We are going for a long drive to Echuca, Bendigo, and Ballarat these holidays. I haven’t been there since I was 10 which was several years ago (ahem), but I’ve often wanted to take the kids there, and so we seized the moment, booked a few cabins, and are heading off on a six hour drive to get there. While this is one of the longer drives we have done, we are no strangers to taking the kids a road trip. Almost anywhere we go involves a road trip. So I have put together my advice on how to survive a road trip with kids in the backseat.
Warn the kids and show the kids the map
Kids travel better if they know how long (roughly) they are going to be in the car. So show them the map and where you plan to drive. As far as possible, let them know where you plan to stop. I’m not saying it will stop of all the whinging, (Meg has been known to ask how long a trip will be when we are still on our driveway!), but if they have an idea about what time they will arrive, it will help.
Give yourself plenty of time
If you have a time sensitive deadline to be somewhere, make sure you factor in heaps of time for stops. If Google tells you it will take 5 hours and 50 minutes, leave at least an extra hour and a half to add to that journey. Anything less will add to your stress levels. Kids are notoriously slow at eating and going to the toilet, and need serious cajoling to get back into the car after a play in the park. I’ve come to the conclusion that any stop requires a minimum of 30 minutes, so I factor that into our travel time.
Wear comfy clothing
On travelling days, I encourage the kids to wear comfy clothes – think track pants or leggings in winter, and shorts in summer. They are going to be sitting for a while, and so they might as well be as comfy as possible.
Load up on podcasts/audio books/music for the whole family
Regular readers would know that we are fans of audio books for road trips (you can checkout our recommendations here), and more recently we have discovered podcasts. Short and Curly is one of our favourites, and poses ethical questions for kids. Perfect for starting some good car conversations. Recently we have discussed if it is OK to eat your pets (very topical here on the farm), and is Dumbledore really as great as we think. If you have a long trip, down load a few back catalogues before you go.
If the thought of another Wiggles CD makes you feel like driving into a tree, check out this little gadget which plugs into an ipod or tablet, and lets up to 5 sets of head phones listen to the same music. We picked it up in Target years ago, but I bet you could find something similar in most electrical shops. The kids can listen to their music, and you can drive in blissful silence (unless they decide to sing a long).
Have water bottles at the ready
My kids often forget to have a drink, and end up with headaches caused by dehydration. Having a water bottle for them to sip from makes it a lot less likely that this will happen, so make sure each kid has their own bottle within arms reach.
Pack snacks like a boss
Yep. Kids eat a lot on road trips. The boredom definitely contributes to this, but hungry kids are whiny kids, so have lots of snacks packed and ready to dole out as needed. Sandwiches with plain fillings like vegemite and peanut butter are always good. Apples cut into quarters are a lot easier to eat for small kids. Road trips are also when we tend to use more of the single serve packets of food. Not as economically or environmentally good as making your own, but so much more convenient in a car. I often keep a few treats back to pull out when we are several hours into the trip. It gives everyone a little perk up.
By packing your own food, you will also save a heap of money. Those roadside diners aren’t cheap, and the food is often pretty basic as well.
Have a rubbish bag
Grab a plastic bag and hang it over the gear stick or somewhere convenient, and put all the rubbish in it as you go. It makes clearing the car out so much easier at the end of the trip.
Insist that everyone use the toilet at each stop
… even if they swear black and blue that they don’t need to go. Invariably, the child who did not need to go to the toilet at the stop, will be “busting” 40km down the road. Speaking from lots of experience here!
Give in to the screen
I’m not a huge fan of kids just staring at screens for the whole road trip, but I have to say that after three or four hours, the lure of handing over a screen to each child (and the quiet that follows) is just too good not to use. We tend to save them for night travelling and highways where there isn’t much to look at (and the chance of travel sickness is less), but I would be lying if I didn’t say we use them from time to time.
What tips do you have for road tripping with kids??