There’s nothing quite like a roadtrip. You can stop as often as you like, pack as much as your car boot can hold, and make spontaneous detours to see sights along the way. But when you take the kids with you, road trips require a little more planning to make sure everyone has a good time.
Here’s a handy guide on how to survive your next family roadtrip.
Planning ahead is essential to surviving your next family roadtrip. In the days before you set off, think about how will you break up the journey, where will you stop for toilet breaks or meals, and when your little ones will need a nap. Schedule a rough routine or timetable for the car journey, including times for naps, meals, toilet breaks, audio books or sing-alongs.
Try to plan stops at anything interesting along the way – it might be a lookout, a waterfall, or a tourist attraction. But if you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, try and coincide long periods of driving with sleep times so that the kids aren’t woken up when you make a stop. The day before you leave, charge up your phone, tablet, camera, and any other devices. Pack a portable charger if you have one, and make sure it works with your devices. Taking a GPS is brilliant, but you should also bring a paper map just in case you end up driving somewhere unfamiliar with a weak GPS signal.
Pack strategically Write a packing list for each family member and let the kids pack their own suitcases (but double check them before you load them into the car!) You can use these lists to repack at the end of your trip to check nothing gets left behind. If you’re stopping somewhere overnight on the way to your destination, pack one small suitcase that can be used as an overnight bag for the whole family. It should contain pyjamas, toiletries, a clean change of clothes for everyone, and anything else you’ll need overnight. Always pack a few empty plastic bags in the car that you can use for rubbish, nappy changes, or for anyone who gets carsick.
Snacks and games Fill a backpack for each child with their favourite colouring books, pencils or crayons, travel games, toys and some snacks. A favourite teddy or blanket might offer comfort for a cranky child, and a small pillow is also handy for encouraging naps. Older kids might enjoy keeping a little travel journal, or an activity book with games and crossword puzzles. Snacks are key to keeping kids happy on a family road trip. Try to choose healthy items like sandwiches, grapes, carrot sticks, cheese, crackers, granola bars and bottled water. Make sure the kids can access snacks easily on their own; otherwise you’ll have to pull over and rummage through the esky every time they get hungry or thirsty.
How to avoid backseat fights
Distraction is a good way to avoid fights in the backseat. If you can’t break the tension with an iPad or a favourite toy, try playing a classic roadtrip game like I Spy or Car Bingo. It also helps to set some rules about rotating anything that is likely to cause a fight, for example, getting the window seat or choosing the next movie or song. You could also try a playlist of soothing, relaxing music to calm down overtired kids and encourage some quiet time.
Safety first and foremost
Nobody wants car trouble on a long journey, especially when you have kids in the car. The week before you leave, check that all car seats and restraints are working and make sure your tyres (including your spare tyre) and windscreen wipers are in good condition. Check the air-conditioning is working properly, particularly if you’re driving in summer, and make sure your indicators, headlights, brake lights and reverse lights are working. Get any chips or cracks in your windscreen fixed before you set off, as a chip or crack can quickly spread and become irreparable when you’re on the road.