We know all too well that a car journey with kids can be a trial, and anything that makes it easier is to be welcomed.
How you organise your car for family travel will depend on the individual vehicle. You might have extra storage bins concealed in the doors, or a special compartment for your sunglasses.
If possible, we’d recommend keeping your glove box for items you might need to access quickly – the manual, insurance documents, breakdown service details. If you have space in a central console, that’s a good place to stash a packet of wet wipes. Add some tissues and a refuse sack for the times you need to clean up right now.
Otherwise, these are our tips for a well-organised family car journey.
1Buy a hanging washbag
These are especially good for smaller cars where storage might be limited. They’re a great place to stash books, pens, drawing pads and small toys. Smaller pockets are perfect for extra games if your child has a hand-held portable console.
You might find it useful to buy a second one for all the other things that seem essential on a family car journey – sunscreen, extra tissues and wet wipes, hair grips and bands, lip balm, scissors, a nail file, anti-perspirant, handcream. And don’t forget a good supply of large refuse sacks!
You can probably think of a few more too – we’re sure you’ve built up your own list of must-haves.
2Take a towel
We’ve been caught out by the rain before now – an unexpected downpour has left us looking like drowned rats, and even a short trip is uncomfortable with water dripping down your neck. We’ve also taken the kids to the play park only to find the slides or swings are wet and muddy. Keep an old towel or two in your boot (trunk) – you never know when you’ll need them.
3Try a tray
A lightweight tray with folding legs makes a useful portable table for playing games and gives your child a firm surface to lean on if they want to draw or play with small toys. One with edges means pens and crayons won’t roll off onto the floor and get lost. If you’ve got more than one child and they want to play together, put it between them.
4Make a ceiling rack for coats and jumpers
When you’re travelling, your comfort levels change. Sweaters are put on and taken off again; someone prefers a blanket over them when they sleep but not when they’re awake. There’s rarely enough space on the parcel shelf and clothes can drop onto the floor, where they get crumpled and trodden on. Instead, buy a mesh cargo bungee net and attach it to the coat hooks/grab handles inside your vehicle. Coats, clothing, scarves and hats can then be bundled out of the way but are still within easy reach when wanted.
5Have a travel box ready to go
You’re unlikely to need it on short journeys, but for longer trips it’s a good idea to have some emergency supplies – spare clothes, blankets, drinks and snacks. If the unexpected happens, such as a night-time breakdown in a remote area or a long motorway delay in hot weather, you want to be prepared.
Rather than getting a kit together each time, buy a large plastic tub with a lid from your local homeware store. Put spare outfits in individually-labelled bags for everyone in the family, along with a couple of boxes of energy bars, bottles of water, and warm blankets. When you’re travelling, put it in the boot (trunk); when you’re not, take it out. Easy!
6Be prepared for life’s little emergencies
You know what it’s like travelling with kids. Sometimes they get sick. Sometimes they urgently, desperately need the toilet – usually when you’re miles away from the nearest service facilities. Keep an airtight plastic container in the car for these times. The lid will prevent spills and seal in smells, making the rest of the journey more pleasant for everyone.