Sunday, 11 May 2014

Top Tips For Planning A Family Road Trip

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Land Rover.

Are you are brave enough to road-trip with your kids?
If there's one thing that causes adults to go weak at the knees, then the prospect of being in a confined space filled with bickering offspring has to be it.
Long-haul car travel is a hard task and one my family actively avoids wherever possible. Children can throw all kinds of stellar performances on the road to any destination no matter what the duration. Six kids can really knock a parent out! (Make that parents.)

Travel is a wonderful thing, don't get me wrong. I just love to take the kids on holidays and this family is long overdue one for sure. We find however, stretching car travel beyond an hour for us, is an enormous effort from the moment our car leaves our driveway. So many little personalities grating against each other, so many wants and needs, so much disorganisation! Sometimes it is definitely easier to stay put and visit the world via the television instead!

That cruise control button in my people mover says it all!

For those unavoidable and infrequent times when the delight of the destination strikes out the perils of the journey, the car travel experience can be made well worth the effort with some careful planning and consideration. My advice begins with start early and plan, plan and plan to make the holiday a worthwhile and enjoyable experience for all.
The following are my top tips for planning a successful family road trip:

Do the paperwork: Before embarking on any car travel plans, check your documents are in line and up to date. Is your car insurance adequate? Do you have your roadside assistance program paid? Is your roadside assistance package enough for your journey? - Consider a temporary upgrade if you have any concerns. Take out Ambulance cover just in case. Is your vehicle Registration current? Pay any outstanding parking or speeding fines in advance to avoid any embarrassing roadside moments.

Is your vehicle road-worthy?: Got plans to do a fantastic across Australia trip? Make sure you have the right vehicle for the task first and foremost. Don't plan to use roads and routes that your car will clearly not go the distance on. Use common sense and don't expect a city car to undertake a spectacular desert drive for example. (For a really versatile vehicle and a luxurious road journey in all terrains, take a look at the new Land Rover 2014 Freelander 2.)

Book your vehicle in for a service in the weeks leading up to any journey and have all fluid levels checked to maintain its safety and performance. Familiarise yourself with your car's manual and get to know some of the features you may not be aware of. (I did this only this week and all I can say is wow! There's a lot I don't know about my car and really should.)
Plan your travel on a map and imagine as many scenarios as you can to cover the most stressful of occurrences so that if they do happen, you know what steps you might take already.

Ensure kids are in approved car seats and that they are correctly fitted for the journey. If you are unsure, visit an approved fitting station where you can be given expert advice.

Clean your car before you intend to pack. Remove all rubbish and unwanted items. Nothing makes for more misery than being seated amongst old bread crusts, ping pong balls and rocks from long-forgotten past travels. Things will get messy again for sure but at least you will all be comfortable for a while. Now is a good time to add a dedicated rubbish bag to each row of the car for collecting the inevitable mess the kids will make too. Replenish boxes of tissues, check torches have batteries in your dash compartment and add travel sickness bags (or a bucket in the boot) for any unfortunate events.

Prepare the children: Talk as much as you can about the planned journey and what is to be expected. Kids like to know the minute details as they cannot see the bigger picture and unfortunately need to be constantly reminded. Tell them about planned sightseeing stops and rest stops en route to keep them happy in small and regular doses.

Take food and drinks: Always take your own. Nothing eats into funds and causes more stress when travelling than the worry of sourcing snacks and meals. The more people you are transporting, the more of a stress it is. I always give the children a paper bag of lunch, snacks and drinks each. I usually put foods and drinks in there that I normally wouldn't buy just to keep the morale high. It always works to keep kids happy and when they are, so are Mum and Dad.

Pack entertainment: Kids tire easily. Thirty minutes into your journey the youngest of your kids will have already forgotten where they are going and why they are even in the car! I like to make 'showbags' to keep things cheery. Make up bags of cheap items you have purchased in the weeks leading up to your drive: coloured biros and crayons, books and magazines, little snacks and toys. Happy kiddos!
Older kids can pack their own entertainments: iPods, magazines, novels, notebooks etc. Make sure favourite toys are taken too.

Portable DVDs and music CDs: Buy one or two inexpensive portable DVD players for your car and group children into relevant ages so that they can keep entertained watching their favourite movies while you drive in relative peace. Take CD's or an iPod loaded with music to suit everyone's tastes. When things get tetchy, switch tactics and rotate your tech for continued enjoyment.

Plan your journey well and be sure to include regular stops for toilets, eating and play and most importantly, make sure you, the driver, has adequate rest to avoid drowsiness.
Happy road travels!

What is the longest drive you have ever undertaken with your children? How did it go?
Are there any tips you would add to this post?

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  1. we did 3000 kms in 10 days in WA - we just listened to the complete works by roald dahl (audio books) - no technology! It was fine - only one day got ugly. So we pulled into a petrol station and got ice creams - but for my partner and I, not the kids (cos they were naughty) and ate them in front of the kids saying "ooh, mine's delicious!" Sounds mean but it did the trick!

    1. I had a good laugh at that one! Glad there are other parents out there willing to prove a point. We too have used such measures to tame the beast :D That sounds like a full-on trip and I admire your bravery for tackling that one!

  2. We drove from Brisbane to Melbourne last Christmas with our two boys (23mths & 7 mths). We found it was best to just keep driving while the kids were happy, and we were flexible with when and where we stopped. There was a lot of truck spotting for our obsessed toddler, and the Wiggles CD also came in handy! I spent a lot of time sitting in the back with the boys which helped keep them occupied and we could read and sing songs together. We actually enjoyed the trip and would do it again. Great tips x

    1. Wow Lauren, how long dis that journey take you? Was it cheaper than flying? Sometimes we think about these things but fear freezes us over. I'd love to know more - you have inspired me!

  3. Thankgod I only have one child and not 6 is the first thing I thought when reading this! The longest trip we've done with her is Brisbane to Tweed Heads and we just time it so we feed her just before we go and she usually sleeps most of the way there. We only got caught out once when there was unexpected road works on the way home and it added an extra forty minutes to the trip then she was due for another feed and got really shitty for the last twenty minutes of the trip but I couldn't do anything about it because we were stuck in traffic on the highway.

    1. Yes I know those times well. Thankfully, as she grows (baby), it gets easier. So much more easier in fact when you can pass over a drink and snacks for them to deal with it themselves! :D

  4. Great tips for a family road trip. Thankfully I don't have to worry about these of the few benefits of teenagers :)

    1. Tanya that is so true. Trying to get a teenager to go anywhere in a car at all could be an idea for a post itself!

  5. We drove from Melbourne to Adelaide with my five children. It was both amazingly pleasant and stressful. The moments all had their turn and were over. The tip I would add would be to factor in extra time. We were surprised how often we had to keep stoping for toilet breaks.

  6. Time certainly is an important consideration with kids and I thank you for this tip! A journey of a few hours can take an entire day when taking in the constant needs of kids. How long did your trip end up taking? :D

  7. Our biggest trip was 3 to 4 hours and it was okay, but the noise of the kids was what drove me insane the most, But as they grow they will be better occupied with things such as iPads I hope!

  8. We just had a weekend away with the kids, only a four and a half hour drive. We took our own food for the trip up, the dvd players. It was on the way home, after a few hours, that things turned hairy. I was over it by then! The longest we did was 10 hours away, thankfully we broke it up in two days. I hate that drive, we've done it a couple of times. Always worth staying at least a week to make the drive worthwhile.

  9. We did Sydney to Brisbane when my eldest was 13 months. We took food, cds, stopped all the time etc. It was horrific!!
    I refuse to drive more than 3 hours now. If we head interstate again we will fly, my sanity is worth the cost!!
    Love this post, so many handy tips.


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