Q: How do I prepare for a road trip with children?
A: The Great Aussie Road Trip is resurging as the most popular style of family holiday. The cries of “are we there yet?” echo throughout NSW and parents grapple with the age-old conundrum: how to keep the kids occupied during long hours on the road. And as the saying goes – happy kids, happy parents!
Here are some essential things to consider when planning a family driving holiday:
Stop, revive, survive: Plan your journey in two-hour intervals, both to combat driver fatigue and also to let the children stretch their legs and expend some energy. “Make the trip about the journey as much as the destination,” suggests Angela Saurine, editor of leading family magazine Out & About With Kids and parent of an energetic toddler. “There are so many cute towns, beaches and picnic stops to explore en route, so don’t rush. Pack a picnic to enjoy along the way or do some research about what’s in the area and stop at a cool café for lunch. This way you are also helping regional businesses at a time when they really need it.”
Involve the kids in the planning: If your children are old enough, involve them in the planning process by asking where they would like to stop (the answer may be McDonalds, but encourage them to think beyond the Happy Meal!) Print out a physical map of where you are headed and let them pick a couple of things they’d like to see. Iconic ‘Big Things’ are always popular, such as Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana, the Big Prawn at Ballina and the Big Merino at Goulburn.
Alleviate boredom: Make sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks, toys, books, music/CDs and iPads for older kids. “I recommend buying a seat cover that you can slip on the seat in front where kids can store their drink bottle, toys, books, pencils and anything else they might want along the way,” says Saurine. And don’t forget to make sure all your devices are fully charged before commencing the trip.
Be creative with games: Engage your children with the outside environment by playing in-car games such as I Spy, Spotto, making phrases out of licence plates and Aussie animal bingo. You can also play games to keep them looking out the window such as “count the horses” or “pick the strangest thing you see on the journey”.
Music selection: Playing music your children love is a great way to change the in-car mood. “For little kids, you can’t go past The Wiggles,” Saurine says. “The ABC also has some great apps, such as Story Salad, Short & Curly, ABC Kids News Time and Imagine This. Disney's Magic of Storytelling is a great podcast, and there’s a Sesame Street podcast.” For older children, brush up on your Frozen lyrics and see who can belt out ‘Let it Go’ the loudest.