Travelling with Kids: Road Trip Edition

Dani Lee

First Milestone blog, road trip tips for young kids

With the holiday season coming up there's always lots of long distance travelling going on to make sure you can spend Christmas Day with your loved ones. While this can be nice as a couple without kids, adding a little one to the mix can make things crazy stressful for everyone involved.

We travelled a lot when our first son was small (now 5) and although we don't do it as much now we still road trip a few times a year, so I've compiled our own top 5 tips and tricks for making things that little bit easier, and asked some friends and fellow business owners for their contributions too. So if you're travelling this December (or any time!) with young kids or know someone who is, check out or top handy hints below! 

Overpack on the snacks so the kids are never moaning they're hungry. I try to make the lunchboxes a little bit more fun for long journeys so that they're less inclined to give me the ol' "I don't like this anymore, I don't want this," etc. If you can find a storage box with small compartments like these from The Warehouse they make the perfect road trip lunchbox. Pack each little section with something different - combinations of small items, new things and the odd exciting treat - and they'll be way happier with their feast than their normal lunch! Think things like cut up fresh fruit and veg, popcorn, nuts, dried fruit, sandwiches cut into tiny shapes with cookie cutters, mini muffins, cereal, pretzels, crackers etc. If you can find one that's leak proof you can even put dip or hummus in some of the compartments. Also keep a few extra bottles of water in the car so you can easily refill drinkbottles (especially crucial over summer) without having to make a stop each time.

This is something we used to do a lot, and in all honesty I still prefer it though we don't do it as much nowadays. We used to pack up the car, have a short sleep then leave around midnight for long haul trips or get up to leave at 3-4am to beat the traffic and be at our destination earlier in the morning. The kids are at an age where they will just go back to sleep in the car after an hour or so because they haven't had a full night of sleep. And especially with really tiny babies, most of the time they will just sleep and you can pull over every 2 hours for a stretch and a feed, get them back to sleep and away you go. This worked for our first who would sleep anywhere but our second hated the car seat and is only just getting over it now at 23 months so we didn't bother with him and just drove during the day like normal people. With older kids who likely won't sleep in the car I probably wouldn't bother unless they can entertain themselves on devices.

This is another one of those things that are really age dependent but really suitable for my kids age. We buy a cheap exercise book/scrapbook with lots of blank pages from the $2 shop or somewhere similar and a bunch of cheap packs of stickers (the kind where you get 1000+ stickers for a few dollars) and the kids just go nuts peeling and sticking their stickers in, and it keeps them entertained for AGES. Another handy tip with this one is to punch/slice a hole in the top corner of the book and tie it to the door so if they drop the book they can pull it back up themselves. We aren't really reliant on devices on our trips as we only have a phone each and no extra tablet or anything for the kids.

If you're travelling a route you haven't done before (or at least not for a long time) and you'll be driving during the day it's a good idea to map out where the playgrounds are and places you can stop for them to have a run around, or somewhere to have a picnic lunch. It's good to do the same with places they can go to the toilet if they're no longer in nappies so you don't drive past one only to have them need to go RIGHT NOW between stops. We also ask at every toilet if they need to go.

Some kids take a change in surrounding in their stride and are easily adaptable, but for those of them that aren't it's good to prepare them as far in advance as you can for what to expect from the trip. How long you'll be travelling for, where you'll be stopping, what kind of cool things they can look forward to seeing along the way, and what the final destination will be.

- We find stopping frequently for short periods a lot more manageable and easier on the kids than driving for several hours at a time only to have to wait through whinging and crying until the next available place to stop.
- If the kids are out of nappies then ask at every toilet stop if they need to go or take them just in case - otherwise they'll definitely need to go in between stops.
- If it's sunny stop whenever you find a playground, or if it's rainy or cold McDonald's playgrounds can be a God send.
- Check carseat installs before you leave, just to be on the safe side should anything happen. 
- Take a bucket and mints if anyone is carsick or hasn't travelled long distances or this particular route before.
- Pack plastic bags/something for rubbish to make it easier to get everything out of the car at your destination, there's nothing worse than worrying about packing up all your rubbish once you've arrived and want to sit down!
- Keep a first aid kit, pamol and thermometer in your car and easily accessible for emergencies.
- Keep a spare change of clothes easily accessible for everyone for toilet/vomit accidents/general spills - same for pyjamas if you know you'll be arriving to your destination late, no need to unpack all the bags to find pyjamas.
- Always keep spare rolls of toilet paper in the car!
- If you're travelling with tiny babies then add a full outfit change (right down to singlets and socks), a nappy and a travel pack of wipes in a ziplock bag somewhere easily accessible for poo explosions.
- For newborns make sure you stop and get baby out of the carseat for a stretch every 2 hours. You can even use this time to give them a feed to make sure the next stint of driving should be relatively worry free. 
- Bring a blanket/playmat you won't mind laying on the grass so baby can have a stretch and kick.
- Bring everyone sunglasses and sunblock for glare through the window and so you don't have to faff about applying when you get out for stops. 
- Get small cheap toys from secondhand stores/$2 shops etc. and wrap them individually, give one when a meltdown is coming so it not only keeps them quiet but provides a distraction to unwrap and then to play.
- Take kids shoes that can be slid on and off easily in the car so they can take their shoes off if they're uncomfortable.
- We love to take Busy Bags on our road or plane trips to keep the kids entertained, and bonus is that they're educational!
- Buy/hire CD's of songs, children's stories, nursery rhymes etc. so you don't have to worry about using Spotify or something while you're on the road if your kids are into music.

If you're travelling this summer make sure you stay safe on the roads, the road toll is so much higher over the silly season with so much extra traffic! I hope this little guide helps you out with some ideas for keeping organised and keeping the kids entertained (and your sanity a little more in tact!)

Dani x

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