Long Car Trips With Kids

The thought of heading off in the car on a long trip with the kids may be a little daunting but it doesn’t have to be, it is possible to enjoy yourselves and arrive at your destination with your sanity intact. A little advance planning is required; here are our tips to help you on your way:

  • Girl in car seatBefore heading off have the car serviced, get a safety check done and consider signing up for road side assistance with your local automobile club.
  • Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, you will need to take lots of breaks to allow kids to have a run and stretch their legs, feed everyone and give babies a break from capsules and car seats. If you see a great playground and its nearly break time, why not stop…the kids will love you for it and on getting back in the car you will love that they have burned off some energy. Be flexible and prepared to ‘go with the flow’ to keep everyone happy.
  • Pack a range of snacks and drinks for your kids, an Esky or something similar is good for keeping everything cool and together in one place. A non-spill Sippy cup is essential for babies, and if baby is formula fed consider investing in a bottle warmer that uses the car’s lighter for power.
  • Pack food for yourself so that if the kids are happily sleeping at meal times you can keep driving until babies or kids are awake and sick of the car.
  • If you are stopping at hotels / motels overnight, consider options that have a games room, swimming pool and or play equipment to make sure there is some element of fun to the trip for the kids.
  • Pack your travel necessities at the top of the boot so you can get at them for each over night stop without having to unpack the whole boot things like babies portacot, blankets and kids pj’s, perhaps even pack a special bag for the trip with enough clothes for the family for the trip to avoid having to take big pieces of luggage in and out of the car.
  • In the car make sure a bag of essentials is easily reachable with extra nappies, wipes, a change of clothes, a face cloth, paracetamol, spare dummies and a couple of plastic bags in case of wet or messy accidents.
  • Purchase some sun screen type window shades to protect baby (and help create a slightly darker sleeping environment.)
  • If your baby doesn’t like to be in the car in the dark try switching on the overhead reading light or if that is too distracting for the driver bring a battery operated night light and put it in the back seat with bub.
  • If your children will sleep in the car consider leaving home in the evening or night time. The kids can have dinner and bath time at home and then get in the car with their blankies (and pillows if age appropriate) and one parent can read the bed time story while the other drives.
  • Where possible pack the car so that one parent can move to the back seat to keep an unhappy baby company if required.
  • For older kids, consider allowing them to bring along a portable DVD player and their favourite movies or a hand help computer game (don’t forget spare batteries.)
  • Bring along a selection of toys and perhaps purchase a couple of small ones specifically for the car trip, keep them hidden until boredom really kicks in and then bring them out for a nice surprise.
  • Bring you little ones favourite cd’s and have a sing-along to Playschool or the Wiggles, also bring some nice relaxing sleepy time music.
  • The national public toilet map http://www.toiletmap.gov.au/ can help you plan your journey with stops based around where there are loos. If you have a recently toilet trained toddler; consider using pull up nappies for the journey just in case or pack a travel potty.
  • If you are travelling on your own with a baby it is a good idea to turn off the child locks in the backseat (we know of a mummy that got in the back seat to breastfeed bub and then had a LOT of trouble getting out after realising the child locks had her trapped in the back seat.)
  • Try to enjoy your trip, make it a fun family adventure and make sure you take lots of photos to document your first big road trip as a family.

New car seat laws for children exist; before you travel anywhere make sure your car seats comply. For further details consult the transport authority in your state:

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