Top tips for driving holidays with kids

Blog contribution by Jennifer Adams, presenter of the popular TV travel series Places We Go.

Family surrounding silver car

Our family on the road.

“Are we there yet????”

These are the words we do not want to be hearing over and over again from the kids while we're on a driving holiday. Children can be a hard audience to please on a long drive. We all know these kinds of holidays are totally worth it, though – the freedom of having your car on tour, the fact you can pack it up with as much stuff as you can fit, and the exhilaration of hitting the open road and getting a change of scenery…not to mention how economical and practical they are with a family.

So how do we please the little ones in the back to make the journey as fun as the destination?

We have driven countless kilometres around this country. Driving holidays are our very favourite kind. Whether we have a caravan hitched to the back or have booked a cabin, we love loading up the car with clothes, toys, food (and sometimes the dog) and heading away.

We once drove for four months around Australia with our then two-year-old daughter, Charli. The drives were often long and, for a little one, probably quite tedious (personally, I loved the endless stretches of desert that went on into the horizon). Since then, we have taken her on driving holidays around Australia several times a year.

Smiling family at the beach

Driving holidays can take you anywhere!

In this time, we have learned a thing or two about being prepared. Here are our top tips for making a driving holiday a successful holiday.

Planning ahead and safety

Firstly, before you even leave, we recommend getting the car serviced if it’s a long drive: topping up fluid levels, checking the tyres, and making sure that the kids' car seats are in good nick and will be safe and comfortable for the journey. Nothing is worse than having a break down while you are on the road, particularly with kids. They don’t have much patience waiting for roadside assistance.

Also, before you leave have a conversation with your kids about where you are going, how long the drive is, and what they are likely to see along the way. Involve them in the journey and invite them to ask questions. Give them brochures about where you are going and an idea of the activities you can do when you are there. Get them to start thinking about which activities they would like to choose. Engage them in the planning and they will be more excited when on the journey.

Car drives through shallow river crossing

Be prepared for where you are going.

Try to plan the drive to coincide with kids' naps and schedule stops around when they might be sleeping. You don’t want to have to stop for fuel or food just as they have fallen asleep or you will risk waking them.

Entertainment

Stock up on all the things kids like and will happily play with in the back of the car. Car puzzles, colouring books, sticker books, hand-held games, story books, and of course, the trusty iPad/tablet. Load it up with new apps they can explore, plus their favourite or new TV episodes and movies, ensuring that nothing you install needs WiFi. If you have two or more kids that will be sharing devices, try to find games that require multiple players. If they have a device each, invest in kids' headphones so they are not competing with each other for sound.

Small child strapped into back of 4WD

Make it all about the journey!

Don’t give all the games and toys to the kids at the beginning of the journey – they will have exhausted them within the first hour. Give things to them one by one throughout the journey there and back, as they won’t be distracted by the other new toys and will spend longer with them all.

Also think of a list of games you can play together. Eye-spy is an iconic one, but also try writing a list of all the things they might see along the way and they can tick them off on the journey when they spot them.

Make a playlist of songs you can all sing along to as a family, or get fun audio books that are made for kids, and you can play them to the entire car.

If you have a younger one who uses a dummy, secure it to their clothing with a dummy chain or else you will be constantly trying to reach into the back seat to retrieve it.

Food

Bring plenty of supplies of kids' favourite healthy snacks and plenty of water to drink from water bottles that are spill proof. Consider how sticky/messy the food is that you are bringing and try to pack non-gooey snacks. Think about variety, as boredom stimulates the appetite and children will try and cure it with food. Bring substantial options, like sandwiches or a healthy slice, in case you aren’t near a suitable place when it’s time for lunch or dinner.

The above goes for the adult passengers, too!

Bring spare zip lock bags for leftovers, clips for open bags of snacks, and an ice pack to keep drinks cool.

For both entertainment and food supplies, I suggest packing one separate bag with everything for the kids and keeping it with the front passenger. Everything is in one place and can be easily accessed when needed.

Young girl with food on her face at picnic area

Make food stops part of the adventure.

Comfort

Sitting still for long periods of time can be hard for kids. Schedule regular stops for a stretch and toilet break. Try and plan the drive so you will be in a town for certain times, such as lunch. Or pack a picnic and lay out a blanket at a local park to allow the kids to run around or burn energy on a playground.

Try and make the drive part of the holiday. If you can, allow double the time you need to get there and split your time between driving and stopping off to see sights along the way.

During the drive, kids love to have blankets or their doona and pillows to get cosy, plus their favourite soft toy. Make them feel like little travellers by buying them fun travel headrests.

Be prepared – with kids there will be mess and there will be spills. Bring paper towels, rubbish bags, and plenty of wet wipes and keep them handy and ready.

Our final piece of advice is to try not to pack too much in. Spending more time in fewer places is the key with kids and will lead to a more enjoyable, stress-free driving holiday.

Do you have any tips for travelling with children? Please let me know in the comments section below.

Happy Travels!

Jen x

For more holiday inspiration, go to www.placeswego.com

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