Road Tripping with Children

by Petrol Mum

Who loves road trips? I’m guessing quite a few of you considering you’re here? But what about road trips with the children? I can hear you screaming ‘nooo’ right about now as you remember hours spent driving to your holiday destination as a child or more recently your delightful child throwing up all over the back seat of your car.

For me, I love taking road trips with my children, whether it is a short day trip or something a bit longer. I see these trips as a bonding experience both for the children and I, as well as the children and the car. What better way to build a love of cars in your children than by showing them the fun that can be had by driving somewhere special.

I’ve been taking my children on road trips basically since they were born and I believe this is partly the reason why they do not suffer from car sickness and also why they have an incredible sense of direction.

I’ve put together a few tips that I have learnt over the years for taking epic road trips with your children.

1. No electronic devices
There is always the temptation when you are on a long or even short trip of shoving a screen in front of your children so that you get some peace and quiet. I admit this may work for some, but as you know I’m quite old fashioned, so for me this is not the way to go.

By not giving your children a screen to look at they have to look out the window and observe where you are going, the change of scenery and the landmarks you are going passed. My children never cease to amaze me with the observations they make while we are driving. And for trips we’ve taken more than once they are able to pick where we are along the way.

For example my son will say ‘those gum trees look like the ones from where we were the other day’ when he is observing the different vegetation communities we drive passed. Or my daughter noticing we are not going the normal way to town and she said ‘mum are we going to the doctor?’, because the road I had taken was the one I drive on when we have to go to the doctor.

2. Rewards at the end of the trip
Parents use bribes, this is a fact that no one can deny. So the reward you will use will most likely depend on your child, but for my children the reward is usually a picnic in a new playground or a treat in a cafe.

When I want to go somewhere car related for me I always make sure that there is something in it for the children at the end of the drive so that they have a good time on the road trip as well.

For example we drove to Bathurst for a day trip just so we could drive around the Mt Panorama circuit as a family and I happen to discover there is an excellent playground at the top of the mountain where McPhillamy Park is. The view of the circuit from up there really is just fantastic.

Of course having a reward at the end of the trip requires some forward planning.

3. The Six P’s
If you have ever done any training for work you have probably heard of the five P’s. Well as I’m Australian it’s the six P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I have a ‘Type A’ personality, so I’m a planner. Whether it’s my week or a road trip, I like to have it well planned out.

When taking road trips with children planning is very important. Let’s start with the reward at the end of the trip. Google and Google maps with street view are your friend for this. Once you know your route and destination then you simply do a quick search to find that perfect park or cafe along the way or at the end of the trip. Google street view enables you to check out the equipment in a park and whether or not it has toilets.

No matter how good your children are they are going to need a break about every two hours. This is also important so that you as the driver can have a rest also. So plan regular breaks into your trip to avoid having ‘caged in children’ syndrome where they start whinging or poking fun at their sibling and generally driving you insane.

4. Healthy Snacks
I’m one of those parents who avoids bad foods for their children period, including lollies and soft drink. But I think this rule is really important for anyone taking their children on a road trip. By avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, you will avoid sugar highs and lows in children who may already be emotionally charged from sitting in a car for a long period of time.

Some of the snacks I suggest include sultanas and nuts, breadsticks, fruit and sandwiches and of course only water to drink. The added advantage of these snacks also includes they do not make a huge mess in your car, when they are inevitably spilled all over the seat and floor.

5. Good Music
This one may just be for the adults, but music is important for entertaining the whole family on a road trip. Hopefully your children are well educated when it comes to their musical taste. Mine have had to live with 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s music since they were born so it’s not a problem for us.
It will be interesting to see how our road trip music selection has affected them and if they relate certain trips with the music we have played. Only time will tell, I guess?

6. Car Games

My children aren’t big on car games, we play ‘I spy’ and I’ve always wanted to play ‘Car Cricket’ but it just is too hard. Please tell me some of the car games that you like to play on your road trips?

7. Activities and toys

Let your children choose a couple of activities or toys to take with them in the car. Things like colouring books and soft toys. You will be amazed how such simple things will keep them occupied for hours.

How do I know these tips work? Well apart from the regular day trips I have taken over the years we’ve had two long trips, one through Europe when our son was a toddler and another earlier this year to Adelaide with our son and daughter.

On our trip to Adelaide we covered almost 4,000kms because we took the coast road to Adelaide via Phillip Island and The Great Ocean Road and came home directly via Hay. This meant we did not cover the same piece of road and saw a large part of Australia that we had never seen before.

This was a two week trip, with the longest days in the car being around eight hours of driving. Along the way we only wanted to abandon our daughter on one day due to her incessant whinging, so I would call the trip a great success.
Our next road trip will most likely be ‘the big one’ one month across Europe and another month in North America, most likely in an RV. I will use every trick that I’ve learnt to make it the trip of a lifetime!

I would love to hear your road trip stories, both good and bad so we can all learn from each other and help create the next generation of petrolheads.

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