Travelling by car with children is sometimes dreaded. However, you can turn the ride into a fun journey. Because there are effective ways to keep them occupied and avoid arguments, without the need to stop for long naps or overnight trips.
Your children's age will change the areas of interest and types of activity. But there is a golden rule that you can apply to both small children and pre-adolescents: involvement in the journey. By explaining the route, the estimated time and the purpose of the trip, a child will be more comfortable spending a few hours or more in the car. In terms of length and travel time, younger children do not necessarily have the same notion of distance and time as an adult. Remember to use references children may know "this will be like doing 5 times the journey to go and see Grandma".
Remember to adapt the passenger compartment to the long journey and child occupancy. Young children will appreciate being accompanied by their favourite teddy or cuddly toy. An unsweetened drink and small, light snacks are also essential. And take regular breaks. In addition to playgrounds in the service areas, it is sometimes possible to find a nice place to let them unwind a bit in towns and villages, parks or wooded areas by the roadside. If the route allows, you can add a fun stop-off point to the route (tourist attraction adapted to the youngest, picnic in nature, strolling to a viewing point).
Bringing books, pencils and drawing or colouring books is essential. If there are several children in the back, small sets of cards or board games suitable for travelling are also useful to occupy them for a while. Screens are also a solution, but try not to use them throughout the entire journey. There are small, simple games that the front passenger or driver can play with the children while driving. There's the famous "yellow and red cars" competition. You can also challenge them depending on where you are: "count windmills/bridges/tunnels" or "invent a name for each village/city". And why not get into a karaoke (or car-aoké) with a playlist of songs the whole family knows? Teens will of course be inseparable from their smartphones, especially when listening to music. Or you can let them take control of the playlist...
If the child is alone, the child can be asked to play the co-pilot, "because the GPS is not much fun", by providing the child with a route profile (road map or printout of a route planner). Finally, you must make the journey more attractive by keeping them informed as the journey progresses. "Please note that we will soon be entering another country – look, there's the flag." "Look at the mountains, aren't they lovely?". "Oh! We've been here once before, do you remember?". And if the terrible "are we nearly there yet?!", is heard it's time to take a break and point out on a map where you are in relation to your destination.
In the event of friction or an argument?
A break will often be enough. It is also possible to change places (if one of them is big enough to move forwards, for example) and soothe tensions.