With only just over a week to go before Christmas, the thoughts of many of us will be turning towards making the annual trip to see relatives in other parts of the country, our cars laden with gifts to exchange on the big day.
Although this is a nice ritual, the journey itself can be a strain on the nerves - especially if you have small children to entertain while you're trying to navigate and look out for traffic jams.
To avoid boredom and arguments (as well as the dreaded 'are we there yet?') it's a good idea to pre-prepare some games for little ones to play as the miles whizz by to your destination. And while gadgets like portable DVD players and tablet computers will undoubtedly distract them, nothing beats classic car journey games that all the family can join in with.
Here is our top five that could help you to ensure you reach your relatives full of Christmas spirit.
1. Fortunately, Unfortunately
This is a variation on a storytelling game that can result in some really funny scenarios. The first person begins by describing a situation, such as 'this morning, I woke up in outer space'. The next person continues the scenario, but must begin with 'unfortunately' - perhaps 'unfortunately, there was a little green man coming towards me'. This continues, with each player alternating between a 'fortunately' and 'unfortunately' part to carry on the tale until it has an ending. You could make it Christmas-themed for even more fun as you drive home.
2. The shopping game
This is a classic memory game, but it's always fun to play for older kids who have mastered the alphabet. You just start with 'I went to the shop and bought [something beginning with A]', whereupon the next player repeats the phrase, says the A object and adds something of their own beginning with B. This continues right along the alphabet until someone forgets an object and is out. The person with the best memory for the list is the winner.
3. The banana game
Actually nothing to do with bananas, this is a variation on car bingo that should take a while to play because it relies on players spotting yellow vehicles (and there shouldn't be too many on the roads). You can come up with a points system based on vehicle size or just give out one point per yellow car spotted. The first person to spot the vehicle gets the points - and the first to a pre-decided total is the winner.
4. Count the...
You'd be surprised how competitive children get when trying to spot objects, so capitalise on it by giving them set things to look for outside the windows. For example, how about dogs on leads, Christmas jumpers or speed limit signs? As soon as they lose interest or reach the total, swap to something else to keep them going for ages.
5. Spelling bee
If you want to combine your car games with something educational, you could always get youngsters to learn spellings by competing in a US-style spelling bee. Think of a list of Christmas words before you set off and then get the kids to take turns spelling them out loud. If they get any wrong, they lose a life, with the last one spelling words correctly and with lives left over deemed to be the winner.
Any of these games should ensure that boredom doesn't strike for at least a couple of hours, plus it's a chance for fun family time rather than everyone staring at screens in the back on the car.