One of the great things about a Lakes Cottage Holiday is that it eliminates the stress of flying, airports and general transport issues that come with other holidays. All you need is your car. That doesn’t mean, though, that this doesn’t bring its own stresses and worries, especially if you’re travelling with children. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide for a stress-free journey from home to the Lake District. Avoid the dreaded refrain of “I’m boooooored” from the backseat, head off the ‘are we there yets’ before they even happen and turn the journey into just another part of a fantastic holiday with these great travel tips.
Break up the journey…
If you’re travelling a long distance to reach your holiday cottage then it’s a sensible idea to make stops along the way – not just for a quick break and a trip to the loo, but for at least one proper stop. Getting a proper break from the car is vital for preventing boredom and monotony. Breaking up the journey turns one long drive into multiple, shorter trips, especially if you turn a break into a genuine experience for you and the kids. Motorway services are a useful pit-stop, but an even better idea is to take a brief detour from the motorway to somewhere you can really get out and explore.
It’s down to you what sort of place you choose to stop at – it could be a country house with extensive grounds, a picnic spot with a nice walk or even just a small village with a park or a football pitch. Luckily Cumbria is home to lots of fun and scenic places to stop before you set off to your final destination.
…with some of our recommendations
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, there are a few different options for a stop-off without going too far from the main route. There’s a good chance many of you will be travelling up via the M6, in which case there are a number of great choices for a break from the road. Dunham Massey, about 4 miles from exit 19, boasts lovely gardens and a sprawling deer park. Sizergh Castle is about 5 miles off of exit 36, right on the edge of the Lake District, and again offers fantastic grounds and gardens. Both are perfect for stretching your legs and waking up after a few hours of travelling, though be aware that both places are National Trust properties so will require an entree fee unless you’re a member.
Only a mile from junction 40, near Penrith, is the Llama Karma Cafe, which offers tasty home cooked food and lovely coffee – as well as ‘walking with llamas’ treks through the surrounding countryside. Another great option just off junction 40 is Penrith Leisure Centre – what better way for you and the kids to get refreshed than jumping into the pool for a quick swim? Of course, we know you’ll all be travelling from different areas, so you’ll each have your own ideal stop off point. This Guardian guide is full of great places to break up your journey, wherever you’re driving from.
The logic behind finding somewhere fun and outdoorsy to break up your journey is that it turns what would otherwise just be a day of travelling into a day-out in and of itself. You can use this logic with other areas of your journey as well.
Pack up the car with the kids’ favourite meals and have a picnic somewhere nice instead of lunch at a service station (this will also save time and stress that comes with finding somewhere fussy eaters might like). Take things like frisbees, footballs or bubbles for outdoor activities. We also love this idea of special trip bags – loading up a backpack with small cheap toys they can pick out if they’re being good.
You’re already geared up for a holiday, so treat the journey as part of it, not as a necessary evil before the fun starts.
Try some old-school games
In these days of the iPad, keeping children entertained during a lengthy car journey is not the challenge that it once was. If you haven’t got such high-tech trappings, though (or you want to keep the risk of car-sickness as low as possible) you still can’t go wrong with some good old-fashioned car games. Here are some of our favourites:
This one is as simple as they come: everyone in the car picks a colour and then counts the number of cars that colour that drives past. First person to spot 10 cars of their colour and shout ‘BINGO’ wins.
This one is great for sparking kids’ imaginations. Someone chooses a passing car and memorises the last three letters of its number plate. They then decide what those letters might stand for and use it as inspiration for a story. The first letter is the name of the main character. The second might be an object or an animal in the story. The third letter is what the character was doing.
Perfect for making traffic jams fun, everyone takes a sneaky peek out of their window at the person in the car nearest them. Then you decide what their backstory is. Who they are, what they sound like, where they’re going – even their favourite meal. For added fun, make it a secret mission – if you get caught looking by your target you lose and your turn is over.
Pack and prepare
We know that travelling with children can present more than a few challenges. As much as we can emphasise turning the journey into a fun-filled event, sometimes the young ones aren’t so obliging. From car sickness, to bumps and scrapes, to dropped toys, there are many things that can suddenly sour the mood. That’s why it’s important to come prepared.
Having large soft toys that are easy to reach if they get dropped are a good start. It’s also a great idea to put together your own emergency car kits for dealing with car sickness or scrapes. These two guides are really useful for planning for little emergencies and car sickness. Even if you don’t end up needing to use them, just knowing you’re prepared is enough to reduce the stress of worrying. You’ll also be prepared for anything once you arrive at your holiday cottage too!
Try these travel hacks
Repurpose these everyday items into road-trip stress savers:
Plastic cereal containers
Lining a cereal container with a plastic bag will turn it into a fantastic no-spill travel bin.
Whether you use your cup-holders for, well, holding cups or for storing change for parking, use a cupcake liner to keep them clean and dirt-free.
Follow this great how-to and turn old DVD cases into an on-the-go colouring kit.
Shower organisers can be great food holders
You can find more road-trip travel hacks here.
Stop the ‘are we there yets’
Create a ‘road-trip countdown’ to keep the ‘are we there yets’ at bay. Make a list of different planned stop-off points or interesting landmarks you will pass along the way – the Lake District has lots of special places you can tick off as you approach your holiday cottage. Put each one on a post-it and display them where they can be seen from the back seats. Then when you reach each one, pull the post-it down. This is a great way for kids to track the journey and have some idea of how far you still have to go before their Lake District adventure begins. For added fun, give out a treat after each one. Keep it a surprise – write the treat on the back of each note, which you can reveal when you pull it down.
It seems obvious, but giving yourself as much time as possible to prepare and plan beforehand makes the actual journey a much less stressful experience. Have your stops mapped out in advance, know the roads, and have a backup route in mind – it makes a huge difference. Don’t just plan the journey though – plan your meal on arrival as well. You could be tired, hungry, and maybe a little cranky at the end of the trip, so planning it in advance removes the worry about where and what to eat. Keep something back in the freezer at home as well, that way you can also remove the stress from your return journey.
We hope you found this useful, and your next trip to the Lake District is as stress-free as possible. For great ideas on what to do once you arrive, check our locations page for information about each region and some of the best sights to see.