Road trips with kids are a great way to create family memories. But, if you're unprepared, they can also be a test of your sanity.
The key to a fantastic road trip is planning ahead. Before heading off, it's always a good idea to make sure your car is running smoothly, and you have roadside assistance at the ready in case of a break down. Brainstorming a few strategies ahead of time to keep your kids happy and entertained will also ensure your trip is more enjoyable. Check out the below ideas to make your trip is pleasant for every member of your family.
Select your destination
Depending on the age of your kids, you may wish to choose somewhere closer to home to go on holiday to reduce the time you need to spend on the road. There are plenty of beautiful destinations across Australia to choose from. Take a look at our Holiday Parks and Hotels, which are family friendly. If you’re still unsure, see our best Australian family holiday destinations for some inspiration.
Hit the road early
If your family are early risers and have had a good night’s sleep, consider hitting the road early to beat the crowds. Assuming you’re driving no more than eight hours in the day – and are taking the recommended fatigue stops every two hours for at least 15 minutes – you could make the most of your holiday by arriving in the afternoon.
Let your kids plan a stop
Sometimes it’s fun to stop spontaneously to enjoy the sights and destinations you find along the road. An even better approach is to let your kids choose an activity or two ahead of time. When they have a stake in selecting your outings, they’ll enjoy them more and appreciate feeling like they’re a part of the trip. At the same time, they’ll likely behave better because they know that you’re listening to them and their requests.
Pack simple and healthy snacks
Kids get hungry at odd times, and you don’t want to have to pull over in the middle of nowhere and try to find snacks. Pack simple foods, such as apples and muesli bars, into a small cooler in advance, saving time that would otherwise be spent pulling over and finding something. You’ll save money as well, as roadside snacks tend to be much more expensive than their grocery store counterparts.
Stop for a hike or walk
Road trips can make even adults fidgety from time to time, so imagine how difficult they must be for little bodies that are used to constant motion. Lengthy stretches of driving can frustrate even the calmest of children. To get rid of this pent-up energy, plan ahead to stop for a short walk or hike during your trip. Even a 20 minute scenic walk will help you and your family arrive at your destination happier and more relaxed.
Develop a reward system
You may already be using a reward system in your day-to-day life to encourage good behaviour in your kids. Even if your kids are normally relaxed and quiet, you may still want to dole out rewards to encourage them to keep it up. Rewards can be something simple like a piece of chocolate or a bigger responsibility – for example, letting your children choose a place to eat. This will take the pressure off you, while also giving your kids something to occupy their minds.
Don't eat meals in the car
While it’s great to have an apple or slice of cheese on hand to prevent snack stops, it’s best to avoid eating full meals in your car. For the sake of keeping your car clean and having a little fun, try to eat at restaurants or take a picnic to a park. You’ll keep your car clutter-free while enjoying seeing new places along the way. Getting out of your vehicle periodically will also stop the family becoming too restless on the long journey.
Avoid the wrong foods
Can you think of anything worse than packing your kids full of sugary drinks and foods, and then strapping them into the car for a long road trip? Not only are they going to be stuck bouncing off the walls, the slump they’ll experience after the sugar rush will cause them to fall asleep at the worst possible time – most likely the minute you pull into your hotel or campground. Preparing nutritious food ahead of time will come to the rescue again. Having healthy snacks and water (or juice with minimal amounts of sugar) will give your kids a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
Stop for a longer time
It can be tempting to keep on driving and see new places every day, but you should consider staying for a longer time at some locations in order to keep everyone happy. It will help your kids to see more along the way and the whole family won’t get bored or frustrated sitting in the car all day.
Make sure your vehicle is covered
No matter how prepared you are a break down or flat tyre can happen to anyone. Check your roadside assistance is up-to-date and, if you’re travelling long distances or with a caravan, consider upgrading to ensure you’re covered no matter how far away from home you are.