Hitting the road with pre-teens? Peter Moore reveals five things you can do to making your road trip go smoother.
More difficult to please than toddlers, but still open to the idea of hanging out with the family, tweens have their own particular set of travel needs. Especially on road trips. After a five-day road trip with his 10 year-old daughter and her 11 year-old-cousin, Peter Moore reveals the five things that made his journey easier.
While your tween may be happy to queue for 45 minutes to go on a rollercoaster at a theme park, they won't show the same patience queuing up to get into a museum or a historical monument. We made the mistake of 'just turning up' to Stonehenge and were greeted by a 45-minute queue to get in. If we'd pre-booked we could have sailed straight past and in.
Thankfully the new visitor's centre offers plenty to keep kids occupied – there's a recreation of a Neolithic village and a replica of one of the stones you can try and pull as well as café that sells decent food at almost affordable prices – as long as you have one person able to stay in the queue. Not all attractions offer that and you'll have to deal with restless, grumpy kids.
The happiest times my daughter and her cousin had on the road trip were the ones were they were able to run around and explore. At Avebury Ring they were able to play hide and seek amongst the prehistoric stones. At Bourton-on-the-Water they played pooh sticks on the clear stream there, following their 'boats' as they bobbed under the tiny stone bridges. And at Raglan Castle in Wales they're able to explore the ruins, lock their parents up in the dungeon and find inspiration for stuff to build the next time they played Minecraft.
At the moment Gloucester is dotted with fibreglass replicas of Scrumpty, the Rugby World Cup mascot, each decorated differently by local artists. You'll find them at most of the city's attractions, and dotted in other less expected places, and they became the subject of an unexpected treasure hunt that kept the kids spirits up when they may have otherwise flagged.
Not every city has a Scrumpty dotted throughout its environs, but there are plenty of other things that can form the basis of a treasure hunt. In Bristol, we went in search of street art, bagging a couple of Banksys and stumbling upon Leonard Lane, where a number of up-and-coming artists try their hand. If street art is not your thing, there are plenty of alternatives like gargoyles or unusual door knockers.
Motorways are boring. Not just for the kids, but the driver as well. So ignore your SatNavs entreaties to take the most direct route and look for more roundabout ways instead. We took the back roads from Stonehenge to Avebury Ring, and not only was it a prettier and more enjoyable drive, we passed a gaggle of brightly-painted, horse drawn gypsy wagons changing camps and stumbled upon the giant chalk horse on the hill at Alton Barnes. Interestingly the cousins rate them both as the most interesting things they saw of the trip.
To you it's just a place to sleep, but to tweens a hotel room is an Aladdin’s cave with all kinds of switches to figure out and television stations to surf through. My daughter can easily spend an hour unpacking her bag and putting her stuff out, treating the room as her new bedroom, an exciting one with complimentary biscuits and a 48” television in it.
And don't skip the breakfast either, especially if it's a buffet. Bain-marie'd sausages may not be your idea of haute cuisine, but to tweens it's heaven on earth.