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Driving little Miss Daisy
Try these tips to take the stress out of traveling with kids.
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Long-distance driving with kids can be a challenge. We’ve done our fair share of cross-country trekking with our sons Joey (9) and Ben (7) in the backseat and we’ve decided to go on another Cape Town to Gauteng epic just after Christmas.

You’d think we have this particular game sewed up pretty neatly by now, but as always with parenting, once you think you know it all, reality delivers an out of the blue butt-kicking to cure you of your smugness. Honestly, who would have thought that three gallon-size barf bags are entirely insufficient to cope with the aftermath of just one greasy burger and a can of cola administered to Ben at a dodgy diner near PE airport? Here are a couple of tips that might make riding in cars with boys (and girls) a little bit easier.

Leave early
And I do mean early, like 4am or even earlier if you can manage. Let the non-driving family members do the packing the night before and encourage the kids to stay up really late for once while you hit the feathers as soon as the sun goes down. They’ll be exhausted and by the time they wake up in the backseat you’ll be halfway to Plett without so much of a peep out of them.

Comfort, comfort, comfort
Keep their seats clutter-free, provide them with pillows and blankets and make sure that your car’s air conditioning is in good nick. Cramped and sweaty kids make for grumpy passengers.

Provide options
Absolutely nobody, not even a four year old, should have to listen to Barney’s Birthday Musical Spectacular 2001 more than twice in a 48-hour period without a legitimate legal claim to cruel and unusual punishment. Bring as wide a variety of in-car entertainment options as you can accommodate.

Think music CDs, audio books, GameBoys, magazines, Rubik’s Cubes, activity and colouring-in books and car friendly games like Travel Scrabble and a magnetic chess board. Let the kids choose what they want to take and buy them each a special treat – a new Asterix Comic or an exciting book – to be presented when they hit a wobbly.

You can’t really ever have too much food and drink on a genuine road trip. By all means bring the healthy stuff like wholesome sandwiches, fruit and mineral water, but don’t forget to pack several helpings of everyone’s favourite treats from chips to jelly tots and cool drinks as well. Try to fit everything into one or two easily accessible cooler boxes. Be sure to have a rubbish bag, whet wipes and several – that’s a number larger than three – quick-draw barf bags at the ready.

Take it easy
Allow for regular breaks to avoid travel fatigue and to sooth the frayed tempers that are unavoidable on longish trips. Have lunch, bring a picnic and throw around a ball or a Frisbee for a while.

Family travel games
If all else fails we find that we can usually negotiate the inevitable bouts of “Mommy I’m so bored!” with games that involve the whole clan such as 20 Questions or I Spy. A new favourite is Car Bingo. Everyone gets a card with a bunch of things you’re likely to come across on your journey – you know: windmill, tourist bus, ostrich, one-legged Hungarian on a Vespa... that sort of thing. Whoever sights and ticks off all of the items first wins a trip to the Bahamas.

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