The family and I recently travelled up to Queensland to spend a couple of weeks relaxing and recharging. Having two young boys, it made me realise how our lives have changed when it comes to travel. Where once we could have jumped in the car and set off with a minutes notice, now there is a detailed process to follow and everything takes TIME!
Here are my ten top tips for a stress free road trip with kids.
1. Prepare the car
Make sure your tires are pumped, your spare tyre is ready to go, your car is insured and up to date on servicing and that you’ve got roadside assistance for any unexpected emergencies. The last thing you want is to be caught out on the side of the road mid trip!
2. Pack light
The first time we travelled with a baby was when our now 4-year-old was about 14 weeks old. You should have seen our car!! For ONE baby, who was fully breastfed, couldn’t really move and barely wore anything but Wondersuits we had enough luggage for a road trip around Australia. We were travelling three hours from home for one night. Yep, ONE night. I’d packed more sets of clothes than weeks he’d been alive, enough toys I could have set up a daycare centre, every first aid object known to man, a portacot, carrier, pram, bassinet, nappy mat and enough general supplies to last us a week. It was insane.
Since then I have learnt to pack the minimum you can get away with. Generally I pack 4-5 days of clothes (regardless of how long we are travelling for, I just wash them in between), a ball, a couple of books, pencils, paper and any essential medications. I buy anything disposable once we arrive (nappies, toiletries etc).
Remember that whatever you pack you’ll need to carry, unload and repack. If it is easily bought where you are travelling to then don’t bring it. It is much easier to just pop into a supermarket.
3. Plan stops
Kids don’t generally love long car trips. Check out options for stops along the way so that you have some things planned and aren’t caught out picnicing on a strip of grass on the side of a highway. We generally prefer to travel at a slower place and incorporate stops along the way as part of the holiday adventure.
4. Bring snacks
It’s easy to forget the simple things when you are packing for a big trip. Remember to pack a range of easy, accessible and non-messy snacks for the car trip. Don’t forget drinks as well.
5. Consider when to leave
If you kids sleep in the car then starting your journey around nap or bed time can be a good idea as you can get a chunk of the trip done before the unavoidable “are we there yet” question starts.
6. Pack easy, car friendly games and activities.
For young kids, a baking dish with magnets is a great distraction in the car (see here). Older kids like games, magnadoodles (or similar) and colouring in and when you get desperate, an iPad/computer/dvd player can be a lifesaver!
7. Involve the kids in the journey
Give them a map to track your progress, if you have a GPS system, let them use it and monitor where you are. You can involve older kids in practical activities on distance, speed and time to help pass the journey.
8. Keep supplies handy
Make sure you have easy access to wet wipes, a towel, nappies, food/drinks and anything you plan to use during the trip. It’s no fun having to unload half the car on the side of a major highway to find the nappies packed in the bottom of the pram (trust me ;)).
9. Break it up
Time and distance are difficult concepts for kids. Break up your trip for them so they have concrete ideas of the progress you are making. Perhaps break the distance between stops down into 20 minute intervals and set the timer. For example, you may have four 20 minute intervals between stops. Find four activities for that leg of the journey and set a timer for each.
10. It’s all about the P’s… Prepare and Plan!
As you can see, it’s all about preparation and planning. Plan your journey, snacks, stops and entertainment and make sure you are prepared for the unexpected. Don’t forget to make sure your car is safe and ready for the trip and be sure to put roadside assistance on your to-do list before you leave home.
Thanks again to RACV for supporting this article. RACV’s Roadside Assistance connects you to someone who cares and can help. Don’t risk a highly stressful, avoidable and unhelpful roadside emergency these school holidays!