The Ultimate Holiday Road Trip Survival Guide
By Hayley Dean, ellaslist
The days of sweaty arms doing everything possible to avoid touching each other and enforced music choices are over. Leave those memories in your childhood where they belong and get ready to create new, wonderful stories with your own family.
1. Eat In The Car
This is the best tip I have ever been given when driving long distances with children. It seems so logical but when you stop to revive and survive, don’t make the kids have to sit down yet again at the café; find a park and let them run and run and run and run and run. It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, they need to run, explore, discover and play. I try to look out for stops that include play equipment or a historic monument or perhaps even one of Australia’s “Big Things”. I also look for a great public pool - kids love to swim and it s always guaranteed to exhaust even the most active child!
Run, Run, Run (or swim, swim, swim) and then when it’s time to hit the road again, feed the kids their sandwiches and poppers back IN the car and off you go. Firstly, all the exercise will make them hungry enough to actually eat what you have prepared and secondly, they won’t mind having to sit down again for a long spell.
2. DVD Players And Headphones
Not everyone is a fan of digital devices but I implore you to “let it go’ when it comes to road trips. Children are not designed to just sit, their little bodies want to move or be occupied all the time. When they’re not that’s when long car trips become hell on wheels as the “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” whinging kicks in.
There are several options here;
Pros: compact and can be strap to the back of car seat or held in lap, offers multiple options like movies, games, social media etc.
Cons: It takes a bit of pre-planning to load all the movies/content before you leave on holidays. You also run the risk of having all your data sucked up with games and social media.
Portable or in car DVD player
Pros: This is what I personally have. We have a dual screen version that we picked up at target for $129 (Purchased early 2017). There are two screens, one on the back of each seat which removes the fighting or argy bargy over who can or cannot see. They are simple and easy to use with most coming with a remote control that allows us to operate the machine from the front seat.
Cons: A Portable DVD player means you have to pack a number of physical DVD’s (and purchase them) and generally you do need to pull over to change the DVD depending on the age of your kids. Personally, I don’t mind that as we use it as a sign to take a break and stretch the legs.
Pros: The biggest would have to be that parents actually get some uninterrupted us time. Talk over Santa plans, sing along to YOUR music for a change or simply enjoy the peace and quiet. There are a lot of headphones on the market and I can not stress enough just how important it is to buy quality products like Sony Noise Cancelling headphones rather than cheap ones you pick up at discount retailers. This is for health and safety reasons above all else.
Cons: They can divide the car into two and you do lose the ability to chat with your kids but let's be honest, if they are watching a movie, you had lost this anyway.
3. Leave Leg Room
Totally understand how much we all need to pack when travelling with children, especially this time of year thanks to all the presents. It’s really tempting to use the space under our kids’ legs, especially when they just seem to be swinging away in their car seats.
The more you pack around your children, the more uncomfortable they will feel both physically and mentally. I liken it to being jammed into the office lift; you’ll still get to where you need to be but you’ll be terribly uncomfortable along the way.
A solution may be to install some roof storage system onto your car for more room perhaps or post items to your location ahead of time.
4. Take The Road Less Travelled
Call me crazy but taking long road trips is truly not about the destination and it's certainly not about getting there as fast as possible. Have you, like me, ever watched (9876534628746 times) the Cars Movie with Lightening McQueen? Do you remember the scene where Sally explains to Lightening how the by-pass was built, effectively killing off the town of Radiator Springs? Well, the same thing has happened to many small country towns around Australia too.
I challenge you to veer the car left and take at least one tourist drive (you know those brown signs you often see and always ignore) exit these summer holidays. There are so many benefits in doing this! Small towns have small people growing up in them which means they are full of much-loved parks, playgrounds and history; not trucks, carparks and servos. You will also be helping the economy of that town and the small business owners within.
5. Be Free And Easy
Just like in the tip above, the more you take your time on the drive, the more you’ll enjoy the journey. Don’t think of it as just extending the torture, change your mind set and you’ll change your outlook. Don't get hung up on a self-enforced schedule, relax and see where the day takes you. Stop as many times as the family needs too. Get out and explore beyond just the public loos and take away stores.
Recently my family and I drove the back roads from on our journey from Sydney to Phillip Island, essentially a 12-hour drive. We broke the trip up into two days, having booked a cabin at a Big 4 on the NSW/VIC border. We had THE most wonderful time and discovered parts of Australia we didn’t even know existed. On reflection, we all agreed it was actually the best part of our holiday and it’s impossible to have a terrible time on Phillip Island with all those penguins!
6. Start Them In Pj’s
And finally, we go back to the where it all begins. Just like your parents before you, the best time to start your road trip is when the kids are asleep, ensuring a chunk of the trip is done and dusted before they even wake. For some this may mean starting later at night, for others, wee hours of the morning. Best advice is to be prepared, pack the car the night/day before so all you have to do is load the kids and hit the open road.
Pjs are also comfy and easier to relax in for your kids, for everyone really! Who doesn’t love to lie around in your jim jams all day?! Have that DVD loaded, the headphones in place, some food in arms reach when they wake and of course, stay hydrated with plenty of water.