Surviving the car journey

A fly in the champagne. A rock on the piste. A nine-hour car journey at the start of a skiing holiday.

If there could be a cloud to the silver lining that is a ski trip, it would be the journey there. Those of us courageous enough to brave the road-odyssey that is driving to the Alps each year are well acquainted with the savage nature of this endeavour. The in-car environment can dissolve into a Hobbesian dystopia at so much as an ‘are we there yet?’

But there is hope. Recent technological advancements in both portable entertainment and ergonomic car seat design make the journey more endurable and prevent an onslaught of petty arguments or delay them until later into the holiday, at least.

Having run the gauntlet of the A26 from Calais to Troyes more times than I care to mention, there are a few select ways I have found to ease the strain of the journey, both mentally and physically. They are as listed:

1/ Making sure phones/iPods/Laptops are fully charged. An obvious one but imperative to survival. The sinister dark screen of a dead iPhone that greets the unprepared is a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone; the resulting black mirror is of little use, if only for some much-needed self-reflection on the merits of being prepared.

a) On the topic of technology, having music, films and podcasts downloaded is another essential. Podcasts are a good option as they can be both fun and educational! I can personally recommend Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs as well as Serial. Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter books is a crowd pleaser if you’re looking to keep the whole car happy. On the topic of which, putting together a playlist of music that can be enjoyed by all occupants of the vehicle is worthwhile if you strike the balance right. Obviously, this is a risk if you’re travelling with a notorious karaoke merchant…

2/ Have copious amounts of refined sugar and saturated fat to hand. When it comes to snacks for the road, more is more. Whilst McDonalds and Burger Kings are sparse on the rolling French motorways, the paninis on offer at many service stations are actually very enjoyable. With a side of Zweifel Paprika crisps, you’re living the dream.

3/ Try to sleep. As an old English playwright once wrote ‘Regular French motorway tolls
doth murder sleep’ (Macbeth, II.ii.46-47). However, making every effort to maximise time
spent unconscious is key to making the journey more bearable. Pillows, hoodies and
blankets are essential as well as keeping siblings at a distance, if possible. It should probably
be said that this advice is for passengers and not those driving the car…

4/ Games. Games be they board, card or verbal, are a staple of all family holidays but also a risk (haha). The fallout from dropping a ‘+4’ card on your little brother in a confined
environment could have severely detrimental impacts on everyone’s enjoyment of the

5/ Avoid getting sick. Starting the journey well-rested and hydrated is the key to this (not
being hungover, trust me). The end of any alpine pilgrimage is fraught with twisting tarmac
and jarring, hairpin bends. To avoid christening the roadside with the aforementioned
paninis crack open a window and focus on something stationary in the distance.

6/ Bring a book. Entertainment that doesn’t run out of charge is always a bonus.

7/ Take the train. Do the environment a favour and leave the car at home. No one is left
with the responsibility of driving, meaning less stress and more time on holiday. And there’ll
be a little bit less carbon in the atmosphere.


Photo credit: Coop at home