For us, it all boils down to
What you about to undertake is not great, the reality is you are going to strap your children into a relatively small metal box and make them stay there for hours while simultaneously expecting them to continue to behave, not moan and generally comply with everything you are asking. Let's face it, you wouldn't usually expect them to sit still for that long?
That said, make sure you share your expectations with them but also let them know what's going on.
"Today may well not be all that fun but Mummy is going to make it the best we can and at the end of it we will be on holiday/with our friends/at Grandma's house. I need you to help me by trying to be good and Mummy will help you by trying to find fun things we can do on the way."
Also, know what to expect if you don't prepare properly! Tomorrow morning I am planning on taking the kids to the park for half an hour to try and run off some energy before I strap them down. That way they *might* sleep some of the way and if they complain we haven't done anything I can point them in the direction of that memory!
I also plan on thinking carefully about where we can stop. Tebay services are on our route and I plan on stopping there because it has great kid-friendly facilities and I might be able to get them to run around again before I strap them down again and make them sit still. Again!
For my kids this is pretty much dealt with by providing a few books to read, some paper to draw on, some pencils to draw/colour with (not pens, too much mess!) some teddies to cuddle and stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.
I have also bought a new CD for the journey, the kids don't even know we have it, I will unveil it at a moment when it is all getting too much. I might regret it but it is the Frozen soundtrack!
Also though, I have this lot. My three year old is now in a booster with back so I will sit this on the seat next to her (in a bag) and she should be able to reach a lot of it and pass some to her sister. At any stops we will pick everything up again so it can be used again on the next leg of the journey.
I will probably provide the children with lap trays too (you know the kind with bean bag balls in the bottom) so they can draw and so things don't drop quite so easily.
Snacks. It's all about snacks. Snacks will be kept in the front with me as I know my three year old would just eat constantly for the whole journey if she were in charge. This means I need to be able to pick up the snacks and hand them back with one hand. Here my snack top tips.
1. Apples. They are healthy and they take a long time to eat so they last for ages.
2. Breadsticks. They are easy to hand back and in our family they are well appreciated.
3. Snack pots. Now obviously this depends on the age of your kids but I like these because with the lid you can slightly minimise mess and make a snack like dried fruit or cheerios last longer because it is slightly harder to get them out the pot!
4. Drinks. Obviously drinks are the enemy of long distance travelling so if you have a toilet trained child these are my tips. Firstly, don't give drinks straight away, I don't want you to dehydrate the children but if you've only just left a stop and you had a drink there then they probably don't need one now. Secondly, I tend to give my children milk (from a non-spill cup) as it goes "through" them more slowly so there isn't such an instant need for a toilet stop. Finally I tend to deliberately give a drink of juice about 20-30 minutes before any planned stops as that means my child is much more likely to "perform" on stopping. I also, though, use a waterproof seat cover like this one (in fact that is the one we have, I like it) so I can be slightly more relaxed about finding a toilet in time after the cry "Mummy, I need toilet"!
Right, hopefully by the time you are reading this I will be into England and well on my way to my destination!