Driving with kids: 7 tips for stress-free journeys

Kids are great. But let’s be honest: you probably don’t love the thought of long car journeys with your little ones on board. 

Backseat bickering. Temper tantrums. Toilet break demands after you’ve just passed a service station. It’s enough to test even the most patient of parents, grandparents and carers. 

That’s why we’ve put together seven top tips for surviving long drives with children.

  1. Plan your route carefully 

Driving with kids is stressful enough, without being in a rush. So plan your route carefully and allow plenty of time to reach your destination. 

Motorway routes are usually quicker. But taking slower, more scenic back roads means you don’t need to wait for a service station if the kids suddenly need the toilet or some fresh air.

Whatever way you choose, make sure you plan places to stop along the way if your journey is a long one. You should aim to stop for at least 15 minutes every two hours. Giving the kids a chance to stretch their legs will make a big difference to their behaviour in the car. 

  1. Think about when to set off

Deciding when to drive is just as important as picking the route. 

Some parents decide to set off a night. The roads are quieter and the kids are more likely to sleep through the journey. You can even put them in the car in their pyjamas. 

Others prefer driving in the daytime. If that’s your preference, try to set off early in the morning to avoid the worst of the traffic. Roads are usually busiest during weekday rush-hours. That’s 6am to 10am and 4pm to 8pm. 

  1. Check everyone’s sitting safely

By law, children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. 

So before setting off on a long trip, check that your child’s seat is appropriate. To keep your child safe, you’ll need to replace their seat if: 

  • They’ve outgrown it
  • It’s damaged
  • It’s expired (you’ll find the seat’s expiration date on the label or manual)


  1. Keep them entertained

Most kids quickly get bored on long car journeys. So bring stuff to keep them occupied.

You could bring portable tech, like tablets pre-loaded up with their favourite games, films and TV shows. (Just don’t forget to pack chargers and headphones too.) 

Or, if you don’t want to risk their expensive gadgets getting lost on trips, pack things like puzzle games, colouring sets or books. 

Charity shops are a great place to pick up cheap kids books. But be mindful that, for some kids, reading in the car causes motion sickness. So, if you're not the driver, you could try reading to them aloud or playing an audiobook instead.

  1. Bring drinks and snacks from home

Hunger can often bring on tantrums in little ones. So make sure you pack enough drinks and snacks for the journey. 

To avoid spills and crumbs on your back seats, stick to dry snacks in resealable bags or airtight containers. And choose water over sugary or fizzy liquids.

Bringing food from home means you can avoid stopping off at service stations, where prices are often twice as high as the supermarkets.

  1. Pull over if you’re getting distracted

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep them occupied, kids will start complaining or even arguing with each other in the backseat of the car. 

It can be tempting to turn around to assess the problem or break things up. But taking your eyes off the road – even for a split second – greatly increases your chance of an accident. 

Instead, take a deep breath and do your best to stay calm. If it’s possible, pull over to the side of the road to deal with the situation. If you can’t stop somewhere safely, ignore the shouting (as hard as that may be) and keep your eyes focused on the road.

If your children are older, you could calmly explain to them why it’s important not to distract you whilst you’re driving. 

  1. Prepare for the unexpected

From travel sickness to car trouble, it pays to be prepared for delays or tricky situations on the road. 

Pack an emergency supplies kit, with things like wet wipes, plasters, blankets, carrier bags, a torch and spare clothes for the little ones. Make sure you know how to keep yourself and the kids safe if you break down or have an accident too. 

And obviously, you can’t go anywhere without car insurance. To get a car insurance quote with Prima, contact us. Or find us on one of the following price comparison websites: Go Compare, Compare the Market or Confused.com.

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