Road trips are quintessentially Australian.
Some of the best landscapes, views and destinations are open for us all to explore just by getting in the car.
Road travel is also usually, the most budget friendly means of travel for families.
But long hours on the road with kids can be pretty challenging for everyone if you're not prepared.
Most parents have a travel-with-kids horror story.
It can range from projectile vomit in the back seat or the leaving behind of the favourite toy in the petrol station.
Sally Brownell was doing a Sydney to Melbourne drive.
She was excited but anxious as well because it was her kids’ first trip on the road.
As planned, her family stopped at Holbrook to see the famous submarine.
What wasn’t planned was how much fun they all would have, happily playing hour after hour.
It ended up bad: she raced through the last leg of the journey to check into the Melbourne hotel on time and get the kids a meal before they lost it, but got fined for speeding instead.
With young kids the best laid plans can quickly go to custard on a road trip, but there are a few things you can put in place to set yourself up for success.
Get your timing right
Many parents swear by starting out on a trip in the early morning so more kilometres are clocked before the kids are fully awake and ready for morning tea.
Others plan around sleep times so they can drive during naps.
Whatever works for you is best but plan for time sinks along the way, such as high traffic areas, known roadworks or bottlenecks, and long stretches without fuel or food options.
Make sure the kids are ready
If the little ones are old enough to understand, talking to them to get them excited about the trip is a great way to engage them in the adventure.
Encouraging children to have their own backpack that they helped fill with toys and comforters can help soothe them on the journey.
Some kids can get carsick when triggered by the motion of the car or if they're playing on a screen or reading a book. Sucking on ginger lollies may help in some instances.
Either way, take some plastic bags and wipes, just in case.
Water, snacks, tissues, toys, books, dummies and blankets will need to be within reach.
Other items like change of clothes, nappy change bag, picnic blankets, medicines, outdoor toys, packed meals, kitchen sink etc. also have to be accessible.
Quick cleaning items like wipes, sanitizers and even a small car vacuum cleaner (which can be plugged into the car to get dry or wet spills) save a lot of trouble.
Make well-planned stops
Frequent stops, around every two hours, will be inevitable with kids for bathroom breaks and nappy changes.
Try to plan these as well, especially with tools like Google Maps, because frequent extended stopping can add up significantly to the overall journey.
Longer breaks can be scheduled during breakfast or lunch, ideally around parks with packed picnic lunches allowing time for the children to run around.
The exercise will prep them perfectly for nap time right after.
Take health snacks
Healthy finger foods are essential on the road. Keep away from food that's high in sugar, salt or has a tendency to be messy to save on meltdowns and mishaps.
Choose great entertainment
Keeping the kids busy in the back of the car is crucial unless you fancy playing eye-spy for two hours straight (it can be done).
While it's good to have a selection of car games up your sleeve, you might also take gadgets and DVD players, or keep it completely tech-free, or mix it up.
Here's our best suggestions for books, audio and apps that will delight the littlies on the drive.
- Explore Australia - The Kid Edition: This is an essential home-library book for kids in Australia. Sectioned state-wise, this book will have kids coming back to it as they grow older and explore more of the country.
- Giraffes Can’t Dance: Children will find life inspiration in this adorable highly-rated book which comes with a CD.
- Laugh-Out-Loud Road Trip Jokes for Kids: This is one book that will bring out the laughs when everyone is too tired, especially with a school-going kid as the reader
- Alice in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll’s classic is full of magic to keep the imagination of young boys and girls engaged.
- Charlotte’s Web: Another classic perfect for the little ones as they follow Fern’s adventures with a friendly spider to save her pet.
- Andersen's Fairy Tales: This has a collection of man of the best known fairy stories, that will make for a great listening and down time.
- The Best of The Wiggles: If there’s anyone who knows how to keep the kids entertained... it’s The Wiggles.
- Peppa Pig: Always perfect for the little ones.
- Crazy Gears: Boosts critical thinking and challenges the child to creativity (age 5+).
- Fun on the Farm: Fun board games for two players (age 3-5).
- Duckie Deck Giggle Glass: Boosting the imagination of young kids, this app encourages them to explore things around them then filter them through a bunch of options (age 3+).
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends: Great for first words for a toddler, or an older kid learning a new language (age 2+).
- Ladybird First Focus: For very young kids, with basic animation to engage and stimulate (age 2+).
Enjoy your trip!