16 December 2021
How to prepare for a kid-friendly road trip
Family road trips create some of the best memories, but it can be stressful at times. Read our tips on how to best prepare for your next family road trip.
Family road trips are a quintessential part of Australian life and looking back they’re some of the warmest holiday memories we have of being a child. Creating a fun and interesting experience for your kids is what it’s all about and these tips will help you be family road trip ready.
Make plans you’re prepared to ditch
Planning in advance when you’re going to leave, where to stop for breaks, and where to stay is a good idea. Just try not to be too rigid as ideas can and should change. Plan around your kids' sleep habits, your toddler’s capacity to sit still and your teenager’s capacity to tolerate boredom and above all, fill your itinerary with exciting things to do.
If you’re someone who feels more comfortable booking accommodation in advance, check for a cancellation policy. Otherwise, lastminute.com.au is a good way to go when you just want to hit the road and see how far you get.
Pick the best time to drive
Finding the right time to drive will depend on how far away your destination is and how old your children are. For long journeys, a good time to leave is about 4am so the young ones are asleep for the first section of time.
Aim to stop driving by mid-afternoon so it will leave plenty of time to explore and play before bedtime. Avoid travelling too much at night because if the kids sleep all the way, then the next day they’ll be full of beans when you’ll desperately need to rest.
Stop for breaks
Kids will be better passengers if they have regular breaks to get out, stretch their legs and have some fun. Manageable chunks of time are well worth keeping in mind. Despite being able to do more, 2 or 3 hour stints on the road are the most you’d want to aim for - your sanity will thank you.
While it’s tempting to just stay on the freeway to save time, it pays to take the occasional exit to find lookouts, monuments, parks and playgrounds. Look at social media for tips on the best places to visit or just wing it and ask a local. The handy Road Trippers app can help you to plan your stops along the way and find interesting diversions.
In car entertainment
No matter how interesting the scenery, at some point the kids are going to need entertainment that you don’t necessarily need to be involved in. Packing a container of toys, games, books and colouring sets is essential. Items like a Magna Doodle, Rubber Neckers and magnetic board games are usually a hit.
Don’t forget to download some apps, music playlists and movies on your phone or tablet along with some family-friendly audiobooks such as the free app by Roald Dahl. And it never hurts to pull out some surprise new toys for when they get really bored.
Giving your kids a camera so they can take photos along the way and create a scrapbook (or even a virtual one) is a nice way to remember the trip too. Games like spotto, eye-spy, car cricket, car bingo and the number plate game never seem to go out of style, so get acquainted with the rules.
Your little ones may well be asking for food before you’ve hit the end of your street, so have your bag of snacks on hand. However, don’t start with the treats, you’ll need them later for bribery (you’re welcome).
Start out with fruit and carrot sticks and work your way up. Fantails are always a favourite and you get the bonus of trivia questions as well as being able to see who can tear the wrapper into the longest piece.
Choose snacks that are low in sugar, don’t make a mess, take a little while to eat and aren’t choking hazards. Think sandwiches, grapes cut in half for toddlers, popcorn, muesli bars, apple slices, rice crackers and sultanas.
“Are we there yet?” starts almost before you turn on the ignition. Explaining the distance in terms the kids understand can help. They may not understand 400km but they will understand the time it takes from recess till lunchtime or the time to watch their favourite movie twice.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) will keep kids awake when they could be snoozing so make sure they know that there’s plenty of time after their nap to see the sights and sounds of the open road.
Items to pack you may not have thought of
Spare shopping bag for car sickness and storing wet clothes
Toilet paper/paper towels
In-car phone charger
Insulated water bottles
First aid kit/insect spray/sanitiser
Blankets – great for snuggling and impromptu picnics
Spare change of clothes in the car to save pulling out luggage on side of road
Map – in case phone loses signal
Torch – handy at night to find things in car and not wake up kids
Football/frisbee – to burn off energy on the way
Headphones – when you don’t want to hear the Wiggles 3 hours straight.
So buckle up and enjoy the ride. Whether you’re travelling to SA, WA or anywhere else in Australia, stay protected with car insurance.