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Summer’s finally here! Long sunny days, barbecues, beaches and roadtrips… Summer is my absolute favourite time of year, and the perfect time to hit the road and explore the country a bit.
Whether you’re travelling to see family or off on an adventure there’s a few things you can do to keep your car from turning into a battlefield, and your hair turning grey in the process. Check out these top tips that will take you from Bluff to Cape Reinga, and work just as well across Europe or the States.
How to have fun family roadtrips
DO make sure your essentials are kept where you can reach them easily during the drive. You don’t want to have to stop and rummage through the boot every 5 minutes. These are our on the road must-haves:
- water bottles
- Kids favourite toy or snuggly
- A carsickness kit (a.k.a. the “spew kit”) – this can be as simple as an old ice-cream container with a few plastic bags and a packet of wet wipes. I’ve got a heap of experience with this one unfortunately! You’ll need the wipes for both child and carseat, and the plastic bags are an absolute must for soiled clothes & used wipes.
- Shoes, hats, jerseys.
DON’T get caught up in the toy-trap. Kids will find entertainment wherever they go if left to their own devices, and they don’t need a lot of props. Our go-tos for road trips (or any type of travel) are a football, a pack of cards, a few dice and a book or three.
For some reason kids eat twice as much during a road trip than they would at home, but that doesn’t have to mean a budget-blowout. With a few basics on hand (plastic plates, a sharp knife, plastic spoons) you’ll have the option of stocking up at a local supermarket instead of having to fork out for takeaways or café food at every stop.
Some fresh buns with ham & cheese (buy pre-sliced for extra convenience), a yoghurt, some fruit and a packet of cookies for a treat is a budget-friendly, easy meal. Another favourite of ours is a hot rotisserie chicken teamed with deli salads and fresh buns – it’s like a healthier version of KFC. Opt for food that doesn’t require a lot of prep and has little waste.
Get organised the night before you leave and pack a lunchbox for each child. That way if they’re asking for snacks before you’re ready to stop you’ve got food on command with a built in “plate”.
If you have kids who tend to get carsick, try and avoid loading them up on too many dairy products before and during the drive. Trust me, you do NOT want to be stuck in the car with regurgitated chocolate milkshake on a long hot drive!
On The Road
Try not to drive for longer than 2 hours without a rest break, and no more than 4-5 hours in total for the day (unless you’re driving after bedtime). If you’re planning a big trip, it’s a good idea to do a few trial day trips to see what your kids’ limit is. Our youngest is 3 and we’ve found that 4 hours driving in a day (no matter how many stops we make) is the most he can handle before he starts losing it. Every kid will be different so pay attention to when the noise level starts increasing and plan to stop around that point. Be prepared to stop earlier than planned if you can – it’ll save everyone’s sanity and make for a much more pleasant trip.
For younger kids or babies invest in a seat mirror so you can keep an eye on them and remember to stop often to check they’re not overheating – babies aren’t able to regulate their temperature very effectively in a carseat.
If they’re not already (and you have a car seat that can do it), consider turning your under-4s around so they’re rear-facing. They’ll sleep more comfortably on the long drive and it’s much safer than facing forward (yes, even if their legs are bunched up).
Look ahead, and google the towns you’ll be driving through. Find where the playgrounds are, or parks and reserves that have room for the kids to stretch their legs. Museums make a good stop and often have great kids activities like treasure hunts or craft corners (plus nice toilets!). If you can’t find a playground try the local primary school – although keep in mind they likely won’t have accessible toilet facilities.
We’ve always been big on schedules, but we learnt the hard way that you need to be flexible when you’re on the road. Specifically, be prepared to stretch out the kids’ bedtime a bit – if they’ve been napping on and off in the car all day (like mine do) they’re probably not going to be ready for bed at the usual time. Pick your battles!
Don’t feel like you have to entertain the kids every minute of the journey. There’s nothing wrong with leaving them to look out the window – and it helps ward off car-sickness too!
Some mums swear by devices on the road (tablet, portable dvd player, etc) but I prefer to save those for when I really need the peace and quiet – like when we’re packing the car or at the end of the day. Instead, try going old-school. Our kids love Eye-Spy, or even a simple spot the car competition. If you need a break from the games, download a few audio books before you go as back-up.
All set? Check out these great ideas from Tonya at Detail Oriented Traveler on how to save money on your road trip. And my biggest tip of all? RELAX! Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember – you’re on holiday, have fun!
What’s your favourite (or funniest!) roadtrip memory? Leave me a comment below!
Anita | Burgess Travellers
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