Being able to holiday with your children or grandchildren is one of life’s little luxuries but it takes a bit of planning and forethought to ensure a successful family trip. Some families out there make it look so easy – just hook up the camper or caravan with a pre-stocked kitchen, chuck the kids in the back of the car and away they go.
But it can boggle the mind trying to keep kids safe and fed in an environment you’ve never been in before. So we’ve compiled a list of Do’s and Don’t’s to help make the trip a little easier on everyone!
DO: TEACH THEM AS YOU GO
Schooling is compulsory in Australia, and each state has different requirements about the amount of time away from school that children are allowed. Contact your child’s school well in advance, explain your plans to them and work with the school to find a solution that works for everyone.
Even if you’re not on the road long-term and not involved in official distance education, the opportunities for spontaneous learning on the road are endless and you can easily cover the basics in your everyday travel – reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic! ).
DON’T: WORRY ABOUT MISSING SCHOOL
Children will gain so much in so many ways from the experience of travelling as a family compared to what they’d get in a classroom.
DO: PACK FOR ALL SEASONS
Chances are, you’ll encounter a range of weather conditions – whether or not you’re travelling long or short term. And there’s no such thing as being cold, wet or hot – only unprepared! You don’t want the kids to miss out on doing anything, so pack for all seasons but work on layering clothes for warmth as opposed to taking bulky items.
DON’T: WORRY ABOUT THE KIDS GETTING DIRTY
Kids are kids and, odds are, they’re going to look just as grubby five minutes after breakfast as they did at the end of the previous day. Embrace it.
As long as basic hygiene is kept up (no, boys, turning your jocks back to front and then inside out doesn’t count!), embrace the wild life! Trying to keep new or designer duds clean and stain-free on the road – or in the red dirt – will send you crazy.
DO: LET THEM TAKE THEIR OWN ‘STUFF’
Kids love their ‘stuff’ and, if they’re happy and entertained, those long car trips are going to be far more pleasant for everyone. A good solution is to allow the kids to pack a small selection of their own toys and games for the car. Give them a small box, let them fill it, and you know they’ll be happy.
DON’T: BE AFRAID TO EMBRACE ‘THE SCREEN’ (OCCASIONALLY)
As much we’d like the kids’ eyes to be glued to the passing scenery or the atlas during long car trips, we’re realists! Entertainment on long stretches of boring bitumen is a must. Portable or built-in DVD players can be a sanity saver.
DO: PLAN YOUR MEALS
Most first-time campers over-pack, but food is one area you cannot mess around with – especially at the end of a long day or driving or exploring. But it can spoil if you’re carrying too much, so plan your meals in advance and pack an extra day’s worth of non-perishables just in case. The more you plan and buy in advance, the more you’ll save on the road, too.
DON’T: Get caught in the trap of buying food and/or drinks at every roadside stop you make – it will add up quickly and blow your budget. Yes, we all love a little roadhouse treat but make it that – an occasional treat – and ensure the bulk of your snacks and meals are available in-car and made available before the little darlings are ‘starving’ just as you pull into that remote roadhouse.
DO: Have regular rest and play stops along the way. Expecting little kids to sit quietly for four or five hours at a time is unrealistic – keep everyone happy and sane by breaking up the drive with quick play-breaks at local parks or playgrounds. They’ll thank you for it!
DON’T: Try and pack too many kilometres into every day. Kids tire and bore much more quickly and easily than adults, so make the trip easier – and more fun – for everyone by limiting your driving hours where possible.
It might work to only travel in the morning, ensuring you arrive at your destination by lunchtime, with plenty of time to unpack and play and make the most of your day. This also means you’ll have plenty of time to set up while it’s still daylight!