How to Survive and Actually Enjoy Road Trips with Kids

Surviving a long car trip with the kids. Image courtesy of qgil’s/flickr.com

The difficulty of taking road trips with kids has been extensively documented from various experiences of parents. It is not an exaggeration to say that bringing along young children on any kind of travel presents numerous challenges to the accompanying adults. The challenges range from avoiding tantrum episodes to making the trip truly exciting for children. It is also a challenge of survival for parents and their creativity in making the road trip enjoyable to the whole family.

Preparation

A big part of the success of a road trip lies in the preparation. Preparation involves the things that will definitely be needed in trips that include children. These will include food, clothes, and basic toiletries. Since children’s boredom can be a major issue in a long trip, it is likewise necessary to bring along things that can entertain them. No family with young children should board a car for a long trip without toys, board games, and even books.

Child Car Accessories

It is necessary for parents to ensure that the required child car accessories and equipment are in the car before the family leaves for the trip. This is both for the comfort and safety especially of young children. There are several accessories and equipment mandated by law to be included in a car with children passengers. Others can provide added comfort to the children.

Driving Pace

Children are not as accepting of the rigors of long road trips as adults. It is highly advisable to make scheduled stops in safe places. These stops would provide the necessary break from the strain of sitting in the car for long stretches of time.

Movie Time

Parents should make sure to pack in a movie or two just to have a relatively quiet time of two hours or even less. The parent who is not driving can watch the movie with the kids or simply rest listening to music. Kids will have to be provided earphones of course so the two activities can be simultaneously done. Spouses can take turns driving whenever possible so that each will have ample rest.

Eating and Drinking

Let’s face it, providing something to eat and drink to children while on the road can help keep them settled for a while. The choice should be limited to food items they like which are not too messy. Ready snacks both for parents and children make it easier to wait for the next appropriate stop for a food break. Hunger tends to dampen family enjoyment.

A road trip with the family may require a bigger car. Aside from the family members, there will be a need to accommodate the things needed to make the trip more comfortable for everybody. This would necessitate having more space.

Since it is quite impractical to buy a new car just for the trip, the best option is to hire a car that offers the required space for passengers and the cargo. Hiring a car for road trips is highly convenient because of the available options. More information about car hire can be found online.

Parents and children can survive and actually enjoy taking road trips as one happy family. It should be done however with careful thought of the safety and comfort of everyone but especially the children. The next time you take a road trip with young children in tow, make sure to consider the suggestions above.

About the Author
Teresa is a mother of three who is fond of taking her kids on road trips.

Campervanning With The Kids

The twins, the teen and myself were beside ourselves with excitement as we hit the open road. Ah freedom! Travelling in a campervan made us all feel like gypsies, or perhaps snails, carrying our home with us. A campervan expedition had appealed for years, but my hubby was dead set against, being strictly a five star traveller.

Independence is my middle name, but I did worry that I’d never manage one of the bigger campervans around safely on my own. So when Dad and the Giant Teen spent a few days golfing, myself and the three younger kids grabbed the chance to jump into a smaller campervan and head for the hills. We tried the 4-berth Jucy Grande and it worked out really well for us. The seats are very large and comfortable and really the van wasn’t much bigger than the 7-seater I usually drive. In the Grande, you make a double berth inside the van by pulling seats down. Then there’s the small double berth on top, called the Penthouse.

There were great debates and disputes amongst the kids about who would sleep up top.  Generally my 13 year old slept up there with one of the six year old twins, whilst I slept with the other twin in the van itself. My six year olds are quite brave little people and they enjoyed the adventure of sleeping up on top of the van. They were probably only just old enough for it, and they did have an elder brother up there with them. The great joy of a little van like this is that everything has its place. There are nooks and crannies for everything, the chairs stow under the seats, the kitchen has all sorts of clever drawers. I think that using the kitchen in the back of the van was the highlight of the expedition for my little girl and I.

There’s a mini fridge, a little sink with a cold water tap. There are plates, pans, cutlery and tea towels, all cleverly and neatly stowed. I spent my childhood holidays sailing around the Western Isles of Scotland in a small boat and knew the joys of small places, of everything going where it belongs.  It is a bit like living in a dolls’ house and my little girl loved this aspect.

One of my holiday bugbears is the useless curtain, the one that lets through loads of light which wakes the kids horrifyingly early. Well the Jucy had none of those issues as there are thick blinds that come down for each and every window, and they have press studs to hold them tight.  No light penetrates and a mini sleep-in is possible. We did a glamping sort of camping, choosing to have a powered site with an en suite at the Valley Vinyard Tourist Park in the Hunter Valley. This meant we had our own little bathroom with a shower and big laundry sink as well as smaller vanity sink.

That space made our trip much easier as we kept our bags in there and some food too. It didn’t cost too much at all to have that en suite powered site so I’d really recommend it for non-hardcore campers like ourselves. The holiday park also had a huge pool and that was a bit of a life saver as the weather was boiling hot. The kids could cool off and so could I. You can’t get away from the fact that campervans, like tents, are hot when the weather’s hot. So some nights were a bit sticky and sweaty in the van. But that’s all part of the outdoorsy type of holiday, isn’t it?

This post is written by Seana Smith. Seana was born and brought up in Scotland. She became a passionate fulltime Sydneysider 14 years ago when she turned up with her husband and her first son.  Three more children came along to add further chaos.

Seana’s first book was ‘Sydney For Under Fives’ now in its third edition. Seana blogs at: Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel. Her latest book is ‘Sydney’s Best Beaches For Kids.’ Seana loves sharing her knowledge of family travel and Sydney’s best places for families. Drop in anytime!

Seana and the kids were loaned the campervan by Jucy Rentals – many thanks Jucy.

Top Tips For A (Relatively) Peaceful Car Journey

Planning ahead can help you go from this…

It’s one thing to drive the kids to school or to the shops; it’s quite another thing to set off with them on a long car journey! Unless you put in some careful preparation then you are likely going to be in for a long day of ‘are we nearly there yet’ – and believe us, that can test the resolve of even the most patient of parents!

Here are a few quick tips which should help your car journey run as smoothly as possible:

Make space
If you are travelling in cramped conditions, then everyone is likely to be more on edge.  Try not to fill the car up to the ceiling (we know it can be tricky!), not only is it potentially dangerous- you should ensure you can still use all your mirrors freely- but it makes for an unpleasant journey.

Regular breaks
You’ll probably want to get the journey out of the way as quickly as possible – we understand the feeling – but taking regular breaks is a good means to reduce the stress of travelling. Kids have a lot lower boredom threshold than adults and what may seem like a reasonable amount of time to be driving for you, can seem like a lifetime for them.

Keep an eye open for a nice spot to stop, get out, stretch your legs and try and take part in a fun activity; perhaps a picnic, a play in a park or looking at something out of the ordinary. If you can, try to plan these stops before you set off as it will give you and your kids something to look forward to.

Snacks

…to peace and quiet

This is quite a difficult one to get right! On the one hand a long journey can be seen as a good opportunity to allow your kids to snack on their favourite treats in the hope it’ll keep them well behaved. On the other hand the last thing that you want is a hyperactive child trapped in a car – make sure you pick your treats wisely!

Games
Every parent has faced the problem of trying to get their kids to stop playing on their Gameboys or Vitas (or whatever new fangled thing it is these days!) but car journeys are one occasion when it might be wise to make an exception! You may even want to consider buying a new game to keep them occupied.

For parents less willing to sell their principles for a few hours of peace then a great alternative is a game of eye-spy. You will be amazed, even in this day and age, how a game of eye-spy can capture the imagination. A slight riff on the classic version is to produce a list of things which you are likely to see on your journey and start a competition to see who can tick them all off first. But be prepared for some serious cheating!

Night Drive
It might not always be practical for you to drive at night, but if it is then it’s definitely worth considering. Just imagine it – 300km and not a single peep!

Improvised Car Entertainment for Kids

Kids on a Road Trip

When taking a car trip with children, it can sometimes become necessary to improvise somewhat on the entertainment front. Whilst holidays and long drives might be organised well in advance, sometimes an impromptu car journey can catch you off-guard. Here are a few ways in which a little imagination can help to keep kids entertained.

Firstly, if you discover that you’re in for an unexpectedly long journey, then it’s time to keep your eye’s peeled for any possible stop-offs that you may be able to make. You might not have the luxury of service stations (where you would be able to stock up on everything from snacks to magazines and activity books), but a quick stop almost anywhere can make all the difference. Spotted a van selling freshly-picked strawberries? They might mean your kids end up with sticky fingers, but it can stop them getting hungry and bored, at least temporarily.

You’d also be surprised how much entertainment can be had from even just a basic car radio or stereo. If you suddenly find yourself stuck in a traffic jam or waiting for breakdown recovery services from someone like the RAC, then your car stereo can provide the perfect solution. Be sure to keep a couple of favourite CDs in the car or have some kids music ready to go on your iPod.  Audio books are also often popular with children of all ages. If you don’t mind a little noise, then a sing-along can help make the take pass more quickly – at least for the children.

Playing some car/travel games can also be a fun way to keep the kids entertained on long car trips. Have a look at a few ideas here –  In the car games.

Lastly, you can simply use what’s around you. If you’re taking long trip, then the chances are that your children won’t be familiar with area. Point out landmarks, and try to make the journey as interesting as possible to stop them getting restless. A great game using your surrounds is the road sign game where kids have to find certain road signs, animals, cars etc and write a tally mark when they see it. My kids love this game and you can adapt it to suit where you are easily.

Fantastic new kids travel packs – keeps travelling kids busy!

ZoomPacks

We have recently discovered a great new range of activity packs for kids, ZoomPacks, which are designed specifically for travelling kids. The packs were created by Sally Ferreira after she spent hours trying to keep her kids entertained on long plane trips between Australia and Argentina.

Zoom Packs are an item that should sit on the top of the ‘to pack’ list when travelling interstate and abroad as they really do help make the trip so much easier as your kids are entertained and not continually asking ‘how long until we get there!’ They are also educational and kids will learn fine motor skills like threading, collage, mosaic and so on.

The Zoom Packs come in 3 age appropriate packs – for the Littlies (1-2 years), for the Middlings (3-5 years) and for the Biggies (4-7 years) – there are 2 packs in each age bracket to choose from.

We tested out 2 sizes with our kids as follows:

Middlings Pack

The Middlings pack

  • the pack has 2 lacing cards (perfect as the kids could do 1 each)
  •  a dry erase board which my daughter loves for drawing pictures or writing words
  • a journal which was perfect for my son to write about his holiday
  • a sticker book where your child has to find the sticker that matches the picture and then colour in the picture to match the sticker – both kids loved this book and it kept them busy for hours!
  • Some crayons, foam stickers and a collage board perfect for kids to make their own creation!
  • A pencil case to keep all the small bits in
  • And best of all a sheet of great tips for travelling and games to play whilst travelling
  • The pack also comes in a calico messenger bag to keep everything together

Biggies Pack

We also tested out the Biggies Pack which is ideal for the older kids (4-7 years)

  • Like with the Middlings Pack the ideas for games in the car were fantastic
  • The Mosaic Sticker Set is great and a really good activity to do with Mum or Dad (we were stuck waiting for ages in the car one day and this was a perfect time filler!)
  • The beads and string was a huge hit for threading a necklace – good for boys and girls
  • The washable markers are great
  • Again it comes with a pencil case for keeping everything together and a dry erase board which is ideal to use in the car or plane
  • The journal was excellent to write what we did on our holiday – it is a perfect size to draw a picture and write about the activities of each day
  • The only item we did not use from this pack were the washable paints

The Zoom Packs are a great idea and I would highly recommend them to anyone planning a trip. I would even suggest keeping a pack in the car for those times you are stuck in a doctors waiting room or heading out for dinner. (since our holiday my kids still love using them at home)

The key to keeping kids happy when they are in a confined space is keeping them busy and the Zoom Packs certainly achieve this. They also appeal to a range of ages and kids personalities – there is sure to be something in the pack that everyone will love!

For more information visit Zoom Packs here.

In Car Accessories – organise the family car!

Carganizer

Carganizer

Are you sick of kid’s toys, food wrappers, drink bottles, sporting gear, your mobile phone and more rolling around and cluttering up your car? Life with kids can involve a lot of time spent in the family car – going to school/kindy, after school activities, weekend sport, birthday parties and holidays – as mums and dads we often feel like a taxi service!

Keeping your car organised can make this time in the car a little more enjoyable as everything will have a place, you will easily be able to find things and you will feel like the car is all in control!

There is a fantastic range of interior car accessoriesavailable that is all superb quality and can organise every bit of your car from the driver, to the rubbish, the kid’s toys and all the gear in the boot. We use them for our kids and they are fantastic!

In this post we talk about a few of the range:

Let’s start at the front of the car – the driver!

Swingaway

Swingaway

For the driver there is the Swingaway or Carganizer – both of these organisers have loads of pockets to hold all of the essentials you have in the car. There are places for your mobile phone, GPS, directions, mail, CD’s, tissues and wipes, drinks, your sunglasses and anything else you need close at hand. One sits on the passenger seat, and one hangs – so whatever your personal taste, they will both organise you!

The other item the driver can use is the Puff & Stuff– I have this one in my car and cannot live without it. It has a great spot at the base for a box of tissues, two side mesh pockets which I use for wipes, and a leak proof rubbish bin at the top, so handy when the kids hand me their banana peel or dirty tissue, or for my empty coffee cup!

Puff & Stuff

Puff & Stuff

There is also a floor rubbish bin that can sit in the front or back, again is 100% leak proof so great for half consumed drinks, it has a weighted base and rigid sidewalls to keep it sturdy and will hold loads of family rubbish!

And for the kids:

For the kids, there are 2 types of organisers – the Kids Car Organisers that sit in between 2 kids/car seats and the Back Seat Organisers, which hang on the back of the front seats. The beauty of both types is they will hold all of your kid’s toys, snacks, drinks etc, all within easy reach of your kids, so no more, Mum I can’t reach it!

Kids Car Organiser

Kids Car Organiser

Back Seat Organiser

Back Seat Organiser

The Kids Car Organiser has loads of room for kid’s toys with adjustable dividers so kids can separate their gear. It has a place for their drinks, a sturdy lid the kids can play a game on and attaches to the car with the seat belt to keep it secure. The Back Seat Organisers are great too for holding kids books and toys and work well if you have 3 kids along the back row. They are also good for adult stuff to hold your maps, umbrella and so on.

And the boot:

And for the boot of the car, you can’t go past the Cargo Tote or Cargo Pack – both provide handy storage for sporting gear and other things that normally roll around the boot of your car. The Cargo Tote is perfect for holding grocery bags and can then fold away when not in use.

Finally – grab some Car Hooks – perfect for hanging up your dry cleaning or other clothes, or for shopping bags to get them off the floor!

Cargo Pack

Car Hooks
Car Hooks

 


Other posts you might enjoy reading:

Travelling in the car – how to keep kids entertained

Travelling in the car – tips and a checklist

Travelling in the car – how to keep kids entertained

Alex Toys Car Valet - great for drawing in the car

Alex Toys Car Valet – great for drawing in the car

We all love a road trip. But let’s face it, children can be a nightmare in the back seat, causing all sorts of distraction to your driving, it is a wonder car insurance premiums don’t rise with your first born!

With the right prior planning, even the most energetic offspring can be entertained on a long car journey. Here are a few simple and time-tested ways to keep your kids entertained so that you can concentrate on your safe driving.

1. Car activities and games for kids are a real winner in the car for their enjoyment and for your sanity. Great activities and games for the car include colouring in, i-spy, first one to see, counting games, car bingo, rhyming games and make up a song games. Download some car games that are great fun and sure to keep kids entertained!

2. Another great activity for kids from 2 years in the car is a sticker book – you will not have to worry about toys rolling onto the floor and they will love spending time finding where the stickers go. Buy a new one for a long car trip.

3. Car organisers are also good in the car to hold the kids toys, drinks and snacks

High Road Kids Car Organiser

High Road Kids Car Organiser

4. Also try the Car Valet or Desk to Go from Alex Toys – your kids will be able to easily draw, colour in and do activities whilst travelling

Adore A View Mirror

Adore A View Mirror

5. If travelling with babies, the Adore A View Mirror is an excellent toy, as you will easily be able to see baby when they are rear facing but they can also see themselves – which is always great entertainment for them!

6. Music is also good entertainment in the car. There are some great CDs for kids featuring nursery rhymes and other kids songs as well as classical music toned for little ears. It’s amazing sometimes the difference it makes to your child’s behaviour by changing the music in the car from your favourite FM station to putting on a classical CD…kids can calm down very quickly.

7. Audio CDs books – a fun way for the kids to read, listen and follow a story

8. If you have older kids, give them a map so they can see where they are going and they can follow the way and look out for the next city or town.

9. They could also write down things they have seen, new foods they have eaten, the weather etc from their trip in a travel diary.

10. A portable DVD or CD/MP3/iPod player is also great entertainment for older children.

Blog us your favourite tools or tips to keep kids entertained in the car

Travelling in the car – tips and a checklist

girl in car5844152Travelling in the car with kids can be challenging at times. Here’s a checklist for keeping kids well fed and comfortable in the car – to make car time more enjoyable for all!

1. Always pack snacks, water bottles and if applicable, 2-3 baby bottles (with the correct water in each bottle and pre-measured formula in separate containers). You never know how long you can be held up in traffic or delayed at your destination so always take more food or drinks than required. There is an in car bottle warmer available so you can easily feed when on the go.

2. If travelling with more than one child, have a snack bag for each (with same contents to avoid fights). Include things like dry fruit, rice crackers, sandwiches, mini muffins and maybe a few small treats. Don’t fill them up on too much sugar though as they will then want to run around not sit in a car! There are some great food containers available that keep the contents cold for up to 8 hours – so you can safely take milk,  yoghurt and cheese on long trips.

3. If you are on a long car trip, pack an “in car” and an “in boot” bag with snacks. Take enough snacks and drinks from home so you can refills for the first few days of the trip so you don’t have to go to the shops straightaway.

4. Always keep in the boot of your car – a hat for each child, sunscreen, a few nappies and wipes, a portable potty, nappy sacks, pram/stroller, books/toys/activities, a blanket if it’s cold weather, first aid kit (include insect bite relief, burn cream, insect repellant).

5. If you are on a long trip, plan to stop every couple of hours for a toilet break, drink, something to eat and depending on the time of day some activity time. You can take a basketball or soccer ball so the kids can have a run around. If your kids get restless in the car and you have a very long drive, travel at night so they sleep in the car.

6. If your child is toilet training, you can take a travel potty with you and keep it always in the car, even if your child is well trained. Use a seat protector so if your child wets in the car, their car seat is protected.

Blog us your thoughts and any ideas for keeping kids comfortable in the car and any great in car snacks for kids.

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Toilet training tips when out and about with toddlers

iStock_000010127071XSmall[1]Toilet training and going out – now this is an experience! Seriously, if you are well prepared and well equipped it’s possible. Some kids only take a few days to toilet train, while others take a few months, so you will need to learn how to manage a child who is being toilet trained when out and about.

1. Preparation is the key – try to relax and remain calm.

2. Try and get your child to go to the toilet before you leave as this might ensure the car trip is dry.

3. At the shops, park, or wherever you are always find out where your closest parents room or toilet is, so last minute ‘I need to do a wee’ screams are less stressful.

4. When you arrive at your destination, take your child to the toilet. Then ask your child regularly if they need to do go. A good idea is to take them again before you sit down for morning tea or lunch, otherwise the minute your food and drinks arrive will be the time you will need to rush off!

Things to take with you when toilet training

1. 3 or 4 changes of clothes, including their very special undies, shirts, shorts, a few nappy sacks or bag-it bags for dirty clothes

2. A treat to reward if they do a wee or poo in the toilet (eg a sticker or chocolate)

3. A Portable Potty – this is the most essential item to keep in the car at allRed Potette 150x130 times (even after they are fully trained). The child does a wee or poo straight into the plastic potty bag, which then easily comes off to throw away. The potty comes in it’s own carry bag and it collapses down to a great travel size. It can fit in your handbag or under the pram. It is fantastic if you are going to the park where there are no toilets and also on a long car/walking trip. You can park the car and put it next to the car. A tip is to set up a clean potty refill bag in the potty after each use so you are ready to go for the next quick emergency.

4. Flushable wipes are very handy if there is no toilet paper in public toilets.

5. In the car, if you are concerned about your child wetting, you can use a seat protector which will keep your car seat dry and saves you having to strip the whole car seat if they have an accident.

6. Always ensure you have some anti-bacterial wipes for wiping up accidents or wiping down toilet seats, and an anti-bacterial spray.

7. Finally, as hard as it is try not to get upset if there are accidents when you are out, your child is learning something very new. Praise effort and success and ignore accidents as it could crush their confidence and set back their toilet training progress.

Travelling while toilet training

1. Take your travel potty with you so it’s handy to pull out at any time. You can fit a change of clothes, undies, wipes and nappy sacks (for soiled clothes) inside the potty bag.

2. Take a Brolly Sheet – this is a waterproof sheet protector that goes over the sheet. This is great to take on holidays so you don’t have to worry about the hotel/resort bed getting wet. The Brolly Sheet is useful at home as well.

3. If it’s early stages of training, it’s probably best not to travel too far or try anything too adventurous as you don’t want your child to feel stressed and go backwards in progress. Try not to put your child back in nappies as this might confuse them.

Let us know your top toilet training tips.

Other post you might enjoy reading:

In Car Accessories – organise the family car!

Travelling in the car – how to keep kids entertained