BEFORE THE TRIP
A few weeks before the trip, you should begin the planning of your trip. Some questions you should be asking yourself are whether the area is suitable for young kids, is the hotel kid friendly, or is the campsite going to be okay for the kids? So when booking accommodation, it is essential to check if they are kid friendly or even better if they offer activities for kids. Additionally, you will want to plan out activities that are safe for children as well.
Since you’ll be traveling with your most precious cargo, your kids, first things first – check your vehicle. A few days before going you should either check your vehicle if you know how to or take it to a mechanic to make sure that everything is working fine. A few things you should check are tire pressure including the spare, the brakes, lights, windscreen, car seats, and be sure to pack jump cables. Otherwise, you’ll be spending more time dealing with road assistance than time with your family. Speaking of, you should also take a list of important numbers like emergency contacts, and roadside assistance just in case.
If this is your first-time road tripping with young kids, let me be the first to tell you, you’ll be packing a whole lot more than you would if you were with your friends and it’ll take a whole lot longer to get there. Kids need a lot, so you’ll need to start packing a few days in advance as to not forget anything. Starting with the basics, you’ll need a GPS or at least a map with a pre-planned route to make sure you don’t get lost. You’ll definitely need an entertainment device for the kids and chargers for all your devices. On that note, don’t forget your kids’ favorite toy/blanket/dummy because it’s the small things can make the difference between a peaceful trip and a chaotic journey.
Travelling with friends you’re probably not prepared for the worst, but with kids it’s different. You’ll need a first aid kit that covers all the essentials, most new cars will come with one, but if yours doesn’t, it’s okay. There are plenty of DIY first aid kits online, or if you’re in a rush just buy one.
When you’re packing be sure to pack some snacks and make sure they’re not sugar loaded. Some good healthy alternatives include muesli bars, frozen grapes, fresh fruit, and cheese sticks. If you get stuck on ideas, there are plenty of ideas on the internet.
My final “before the trip” tip is to get on the road early, kids are a lot happier when there is no traffic, and in the morning they’ll spend the first few hours sleeping for a quieter drive. You’ll also need a bit more leeway regarding time as they’ll need a few more breaks during the trip.
DURING THE TRIP
So it’s the beginning of the voyage, all is relatively calm in the car as you’ve probably left in the morning and the kids are still catching up on sleep. This is the easiest part of the trip. Take this time to set your car on child lock, and placing rubbish bags, paper towels, and wet wipes where they are easily accessible.
When the inevitable snack time arrives, this is where packing healthy is going to help. Like everyone else, when kids eat sugary, highly processed foods, they are going to go on a sugar high but this time they’re… trapped in a car with you. This can ultimately lead to more distractions, and when the sugar wears off, the kids can become easily frustrated. So healthy and balanced snacks will help in avoiding this sugar high and crash.
If you don’t want to hear the question “are we there yet?” about a hundred times, keep your kids distracted with a fun game. It doesn’t need to make a whole lot of sense or particularly have a scoring or winning system just make it up as you go. For example, a game of count the koalas (or another animal) you’ve seen may not seem like a lot, but for kids, it’s like a competition of who can see the most. Next thing they know, it’s been an hour or two driving already. Other alternatives for entertainment include plain notebooks and pencils, Where's Wally books, sticker books, and more!
Make sure you take both short and long breaks in the trip, this will ensure that you and your kids can get out and about for stretch, and clear your minds. During breaks make sure you take your kids to the bathroom once when you get there, and just before you leave. Breaks are great for feedings, diaper changes, and to get the kids out for a runaround.
If you just need a break for that final leg of the drive and your kids are still up, it’s time to pull out the devices. No one is blaming you for wanting some peace and quiet, especially if it’s a long trip, so iPads are the go to. Paired with a pair of kid friendly earphones, your children will have their eyes fixed on the screen, and you’ll be able to drive distraction free for a bit. However, bringing out the electronics should be a last resort because road trips are a great time for family bonding, and should be enjoyed together.
AFTER THE TRIP
Take a bit of time after you get home to have a chat with your kids about what they liked and what they would like to see more of next time. This feedback from the kids will be worth it because it makes sure that they don’t get bored of road trips, and you’ll be able to get an idea of where to go next!
The final step is to pack everything back into the house, and get some well-deserved rest because you just survived a road trip with your young family!