Top 10 Tips to Survive a Driving Holiday

Annetta travelled by car all the way from Melbourne, Victoria to the little seaside town of 1770 (between Bundaberg and Gladstone in Northern Queensland) with her husband and two toddler daughters (a two and a one year old) to spend Christmas. She survived with her sanity intact and has kindly put together a list of tips to help other parents plan a drama free trip.

  1. Snacks, snacks and more snacks After packing your underwear and ensuring you have your toothbrush, make sure you have a variety of snacks for the journey. We found having a range of both healthy and not so healthy treats worked the best, using the not so healthy snacks when a bribe for quiet was required, or as a treat when the journey was a long one. Snacks that travel well were the best – bananas, dried fruit and rice biscuits were favoured by our kids.
  2. Activities for the car We packed drawing tables for the car that attach to the car seat and have a lip to prevent pencils from sliding off. These worked really well to keep kids amused for a while, as did packing their favourite books, music and small toys, such as Fisher Price Little People – which also don’t take up too much room.
  3. Take the laptop.. but not for work Wireless internet was such a bonus for our trip as we were able to plan our next move whilst on the move! We could book accommodation, research local parks and amenities, even find if the next major town had an indoor playcentre for the kids! The bonus of having the laptop meant we could access online restaurant reviews which helped us to decide if we were going to take out or cook in for the night. After a long day on the road, being able to find good food without fuss meant bringing the laptop was well worth it. 
  4. Have a back up for the GPS We learnt the hard way - make sure you have physical road maps for your journey, as well as the GPS. We spent a very scary couple of hours travelling along a mainly dirt road (or mud as it was raining at the time), following the misdirected directions of our GPS! With civilisation far behind us, no mobile signal to speak of, we finally reached the road that was to take us back to the land of the living… to find it was a no through road, and had to spend another hour or so going back the way we came!
  5. Portable DVD players are your friend Stack up the car with the kids favourite films and TV shows, and a couple they haven’t seen before and head off. It was a great way to keep the kids entertained for some of the longer treks. Best advice would be to purchase a portable DVD player with its own battery, we made the mistake of not checking beforehand, and had to have the DVD constantly plugged into the power, okay if you have a car with more than one 12V plug, awful if you don’t and have to charge the GPS. 
  6. Take your own pillows Especially for the kids, taking their own pillows from home made settling them at night so much easier, as they had a scent from home that made where ever we were for the night more familiar. It makes your own sleep better as well. 
  7. Toilet Training? My two year old was toilet trained before the trip, however we found putting her in nappy pants a lot easier option, at least then if we couldn’t find a toilet stop, we prevented any accidents from occurring, and if you are on the road in the middle of nowhere, trying to clean out a car seat and placate a child would be far from entertaining. 
  8. Go the fast food restaurant With fast food restaurants you know what you are getting; a toilet stop and a place for the kids to play for half and hour and wash away the cobwebs. The facilities are usually clean and well maintained, a definite bonus when you are away from home. 
  9. Break up your travel Try leaving early in the morning to be at your destination for the night by around lunchtime that day. That way, the kids have the afternoon to settle in to the new caravan park, go for an outing to the local park or tourist attraction, and you have time to relax before starting it all again the next day. We would work out the distance we wanted to travel, and that would work out what time we would need to head off the next day. 
  10. Stretch out the journey and try a cabin We purchased a caravan park membership which gave us an accommodation discount. I’d definitely recommend staying overnight at a caravan park in a cabin and get a good night’s rest before starting again on the road the next morning. This way, you can cook your own meals, make a reasonable amount of noise (you can let your kids settle to sleep without the guilt you feel at a motel/hotel), and depending on where you stay, a swimming pool and a playground for the kids.

Best tip of all? Take it easy, take your time and listen to your instincts; if you are tired, its time to swap drivers or pull over for a break. Your destination can wait for you to get there.

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