On the Road – Passing the Time

Featherdale Alpine Dingo pup
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Are we there yet?

We share our top twenty tips for staying sane on your next family road trip.

Are we there yet?

  • Bring a portable DVD player, iPod, iPad or Nintendo DS.
  • Make sure the kids eat a healthy (high protein, low carb) meal before you leave home. There's nothing worse than a hyped-up kid on a sugar high trying to get out of their seatbelt.
  • On http://www.thefoodcoach.com.au/ontheroad/
  • check out the Healthy Cafes section. Just type in your route and the website locates the best café tops.
  • Pack cool water and plenty of bite-sized snack food that is unlikely to make too much mess (dried fruit, toast, plain biscuits, squares of cheese). Re-stock your supply of wetwipes and tissues before you go - plus bring small bags for rubbish (they're useful for travel sickness too).
  • Give the kids a target. For example, name the next rest stop and get them to count down the kilometres.
  • Play Spotto. You have to shout "Spotto" every time you see a yellow car. Let them do this until it drives you mad.
  • Fire them up about the free pamphlets at the Driver Reviver stops. Kids LOVE anything free.
  • Take rest breaks at any of the BIG attractions. To adults, the Big Prawn at Ballina or the sad-looking fibre glass Ayers Rock near Newcastle are relics from the '70s, but to kids they're awesome.
  • Learn the alphabet or make up funny sentences using the letters on number plates.
  • Classical music is a godsend, whether it's on CD or ABC Classic FM. It seems to have a soporific effect.
  • The contrary game. For example, the opposite of black is... what? Both educational and time consuming.
  • When the kids start arguing, it's time to refuel (them, as well as the car). Remember to keep your cool and not join in! Kids are not responsible for traffic jams and getting lost.
  • Bring along a handful of small toys to give as prizes. The first person to see the ocean gets the digger.
  • Whatever you do, don't play one of those annoying CDs with nursery rhymes sung in high-pitched tones. They will drive you slowly insane.
  • Research the places en route that sell decent coffee. There's nothing worse than drinking dirty dishwater when you're in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
  • Invest in an Etch a Sketch. The kids can draw for hours without making a mess. Alternatively, bring along some Crayola Washable Markers and colouring-in books.
  • To find out the cleanest toilet stops on your journey, log on to www.toiletmap.gov.au
  • Take a good bottle of wine to celebrate the trip's end or halfway point (for the navigator)...
  • Give the kids a map of where you are heading - preferably not one you want returned in one piece. While GPS' are handy they can't distract your children like an old-fashioned paper map.
  • If all else fails, try sedation. For you, that is.
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