Going on a family road trip is practically an Australian rite of passage. It has a lot to do with our wide, brown land and the long distances between cities. For adults, getting behind the wheel with the open road in front of you can be a thrilling prospect, but spending hours and sometimes even days in the car can be very tiresome for kids. However, there’s plenty you can do to make the experience an enjoyable one for the whole family.
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- First, if you’re planning a long trip, make sure the car has recently been serviced and that your tyres have plenty of tread left on them. Breaking down several hours from home, in the middle of nowhere with little ones in the back is not much fun.
- If you live in a city or are travelling to one, try to avoid leaving or arriving at your destination during peak hour. The road trip is likely to be long enough without having to spend time stuck in traffic.
- Think about leaving early for your road trip; that way you’ll have some of the journey behind you before the kids are properly awake.
- Check the route you’re planning to drive and scope out a few potential stops along the way – small towns just a few kilometres off the highway are ideal and often have parks with playgrounds where the kids can run around and let off steam, and you can grab a coffee and a snack.
- Pack a few activities for the kids: colouring and sticker books will distract them for quite a while. And long car trips are where electronic amusements come into their own. If your kids have a DS, iPad or other portable device, make sure they are fully charged and they’ve got some favourite – or new – games to play. Younger kids may well enjoy watching cartoons on a portable or in-car DVD player.
- Download a couple of suitable audiobooks, or nursery songs for younger kids, and even brush up your own favourite songs for a family singalong.
- You can research some popular in-car games: spotto, eye-spy and word association games will while away a few hours and kids usually love playing a game together as a family.
- Little tummies get hungry frequently, and you don’t want to have to keep stopping for food, so pack plenty of snacks – preferably of the non-messy kind: a road trip is not the time to get out the chocolate-covered biscuits! You might also want to pack a picnic lunch and stop at a rest area or park to eat it, rather than having to rely on unhealthy fast food from a service station. Although sometimes it can be a treat for the kids to enjoy a hamburger or pie!
- Give each child their own water bottle. Keep the bottle small so they don’t over-hydrate themselves and want to make lots of comfort stops.
- A small, soft pillow or comfort toy can help kids sleep for some of the journey. Just make sure they are securely in their seatbelts if they do nod off!