19th April 2017 Angela Hughes

The Wasteland Gui- I’m sorry…. the survival guide for day trips with children under 5!

We love to go out to places, when we became parents it was clear that our travelling aspirations would be hindered by the adjustment to having children. Back then we were very much neurotic new parents, not wanting to stray too much from our routine lest our world be turned upside down. This summer will be full of day trips, perhaps a weekend away and most definately full of wonderful memories with friends and family.

We recently got a National Trust membership now that we are able to drive places, and we decided that if we could go somewhere at least once a month it would be worth it. The great things about where we are, is that there are places of natural beauty, historical significance and wonderful woods wherever we look. I truly think this part of the country is so evocative of classical British history, castles, barrows, henges and miles of woods. It strikes the nostalgia chord with me immediately, our parents taking us to these places of historical importance. The thing is…. children up to a certain age don’t give a fuck.

They. Do. Not. Give. A. Flying. Fuck.

And why should they? They are young, they have no concept of time, they only respond if they see something they are truly interested in. Dinosaurs, big castles (“Like Merida has, mummy”) and parks to play in. I want to cultivate a true passion for history in them, but they push away the reasonable request to ‘just enjoy history’ and require engagement/enrichment.

History SHOULD be engaging, fun and above all not feel like a school lesson. And not just history, science, mathematics, technology and art should be viewed through a childs eyes.

Luckily in Britain, there are many fun things to do when looking for educational fun (doesn’t that sound as fun as you would like it to?)

For around a tenner a month, National Trust membership covers us going to pretty much everything around our area and far beyond it. As a family of four its difficult to find something that covers that per trip (including parking more often than not).

We decided to try and have a day of wholesome family fun (educational fun) and make some memories that we could look back on as parents do, it was a mixed bag overall to be honest.

The thing about children is (as I have said before) you can never have a perfect day, there will always be something. And I am not putting my children down, it is just what I expect. A way of keeping it real, and a way of managing anxiety sometimes. When I feel my blood pressure rising it can help to have a different view of things, and parenting certainly can have its many trials.

Sometimes you can have a laugh (when your sons are not trying to dive off the walls of a high castle such as Corfe Castle), but always try and have perspective.

This post is starting to depress me.

This was meant to be a post about how lovely Corfe Castle was and how lovely it was to have a wonderful day out! I’m sorry, it will be turning into a survival guide of sorts.

Anywho, when you choose somewhere to go what do you want it to include?

We like to base our trip around a few things:

  • how easy it is to drive/walk/swim to

  • How far away it is, you do not want a car full of children getting fussy unless there are pit-stops along the way. We like to take them to a park halfway to the place we are driving to sometimes, get the old legs out for a walk!

  • What else is near the thing you want to visit? We usually pick somewhere that we can move off from after visiting and go visit somewhere else….. if the kids play ball!

  • How close is it to somewhere that serves tea? This is important to me. Cannot express how important that the places we go have tea served. I have been known to carry a thermos with me most places as it is!

  • Food. Kids need food! We try not to dive into a drive-thru, but sometimes needs must. I like to pack picnics, but on occasion, we like to be as spontaneous as you can with children. So food-people-places need to be nearby. And no, not cream tea and cake. Food that my children will eat. Failing that, supermarkets! Cheaper food, you can eat in the car.

All of these details tend to naturally work themselves into our days out, and sometimes can be the difference between tantrums and wonderful moments in the car!

Speaking of tantrums, how do you keep your little ones from fussing too much?

We try to limit tablet use in the car, they have some educational games on them that don’t require wifi that they like to pass the time. We blast music when appropriate if when the driver is not so stressed. They then need to listen to Frozen or Evynne Hollens covers (we love her), or we shove on some safe fun pop music (charity shop finds) to boogie to. In fact, we’re all off to Brizzle (Bristol) tomorrow so, I may make a mix CD. Rock and roll!

Breadsticks and biscuits: For the love of god please do not judge me on this. I keep a stash of breadsticks and biscuits in the car, rich teas, gingernuts and bourbons (for the real bribery). Breadsticks now come in mini bags! What genius thought of that? I actually have a friend who once cleaned her car out and found eight or so FULL-SIZE breadstick boxes. I tell you.

Keep drinks handy with the person in front to hand back and limit waterplay, it DOES happen occasionally. I told you that I make car journeys fun right?

Books and toys-a-plenty: this is obvious, but there are exceptions. No books that are massive, hitting you all in front and disctracting the driver. Nothing that can be used as projectiles either, aas evidenced by our young Elias using a Paw Patrol figurine to throw at daddys head whilst he drove. This will almost always end in sighing, jerking movements from the husband and a child crying because mummy has taken away said toy.

I do believe though, that children need to learn to deal with boredom on occasion. And this does happen on roadtrips, its just not possible to entertain children constantly. Every 20 minutes or so, they will just watch the world go by. It quite wonderful to watch really, Why is the sky blue? What are those? Are they sheep (they are cows)? Can I have a snack?

It goes without saying that the parents need means of entertainment on the car journey too, depending on mood you can pop a favourite CD (or ipod/smartphone) in to see if the kids are so tired or happy they don’t care that you want to listen to Def Leppard or Ben Folds or Muse. In my view, as long as there are no clearly spoken swear words then the music passes the test. This doesn’t include some songs by The Script by the way, I was randomly squeeking to cover up the bad words.

I like to carry a thermos of tea, and have a travel mug for James to use whilst driving to help caffiene withdrawal stay far away. I bought a cute floral thermos at Waitrose for £3.27p a few months back and it is quite possibly the best one I have had. We were out to Corfe castle the entire day, and the tea inside was still steaming hot by the time we arrived back home at 5pm (from tea being poured in at 8am)!

That has just reminded me that I’m writing about our day out….to Corfe Castle……

We drove to Norden park and ride, and caught the Steam train to Corfe Castle! It was wonderful, and I would do it over and over. The novelty, the times gone by, the smell. I loved it all, and so did the children. It was well worth the £4 return for a 3 minute journey, I thoroughly recommend it!

Getting off at Corfe Castle was wonderful too, it was like stepping onto a model railway platform. Pastel colours everywhere on the station. Tim Burtonesque almost.

Walking to the entrance of the castle only took a few minutes, and everything was signposted clearly.

Corfe Castle was holding activities for all to enjoy, and we did. I tried the archery, I shot the guy in the knee. He was wooden, sorry I should have mentioned. Insert Skyrim quote here.

Jonathan also had a go, and the lady who helped him was just amazing. She engaged him, and spoke gently and firmly at the same time. He loved it, he got to loose arrows like Merida did. He was actually quite good, and tried the full size bow which he loved.

We then proceeded to collect the trivia sheets given out and headed up to the castle, with two whinging children! The hills were steep, the ground felt funny. It was cold and windy, it wasn’t fun. I wanted to see Merida mummy. I swear in my head i was screaming “just shut the fuck up and enjoy the nice treat we are giving you, shut it and fucking enjoy history!”, did I say that out loud at all? There were un-child-friendly parts that would induce parents vertigo and self-child-preservation worries, but we did it. We walked up the steep hill, steep steps and negotiated rocky terrain to achieve a family moment. We all sat, had a snack, shut up and enjoyed the view.

It was wonderful to have that moment, however fleeting. The boys even had fruit for a snack, and sometimes that is such a win for us. To choose a banana over a biscuit is a good thing! If you look closely….. see Elias’ tear falling down his cheek? Poor daddy had to take a work call at the time of photo, always working hard!

After deciding to move on, we caught the return steam train back and drove to Swanage…..I ask myself why even now.

The boys were tired, hungry and tired. We stopped at Harry Ramsdens for a bite to eat, bumping into our friends who had chosen Swanage as their day trip too. It actually made us feel better knowing that we knew someone close by, and the boys calmed down seeing their little friends.

Small world indeed it was!

We ended up walking around a bit, walking on the beach and made our way back to the car. It was a short and sweet trip to Swanage, but the freedom given to us by being able to drive meant more to us than the trip itself.

Both boys napped on the way back unsurprisingly, and we had an alright day after that. We worked hard for the little moments that day, it was well worth it. And I remember those moments, those memories more than the unruly bits.Onwards to the next trip…. We’re going to Bristol tomorrow and it will be an hour and a half of car time each way, so we will be taking advantage of our National Trust membership again at Tyntesfield house. Camera out, and Bluebells to be viewed!

Where are you off to soon? How do you make road trips fun? I am taking on board tips and advice, hit me up!

If you would like more information on getting a National Trust membership then you can see here

English Heritage membership is similar to National Trust, but has things like Stonehenge and Wardour Castle included. Here.