There is nothing that quite bonds a family together more than a car trip.
Games of I-spy and license-plate bingo.
The floor of the backseat, once carpet, now a foot-deep mush of half eaten bread rolls, lolly wrappers and empty juice boxes.
And the horror of hearing the words “My tablet’s run out of battery.”
There is nothing quite like a car trip.
"The floor of the backseat, once carpet, now a foot-deep mush of half eaten bread rolls, lolly wrappers and empty juice boxes." Image: iStock.
Fights over who gets the window seats and when the windows can be down, trips down the scenic route that can either end in discovering somewhere new to make memories or a desperate search for a phone signal so you can work out just where the heck you are.
As a mum, there are a million things that run through your mind, not just in the preparation but in the execution of the ultimate family car trip. Fortunately, it turns out that there are a bunch of clever ways to get around these problems and one of them is as simple as playing a certain song.
1. Is everyone in the car?
If you think I’m joking, then you probably haven’t got kids like mine.
My little Houdinis in disguise can be strapped safely into their car seats one minute and scooted out the door the next. I’ve made sure to engage the child safety locks on my vehicle doors to stop those little fingers opening them.
Those little Houdinis need to be properly strapped. Image: iStock.
2. Are the car seats fitted properly?
Two in three car seats aren’t fitted properly, a deeply concerning statistic.
It’s easy to get them checked by an Authorised Restraint Fitting Station. All fitters are part of a specialist network and have been trained to inspect and adjust child car seats to make sure they are installed correctly. For peace of mind get it done in the days just before you leave. I also visit my local council’s annual free restraint fitting and installation day to check everything is correct.
3. Are my kids buckled in properly?
Of course, you check and double check, but those wriggly little cuties can manage to twist and turn those seatbelts and even unclip them with those deft little fingers. You may have had a naughty Aunty who sat in the middle and accidently unclipped the car seat when she got out.
It’s a great idea to make a family ritual out of all checking the seatbelts together.
The Wiggles have written a new song just for that purpose
“Buckle Up and Be Safe” reminds parents, carers and kids that in the car there are three things they need to do to make sure they are safe.
The lyrics are simple to remember and include the lines “One, is your seatbelt fastened? Two, are the straps tight and straight? No twists! Three, are you buckled up? Now we are ready to go”
If you all sing along together, your kids will soon be reminding you to buckle up.
4. Where is the next toilet stop?
Little bladders need constant stops and that’s why the National Public Toilet Map which is accessible on Google Play is your best travel buddy.
5. Are they staying still?
Well, by staying still I mean are they keeping their hands to themselves.
Long car journeys are hard on everyone and if you have more than one little person in the backseat they tend to bicker.
Keep a bag of tricks up your sleeve (literally) to divert their attention when they start to get antsy. A piece of fruit each works wonders (and gives you a moment of peace and quiet). If the treats don’t work, try a book they haven’t read yet or a small toy like a hand-held puzzle. Don’t forget to keep them hydrated with a no-spill drink bottle to avoid messes.
Keep some tricks up your sleeve to keep them entertained. Image: iStock.
6. What if we run out of snacks?
Hungry kids mean cranky kids and it’s way too tempting to just go through those take-away drive throughs that only lead to sugar highs and those dreaded tantrums.
Instead pack some easy to hold snacks like muffins, muesli bars and bananas.
7. Where can we make a pit-stop?
The key to getting through a long journey is to break it up.
There are many interactive rest area maps available online to locate rest area sites along major roads and highways, and plan your breaks on journeys. Consult them before you go, or have your ‘co-pilot’ direct you on the go.
8. What if someone gets car sick?
Children between the ages of 2 and 12 years are particularly prone to motion sickness.
It happens when there is a mismatch between the information that the brain receives from the inner ear balance mechanism and what the eyes see.
The best ways to combat this is to encourage your kids to look at an earth-fixed object – like the landscape in the distance and to get some fresh air.
Often closing their eyes altogether helps.
9. How am I going to entertain them?
Bring some kids CDs – like The Wiggles - and have a good old fashioned sing-a-long. Brush up on your memory skills with games like "I am going on a trip and I am going to pack…” and, (yes I know we are meant to be discouraging screen time but when desperation calls I say do what you can) if you have a tablet then stock it up with kids’ shows and games and let them have fifteen minutes each.
But don’t forget the in-car charger!
How do you keep your kids safe and happy on a car trip?
Are you buckled up? To keep little passengers safe, make sure you have the right car seat, it’s fitted correctly and you know how to check it properly. Find out more at childcarseats.com.au. They’re counting on you.