7 Top Tips for Keeping Kids Amused on Long Car Journeys

Yesterday I made the (roughly) three and a half hour car journey from my home in Hertfordshire to my Dad’s in Lancashire, just outside Manchester. Depending on traffic the journey can be much longer, on a good day it can be as little as three but no less.

It’s a journey I’ve made thousands of times before with my children throughout all the different age groups they’ve been. I usually make the trip by myself as it’s one I do often and the OH stays behind to work. The hardest times were when my twins were babies. Those journeys I don’t look back on fondly as it’s near on impossible to entertain two new babies on a car journey with two other children as well. But I managed, just about.

Now that the children are older (my twins are 4 years old) I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to long car journeys, and being the only adult in the car with no one else to really rely upon in terms of helping, it’s imperative I have a plan before setting off.

Here are my 7 top tips for travelling in the car on a long journey with the children:

1. Choose the right time to leave

Set off when your kids are getting tired. I think just after lunch is a great time as they’ve usually been playing all morning so when they’ve had lunch (another good reason for leaving at this time so they’ve got a full belly) and they’re in the car they will fall asleep, especially if you have young children, but this works with any age. My Teen always falls asleep in the car if we leave at this time.

I know it’s not always possible though e.g if you have to be somewhere for a certain time, and if this is the case, wake up your children and get them out of bed extra EARLY, so there is a possibility of sleep,  just the motion of the car on the road will hopefully ensure this happens!!

2. Take plenty of snacks

This may be an obvious one but you have to carefully consider what you take and how you’re going to administer! I keep the absolute favourites for when my kids are getting really ratty! For example I take drinks in sippy cups that I know my twins LOVE and don’t really have any more at home, so in an emergency I whip these out and I know they will placate them for at least another half an hour if not more! Ration too. Knowing there are snacks to be had, the kids will want everything all at once. Bad idea. Give nothing initially, after the sleep is ideal, then give one item at a time. Having large share bags of sweets and crisps are also handy as it keeps the children interacting with each other as they need to share them out with each other, rather than a packet each that they will just sit and eat quickly. This point takes me on to the next tip quite nicely…..

3. Be organised in the car

If, like me, you are the only adult in the car, you need to have everything to hand so you can grab things whilst driving! I realise this isn’t ideal in terms of safety standards but needs must. Don’t make the mistake of taking lots of snacks etc then not being able to reach/grab them when the kids are going crazy for them! This will make you go crazy yourself and you’ll have to stop the car. I have a big 7 seater car and it’s pointless giving the twins their own bags of things to look after as they are strapped into their car seats and will often drop their bags out of reach, especially if they’ve slept (this doesn’t really apply to older kids who can look after their own stuff).  Keep bags near you. I keep them in the middle of the two front seats for easy access or just directly behind this area. Plastic carrier bags are the best too, so you can see items easily at a quick glance!

4. Take the usual entertainment like toys/books/tablets etc

This goes without saying. Books are an old favourite but have been overtaken somewhat in the popularity stakes by all things electrical, be it tablets, phones, laptops etc. A good tip for these would be to download some new videos, films and games especially for the journey or restrict usage before you go, that way they’ll be extremely excited to play with these for hours! And again, for younger children, have a few little toys to hand so you can pass to them on the move!

5. Music

Some children, my daughter falls into this category, don’t like to read or look at screens as they get a little car sick, so music is a good option. Take CD’s with music on that THEY like. We have some compilation CD’s with some favourite pop songs on that all the children know and we have a sing song! They love this and it’s a good, easy time waster. I also find this very entertaining and funny!

6. Old style games

I spy and other traditional games can go down well, make the words easily guessable for the younger ones and something that you can see in the car! Frustrations mount if they can’t get it right! Other simple games like counting particular cars is fun for the kids, as in ones made this year (we used to like this when we were kids, we looked out for the newest number plates) or just finding cars of the same colour. Counting will help the little ones with their numbers too!

7. Take a break

Lastly, if all else fails, stop the car and take a break. Pull into the services and let the kids have a run around. I know it’s easy to think that not stopping and getting to the destination faster is the more intelligent option but this is usually a false economy. Do you really want to travel that final leg of the journey in a state of stress and anxiety as the kids go stir crazy?


It’s better to just stop. In most cases anyway one of the children will probably need a toilet break and it’s a good time to recuperate yourself too. And take your time on the break. Don’t rush in and out of the services as this doesn’t achieve anything. The kids aren’t ready to get back in the car and will become agitated again very quickly. Go into the cafe, grab a coffee and something to eat/drink for the children. Stroll around then only return to the car when everyone is ready (if you can, you can’t please everyone all the time!)

Then hopefully, the rest of the trip should go smoothly. Fingers crossed.

Super Busy Mum


  1. suzanne3childrenandit says

    A very helpful list here Carolynne. We have a journey of 10 hours coming up and I’m really not looking forward to it! When my kids were younger, we found story CDs a great source of distraction. We used to hire them from the local library. I imagine this time we will be downloading films on various devices!

    • Mummy Endeavours says

      Never thought of story CD’s, I might try that next time! Not for Teen obviously… he listens to his own music through his headphones lol

  2. I especially like your last point. We regularly drive from London(ish) to Glasgow to visit my wife’s family. That’s six to seven hours with both kids. It’s never fun, but rushing them back in the vehicle at the service station just winds them up. #MMWBH

    • Mummy Endeavours says

      I know, never works! Glasgow is a very long drive, definitely have to stop when the journey is that long!

  3. Fab tips! We will be going on a long car journey soon and we will be taking a break half way, we’ve actually booked a Premier Inn room for the bargain price of £29 so we can stop and do extra activities for the kids. x #mmwbh

    • Mummy Endeavours says

      That’s great when you can stop properly overnight and it’s more of an adventure for the kids too x

  4. I don’t know how you do it. I only have the one, and the constant ‘are we there yet?’ absolutely does my nut in. Kudos to your organisation skills!


  5. Fantastic list of things to do in the car. i will definitely keep this in mind on our next road trip and be prepared for it all! Huge high fives to your organization skills here. Super mommy! Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    • Mummy Endeavours says

      Thank you!! I’m so not organised really but I know on a long trip I can’t really afford to become highly stressed so I need to have a plan lol

  6. These are great tips. We have long journeys to my parents too and we do each and every thing on your list 🙂 x x

  7. What a collection of fabulous tips to keep the munchkins happy on long journeys. Thanks so much for linking this up with #MMWBH xx

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