Two in five Irish parents fib about how long car journeys will take and many resort to keeping children occupied with high-tech games and their favourite toys, according to research launched t by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, part of the world’s largest vehicle rental group.
The research among more than 4,500 parents in Ireland, the UK, France, Germany and Spain found that it does not take long for children to ask the question that’s dreaded by parents: “Are we nearly there yet?”. In fact, in Ireland over 59 per cent of the parents report that children ask the question within an hour of setting off.
The research also reveals just how long parents are prepared to drive to reach their destination. On average parents are willing to drive for up to five hours with their children in a single journey – even though half (53 per cent) say that planning ‘the quickest route’ was a priority.
Boredom is the number one cause of arguments on long car journeys (41 per cent) – which explains why parents may reach for the sweets and fabricate journey time estimates. Irish parents top the fibbers’ list, with more than two-in-five (41 per cent) admitting to telling white lies to children about how long a car journey would be.
When boredom strikes, entertainment is essential, as is stocking up on supplies ahead of long car trips with 45 per cent of parents choosing to keep their children occupied with video games with the second most common tactic cited by parents was to play video games (34 per cent). ‘Must-have’ items include drinks (84 per cent), snacks (78 per cent), wet wipes (59 per cent), digital devices (55 per cent), favourite toys (44 per cent) and games (37%).
Irish parents topped the table when it came to the behaviour of their children with 92 per cent describing their children as well behaved. Only 12 per cent of parents with more than three children describe their children as poorly behaved on a long car journey.
Overall, parents viewed their last long car journey with their children as a positive experience with more than half (56 per cent) saying it gave them the opportunity to spend time together as a family closely followed (51 per cent) by being able to take everything they need without worrying about carrying excess baggage.
Irish families also value the freedom and flexibility travelling by car brings, with 49 per cent saying that following their own schedule without the pressure of time restrictions when using other transport was a positive feature of their last road trip. Where people did have ‘dislikes’ around car journeys with children, the thing they least enjoyed were that children bored quickly (25 per cent) and squabbled in the car (21 per cent).
Pop and rock is the favourite type of music for family car trips (47 per cent) with parents most likely to say their children’s number one musical choice was Ed Sheeran (17 per cent) with One Direction coming in at a close second at 13 per cent.
Commenting on the results of the survey, mum of two and editor of parenting website www.herfamily.ie, Sive O’Brien says she recently endured a marathon seven-hour road trip with her children and can relate to many of the findings.
“I can certainly identify with the results of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car survey,” says Sive. Show me a parent who hasn’t heard the words “Are we nearly there yet?” on a car journey. “The Enterprise survey revealed that only four in ten Irish parents have told a little white lie to their children about how long the journey will be – I’m impressed. Children generally exist in a time warp so my advice is make the time fun for them, and it will fly – that’s all they need to know!”
“It’s not at all surprising that parents surveyed experienced bickering and boredom on a road trip – cooped-up kids in an enclosed space does not make for a pretty scene,” she continued. “The secret to a successful trip is having an arsenel of snacks and boredom busters to hand – preventing the whines before they kick in. When in doubt, break out the technology! After all, it’s important to remember that you are on your holidays and ‘road trippin’, where family memories are made, can be an enjoyable experience when you remember the key three P’s – planning, preparation and packing.”
George O’Connor, Managing Director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said: “As long as boredom can be dealt with, it seems that taking long car journeys with children is overall a positive bonding experience for families giving them the opportunity to spend concentrated periods of time together as a family. It seems that 90 minutes’ appears to be the ‘tipping’ point at which most children will ask the dreaded “are we nearly there yet” and when arguments may start to occur. However, the research shows parents are savvy and well organised and know how to keep their children occupied with various forms of entertainment. Well-planned, well-equipped, long family road trips are here to stay.”
Sive O’Brien’s Road-Trip Survival Guide for Parents
These are my been-there-got-the-medal nuggets of wisdom for car travel with mini travellers.
1. The car bag
NEVER has a bag been so important. In this is the key to a successful journey – the answer to (almost) every woe. In it should be ALL or most of these: Anti-bac wipes, hand sanitiser, baby wipes (even if your child is long-since nappies), spare towel (should the unmentionable happen), portable potty with plastic bags, spare zip lock bags, travel changing mat, a plastic bucket (we all know what this is for), spare bottles of water, a flashlight, a head flash-light for middle of the night toilet stops, portable phone charger, pillows or neck pillows, headphones (invest in the double variety so two can watch at the same time), snacks and drinks.
2. Baby wipes
Little wipes of wonder: You’ll need one packet in the front of the car (for wiping your hands, cleaning toilet seats when you stop, cleaning restaurant tables, etc), one in the back seat (for their sticky hands, spills, etc).
3. Food: Savoury NOT sweet
A hungry travelling child is NOT a happy travelling child. Avoid sticky (and sicky) disasters by going for savoury over sweet. Think about it – pumping the kids full of sugar – then expecting them to stay quiet and strapped into a car –not the smartest move. Make healthy treats together, bring them in a tub, or bring savoury snacks with no added salt – think of the liquids they’ll need after and the toilet stops after that? Travel smart, think easy, bite-size bits like: crackers, bread sticks, cheese cubes, olives, grapes, carrot sticks, rice cakes, and raisins.
4. Plan ahead
Preparation for the journey is key. Plan your pit-stops: Find out which petrol stations have play areas or outdoor areas, then plan your trip around these.
If you’re planning on stopping for food en route, check in advance for things like high-chairs or if you’re breastfeeding, find out if there’s a nice park with a picnic bench you can go to.
5. In-car entertainment
This is what we pack for our car journeys – you can NEVER have too many options: Audio books, podcasts, their favourite music, sing-a-long CDs, iPads with new movies or cartoons they have never seen before, activity packs, sticker books, magnetic storyboards, doodle drawing boards. Bring a few baking trays to keep crayons and colouring books together on their laps.
6. Pack strategically
Have a few potential necessities close-to-hand: A picnic blanket to pull out in case you want or need to stop on the way. And always bring an extra set of clothes for each child, in case of spillages or accidents, and extra layers in case they get cold.
7. Factor in extra time.
Then double it. Your journey always takes longer than you think it will…
8. Surprise treats as rewards
Break out some (healthy) treats in the car as rewards for getting to milestones with no complaints. Sure, it’s bribery, but its healthy bribery in my book. And it works!
9. Make it fun!
Encourage them to observe their surroundings and give them a special notebook for their trip – they can draw or write stories about their trip or their destination as you travel. Play iSpy, Car Bingo, name that tune, or take turns telling a story – each person gets one line – my kids love this.
10. When the going gets tough…
Just stop for a break, even if it’s not on the plan or you’ve already stopped five times.