A road trip can be the best family holiday ever – it can also be an experience everyone is happier to forget! The key to travelling distances by car with kids is in the planning. The age of your offspring and the length of the trip should be the starting points and from there it’s relatively easy to plan, prepare, pack and hit the road for a holiday experience the whole family enjoys!
Forget everything you know or have read about how long your road trip should take because when you’re travelling with kids should goes out the window. Babies, young kids, tweens and teens will all definitely, at some point on the trip, start whingeing and whining. Factor in multiple (and strategically-scheduled) stops but don’t be thrown by the unexpected. If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, plan as much of your driving as possible around their sleep times and schedule stops for feeding and nappy changing. Consider taking a break from toilet training while you’re on the road or have a porta potty ready in the boot. Bigger kids will always want to stop, often, and whenever you stop, whatever the child’s age, allow time for a short play or stretch of the legs before you pile back into the car.
Ensure your vehicle is not only roadworthy but that oil, water, tyre pressure and any mechanical hiccups are sorted before you set out. Check all child restraints and harnesses and if you don’t have roadside assistance membership consider signing up before your trip – the last thing you want is a breakdown en route to your destination and no help at hand! Put together your own tailor-made First Aid kit. Must-haves include bandaids, antiseptics, insect repellents, sunscreens, bandages, cotton wool, thermometer, kids medicines and any other medications prescribed for you and your children. Always carry a cooler bag in the boot with fresh bottled water for hydration and, aside from drinking water, a couple of soft drink or juice bottles filled with tap water and kept in the boot are always handy to wash wounds, hands, sand, spills and dirt and top up the car’s water tank, if necessary!
Place everything you’re likely to need on pit stops - from food to nappies, a change of clothes, a ball, hats and jackets, cozzies and towels, picnic rug, plastic bags – in easy reach, on the very top in the boot. A roll of toilet paper and handwash will also come in handy for any sudden and unscheduled toilet stops. Inside the car, keep a handy bag by your feet with everything you may possibly need to access while the car is moving! You can separate items in snap lock plastic bags so there’s less fumbling and fossicking in a limited space. Include tissues, wet wipes, plastic bags for rubbish and snacks that don’t make a mess. If your child is prone to car sickness, ask your family GP to recommend a pre-travel plan to minimise their discomfort. Chuckies Travel Sickness Bags are a must-pack!
Unless your baby manages to sleep for most of the trip (lucky you!), they can quickly become fraught confined in their restraints. Toddlers too will find sitting in the car for lengthy periods a real drag. Put on their favourite CD or load the iPod with familiar tunes or even an audio book for older children. If you are travelling with very young ones or unhappy/unwell travellers and you are not the driver, consider sitting in the back seat with them to keep them distracted and comforted - it will be easier on you too! Give older children their own pillow or cushion and make sure they have plenty of age-appropriate and car-appropriate games to keep them amused. Involve older kids in the planning. They will enjoy mapping the journey and you can easily turn the spotting of landmarks, scheduled stops and ‘Are We there Yet?’ into an activity that is not only fun but can boredom bust the trip and give them a sense that the journey is actually finite and not just an endless period of car travel over which they have no control!
Schedule baby’s feeds, and all other meals, ahead of your trip so that you have a rough idea of where and when you will be stopping. If you need to make up formula, have everything handy in the boot of the car. In your cooler bag keep toddlers’ favourite foods and drinks ready to go. Locate family-friendly rest stops or restaurants ahead of time so that you can get out of the car even if the weather is bad. Anyone not in nappies will need frequent toilet stops! Monitor liquid intake so that you can roughly gauge when a toilet stop might be required but be prepared for inconvenient requests. Being ahead of them in this department is better than mopping up accidents on the back seat!