This usually means we get to do something fun for the long weekend as well as celebrate another year for me. It makes up for the annoying fact that it's almost guaranteed to be cold and wet, being early winter, where no-one wants to do anything too adventurous. Bring on the weekend in the country, cosy fire and plenty of red wine I say!
This long weekend we are lucky enough to be invited to a friend's place in Pearl Beach just north of Sydney. Even better, these friends have three gorgeous girls slightly older than my little one so she will be completely entertained the entire time, leaving my husband and I to relax with good friends and enjoy ourselves. Well, that's the idea anyway.
This got me thinking about what makes a good winter's long weekend away with friends. I think some ingredients have to be:
1. Location - not too far away, ideally within a 2-3 hour drive from where you live, so you don't spend half a day on the freeway in holiday traffic. For some great family drives outside of the capital cities see our story on Fly Drive Breaks.
2. Space for activity - some sort of backyard or park close by so the kids can run around like mad together. Being winter they can't fill their days at the beach, so bikes, scooters and other toys are a must.
3. Plenty of warm clothes - in case of a really cold blast, and don't forget the wet weather gear. Nothing beats kids splashing in the mud in sub-zero temperatures! I love these rainboots (pictured) with handles by Organically Hatched, so small hands can pull them up making them a breeze to get on!
4. Good food - you won't have your local upmarket deli on hand to get good coffee, fresh bagels and imported cheese. Divvy up the meals between couples, and emphasise the "gourmet" eating that you are all keen on, so everyone brings something fabulous.
Handy to pack in the Esky - Pate, cheese, olives, proscuitto, fresh strawberries, sourdough bread and fresh pasta.
If you don't have time to shop, order a hamper online at Simon Johnson.
5. Great wine - to go with all the fabulous food! I will be packing some New Zealand Central Otago Pinot Noir and Petaluma Chardonnay (an oldie but a goodie!) For stocking up see Cellarmasters and order online.
6. Travelling snacks. In case you do hit the heavy traffic, be armed with plenty of DVD's for the car player, and healthy snacks. Read here for ideas on food to travel with for tots.
Meanwhile I am dreaming over the twice cooked Byron Bay Berkshire pork belly with black bean kim chi and shaved pear at Pearls on the Beach restaurant - I just need to find a local babysitter for five under-fives and a dog!
For more tips on surviving a car trip with children read our article "Are we there yet?!"
About the Author: Ilka Brookes lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband, three year old Jemima and Labrador-X-Ridgeback, Murphy. Ilka's travel can be defined in two phases so far - pre-family and post-family. In the "Pre" phase, she lived, worked & traveled extensively through the UK & NZ. "Post" phase travel has largely consisted of anywhere near Sydney that you can get to by car! Ilka is looking forward to whatever the next phase is... hopefully involving a passport!