The Long and Whining Road

New research shows parents across the UK are dreading the bank holiday staycations – as it involves a car journey with their children

•      One in seven parents are dreading the long journey with their children
•      One in three find the journey the most stressful part of the holiday
•      Most annoying things children do include kicking back of driver’s seat and undoing their seatbelt
•      So Butlins have teamed up with 1,000 Netmums members to put together the Family Break (in Case of Emergency) Kit, a pack of low-cost items which solve every parent’s journey dilemma

New research reveals that one in seven parents are actually dreading their getaway- or rather, the journey there with the children. One in three parents admit that the journey is the most stressful part of the holiday and one in seven admit to losing their temper with their child on a long journey more than at any other time.

In fact the journey is so stressful for some parents that one in 20 actually sometimes wish they could travel separately to their offspring to their destination – when one in three (32 per cent) of parents say their family holiday really starts.

The research of 1,000 Netmums members – commissioned by Butlins’ Just for Tots Breaks – reveals that a long journey with children can be so stressful, almost one in five (17 per cent) parents actually arrive at their destination in a worse mood than when they set off.

In fact, long journeys with children are more stressful (14 per cent) for parents than the bedtime routine (eight per cent), the school run (nine per cent) and even getting children to sleep (eight per cent) – traditionally seen as one of the most painful parts of parenting.

The age old question of ‘are we there yet?’ does not help parents’ stress levels, with over a third (38 per cent) of parents saying their children say this more than five times during the journey. In fact, on a journey of up to an hour (the minimum amount considered as a ‘long’ journey) children on average begin asking this a mere 28 minutes in.

However it is not just this classic that gets parents on edge, as researchers have identified the ultimate list of top ten most annoying things a child can do in a car – which leads to half of parents (50 per cent) admitting they want help with their children on long journeys.

So Butlins has teamed up with members of Netmums – one of the UK’s leading parenting sites – to put together a parent’s essential kit of ten low-cost everyday items, which can be easily stored in the car. Each is designed to combat one of the top ten journey irritations, to smooth out the bumps in the drive – dubbed the ‘Family Break (In Case of Emergency) Kit’**.

The top 10 most annoying things a child can do in a car are:

•   Fighting with siblings: Masking tape – mark out each child’s ‘personal space’ in the car, so they know what they can’t cross to annoy each other
•   Complaining they are bored: Rubik’s Cube – it will keep them distracted as it has bright colours and require both hands to operate in unison
•   Kicking the driver’s chair: Simple bath sponge – put it in the pocket behind the chair to lessen the impact!
•   Crying loudly: Stress ball – it will help alleviate their tension, and doubles up as a fun toy
•   Losing toys under the seat: Ball of string – tie toys, notepads etc together and to the door handle
•   Needing the bathroom: Journey map – mark out where you are going, with all the stops so they are continually distracted (and know how long till a bathroom!)
•   Singing repetitive songs: Family mix tape – each member gets to pick 5 songs beforehand, which get put on a CD in the car. Everyone’s a winner!
•   Being sick: Car Bingo and cat litter – kids feel sick if they look in the car so a game which requires looking out the window will help! But if not – cat litter will help soak up any smell
•   Complaining they are hungry: Small pots – putting finger food in small pots keep kids full as they enjoy opening their little parcels and taking longer over snacks. Also helps with portion control
•   Undoing seatbelt: Bell and ribbon – tie a double bow round the seatbelt holder, with a bell in it. You will hear if they try to undo it!

With one in ten parents (ten per cent) feeling that the journey sets the tone for the whole holiday – the Family Break (In Case of Emergency) Kit could become essential staycation packing, at least for the one in three parents who admit that the journey is the most stressful part of the holiday experience.

In fact, parents find the journey more stressful than booking the holiday (nine per cent) or dealing with all logistics (14 per cent).

The research also reveals that the stress of having children in the car makes a journey seem on average 28 minutes longer  – perhaps proving the old adage of ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. One in eight (13 per cent) parents admit that their children actually make the journey seem over an hour longer than it actually is.

However it’s not all doom and gloom for the staycation, as although almost a quarter (25 per cent) of mums and dads find it difficult to travel with their children, one in six (15 per cent) say they actually bond with their partner over the shared experience of being on these journeys with their children.

Play and parenting psychologist (and mum of two), Dr Amanda Gummer  commented: “Long car journeys can be stressful for parents and children alike and it can be difficult to keep little ones entertained when you need to concentrate on the road. The top ten list of annoyances for parents are very familiar to me as a mum – it’s not only ‘are we there yet?’ which can raise stress levels!

Family break

“The key to minimising frustration is preparation and the ‘Family Break (In Case of Emergency) Kit gives fun and quirky ways to reduce those little stresses of the car journey that tend to build up quickly.”

Butlins MD Dermot King adds: “As a parent I can really relate to the research findings – journeys to holidays and short breaks with children can be undeniably stressful. This is why our Just for Tots breaks are designed from the tot’s point of view, providing a fun solution to everything from naptime to fussy eating – ensuring children and parents can simply enjoy being together.

“After all – that’s what every family break should be about – and with the Family Break (In Case of Emergency) Kit we hope to extend that holiday feeling to the moment you get in the car!“

Family break

The ‘Just for Tots’ breaks from Butlins are term-time short breaks designed with under-fives in mind – with every detail geared towards helping parents have a perfect break with their little ones. Recently, Butlins hired a three year old as the first-ever (High)Chairman to feedback on the breaks, the first break took place on 28th April. Visit for further information.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.