It’s the weekend, hooray! Is it time to shake off the working week and experience life somewhere else for a while? Perhaps heading on a family road trip is in order?
If the anticipation of this sort of driving adventure fills you with equal parts horror and excitement, then you’re not alone. Hello, parenting!
At its best, a long drive to an escape destination involves plenty of laughing at dad jokes, animated stories from younger family members, epic scenery that makes you gasp and sigh, yummy treats handed out at regular intervals and easy pit-stops along the way to visit quaint historical villages or breezy seaside towns. Fantasy, much?
On the flipside, it can also involve one, two or more cranky kids whining about car sickness, fighting non-stop, demanding to stop for a break and repeating “when will we get there” like a stuck record. Not the most pleasant of thoughts, but it’s the reality for most parents at some stage of our lives. Ahhh the joys.
Family travel CAN be fun. We’ll bet our insurance policies on it! To help make your road journey a positive experience, follow our top 5 tips for survival.
Road Trip Tips to Ponder On
The key to making the most of a drive that seems like it stretches on forever is to be prepared. ‘Prepare for the worst and hope for the best’ applies to so much when it comes to parenting, right?
Here are our suggestions for keeping your rose coloured glasses on during your family voyage.
- Make Sure Your Car is Good to Go
Before you head out of the driveway make sure you’ve completed basic car maintenance (at the very least) so your car runs as smoothly as possible while you’re away.
We’re talking everything from filling up with petrol through to checking the oil, tyres, lights, seatbelts/car seats and horn. You can’t control the amount your kids’ sleep the night before, but you can control the readiness of your car for the trip!
Write a checklist to keep handy for future road trips and you’ll save time down the track, making the idea of getting away for a weekend or longer less daunting.
Also, double check your vehicle is registered, your license is current and your comprehensive insurance policy is up to date.
- Plan Plenty of Pit-stops
Nothing seems to stretch into eternity like a tension-filled road trip where the end point is hours away. Perfected your happy-mum-with-gritted-teeth voice yet?
Give yourself and your family a fun break at regular intervals. Younger children will appreciate heading to a local playground (when will playground finders start listing nearby coffee shops?!) while the spirits of family members young and old will usually be lifted with the promise of a delicious snack at a popular local café and a picturesque walk.
If you have time, use Google Maps to plot out your trip with these sorts of pit-stops included. Then you’ll have a good idea of how much time it will take to get to each destination.
And if you have a well-planned road trip itinerary it will be much easier to placate any edgy members of the posse with promises and bribes that really will come to fruition.
- Keep the In-Car Entertainment Flowing
These days there are plenty of tech tricks and devices to keep everyone happy en route to the ultimate road trip destination, whether that’s a coastal holiday park two hours away or a luxe hotel in an awe-inspiring holiday destination many hours interstate.
In-car DVD players like this affordable and effective Laser 9” dual screen player that takes both DVD and USB can help keep backseat bandits occupied for hours on end. Of course, so too can tablets, laptops and mobile phones. Keep in mind that anyone with motion sickness might get the jeebies with looking at moving images for great lengths of time.
Music is another great time-waster and thanks to online music services such as Spotify you can easily alternate between different music genres from the one player or use different devices so everyone’s satisfied at the same time. Be sure to keep the windows down to minimise the ear bashing and pack the headphones and phone charger so you can keep those sweet sounds flowing.
Road trip games like Name That Song, The License Plate Game and I Spy are also popular to keep the mind occupied and off the ‘are we there yet’ mentality. If your kids are too young to spell, spying things based on colour should work a treat… though it won’t prevent fighting over who guessed what first.
And for growing kids and grown-ups alike, snack boxes filled with nibblies will help each family member take a brain break every so often. Who doesn’t love a good muffin or packet of popcorn?!
- Be Prepared for Unprepared Stops
Depending on the amount of bevvies and food consumption your family expedition entails, you might find one or more of your travel troupe calling for a toilet time-out. Use the National Public Toilet Map to find what you need and keep everyone calm.
Larger parks, playgrounds and cafes will often feature toilets too, as will many modern petrol stations (a great excuse for buying a chocolate bar or two for mum).
For the youngest member of the tribe, remember to pack nappies so – if they’re comfortable with it – you don’t have to stop immediately every time nature calls. And if they’re toilet trained aside from sleep time getting them to wear a nappy right from the word go will help protect your seats if surprise snoozes happen throughout the drive.
- Car Sickness Tricks
If you are unfortunate enough to have an in-car vomitron in the family make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities, with one hand on the wipes and the other on the Febreeze or similar.
Load the car up with several buckets to catch the fall. Big yoghurt containers – great for little ones with little fingers and a not-so-great-grip – will do the trick, especially as they can be closed with a lid afterwards and easily thrown or washed out. Or, if you’re a frequent flyer, stock up on in-flight sickness bags and store them in the console for easy access.
Another top tool for car sickness is baby wipes. These are insanely good to clean up messes made by a road tripper of any age.
Interestingly, there are new motion sickness glasses on the market that claim to be a cure. We’ve no idea if they work but they look goofy good enough to be worth a mention.
Tried and true techniques to help reduce queasiness are sitting the car sick crusader in the front or in the middle back seat while they keep their eyes on the horizon and feel the breeze from open windows. Motion sickness tablets and travel bands also work a treat.
Most importantly, stay positive and spread those good vibes to your crew! Do and say what you can to remind your family of the joys that await them at the other end. If you need any inspiration read some of the posts by the Trip in a Van family to help encourage everyone to get your adventure on.
Exploring our beautiful country is always worth the effort.
Over to you
We would love to hear about your road travel experiences, the good the bad and the ugly – tell us all about it! Do you have any tips you can share with others for surviving the good ol’ Aussie road trip?!