Driving is an ideal way of travelling with babies, because they sleep so much. But it’s a much less attractive proposition with older children – every parent knows the sinking feeling that comes when a child cries out ‘Are we there yet?’ when your journey has barely begun.
A good ploy is to get your child to cover some or all of the journey asleep, either by setting off very early in the morning, or by setting out in the evening – and possibly driving through the night where feasible.
Motorways are generally faster and smoother than other roads, and you’re more likely to find places to stop that offer baby-changing facilities. In the UK, it’s worth timing your stop to take advantage of one of the Moto service stations, which have won awards for their child-friendliness – you’ll find baby-feeding and –changing areas, kids’ meals, and often even an indoor or outdoor play area. If you do plan to use motorways, remember that some countries, including France, charge substantial tolls that you need to factor for in your holiday budget.
If you’re taking your own car abroad, see the AA website for all you need to know, from compulsory equipment and road rules to fuel prices and breakdown cover. It’s always worth travelling with an extra can of petrol in case of dire need, although you won’t be able to take this on the ferry or Eurotunnel.
Lastly, invest in a ‘SatNav’ or GPS for your car (a portable one can also be used in a hire car), a mobile phone map app will work too. It’s especially hard to navigate as a parent, with bickering kids in the back or a toddler who needs occupying, and that goes double in a foreign country. Take a map/map-book as a back-up too.
Hiring a car
Hire-cars are popular with families who need the flexibility to explore their destination but can't reach it by road. Most train stations and airports, in the UK and abroad, have one or more car-hire desks, but it’s vital, especially when travelling with kids, to book ahead. You also need to pre-book any baby- or child-seats you need – this normally costs £30 or so. A great alternative is to pack your own BubbleBum inflatable booster seat, which you can bring along with you to save you the expense. Portable and slimline, it inflates and deflates in seconds and hence is perfect for family holidays, road-trips and car rentals, as well as taxi journeys and car sharing. Purchase a BubbleBum inflatable booster seat by clicking here and save an exclusive 15% on RRP.
"It was great not having the inconvenience and extra cost of picking up a suitable car-seat at the collection desk. We arrived late at night, and I'd checked out BubbleBum instructions beforehand. They were very straightforward, and it was easy to inflate the booster seat, although it took a couple of tries to get the cap on the valve without losing the air in the process. We were on our way within five minutes of it being out of the box and we even took it into our villa, where my little one used it as a booster seat at our kitchen table. All in all it was very simple to use and made the car-hire process so much quicker and easier."
Julie Turner, Travel Consultant
You might, additionally, think about splashing out a higher-end model of car with a GPS (see above). Most importantly, do check that you have (or can buy when collecting the car) CDW or Collision Damage Waiver, to ensure that you have adequate insurance cover should you have an accident.
What to take
Good items to bring along on car journeys to stave off boredom are games (including miniature magnetic versions of favourites such as Scrabble), books, audio-books, iPads and games consoles. You might also think of splashing out on a rear-seat in-car entertainment system (alternatively, bring a laptop or tablet to play movies / shows).
On a more practical level, don’t forget sunshades for the back windows, a cooler bag for water and non-messy snacks, plenty of wipes, and a First Aid kit to keep in the vehicle at all times.