The Times, The FT, The Independent, The Guardian, The Sun and Red magazine. Susanna has three daughters and loves to travel and eat. Her own blog, A Modern Mother, is one of the top parenting blogs in the UK.

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