Surviving a Road Trip with Kids

Once upon a time road trips used to be fun. When it was just hubby and me, we would drive up to Coffs Harbour and enjoy the trip. The six hours would be spent listening to music, chatting about what we wanted out of life, and just enjoying each others company.

Skip forward a few years, and that once pleasant six-hour trip makes me an anxious mess.

With a one and a three-year-old now tagging along, surviving the drive with my sanity still intact is the only goal.

We did the trip up to Coffs last school holidays. Before we had even reached Chatswood my husband and I were fantasising about how great a Tesla would be right about now.

Having made it to the Mid-North Coast and back (with the return trip taking a painstakingly slow 8 hours due to bad traffic), I have a few tips on how to keep your sanity when road tripping with kids.

Align driving with sleep times

To drive up to Coffs we made the decision to leave at 7 pm around the kid’s bedtime. Not only would this mean we would avoid the ridiculous peak hour traffic over the Bridge, we also hoped that the kids would fall asleep fast.

So with the kids in their pyjamas all buckled into their seat belts, we set off for the night. Hubby had a few hours nap during the day to make sure he would not be too tired to drive late at night.

This tactic worked well for us this time around. Both kids fell asleep before we reached the other side of Sydney.

Be warned though, the sleep time tactic can backfire spectacularly. This time last year, when our little one was only about 6 months old we decided to use the same approach. It was the worst two hours of screaming I had ever heard. She was still in her capsule which she hated, so once she moved to a car seat that made all the difference.

Pack at least two changes of clothes

On that trip where the little one screamed for two hours she also vomited all over herself. What fun!

So it is best to always have a couple of changes of clothes within arms reach.

Even if you manage to avoid vomit there is always a drink that ends up spilt or food stains all down the front of a shirt.

Food is your friend

Pack lots and lots of snacks. By lots, I mean more than you could ever need for the duration of the trip. When you think you have enough, double it and you should be just about right.

When Miss 3 would start to get stir crazy and ask for the hundredth time ‘áre we there yet?’ a little snack would have the desired effect to keep her quiet. Even if only for a few minutes whilst she chewed.

If you have younger children who have not started solids yet, bring a few extra bottles along. The last thing you want is to end up in a traffic jam that delays your trip and not have enough milk to cover the delay. Of course, if you are still breastfeeding, factor in additional travel time to stop and feed.

Take proper pit stops

When we used to travel up to Coffs pre-kids we would power through with one quick drive-thru break. But with two kids in tow, we needed to be prepared to stop every couple of hours. Luckily we did not need to stop on the way up as the kids slept. But we drove back home during the day so stopped for half an hour twice along the way.

Top tips to survive a car trip with kids

Give up the dream of arriving on time

Even getting out the door to go to the shops can be a chore. So packing for a road trip is never going to see you break any records for reaching your destination on time.

For us, there is always something that I remember we need to get from the house, just as we are about to pull out of the driveway.

With extra pit stops factored in it is best to give up the notion before you even leave the house that you will make the trip in the time frame Google Maps suggests.

Add some entertainment to the trip

My husband was lucky enough to be able to listen to his selection of music on the drive up the Coast as the kids slept.

On the drive home, we had Trolls, Moana and The Wiggles on rotation. It kept the kids somewhat amused. We also played spot the cows and horses which Miss 3 loved. We recited the alphabet about 50 times (can any 3-year-old get LMNOP right!?) A toddlers version of eye spy also added some entertainment.

Let me tell you how a toddler version of eye spy goes down. Miss 3 says “I spy with my little eye something red”. Mum and dad take turns guessing – red light, brake light, street signs, dad’s t-shirt. Nope, none of these is right. We give up, Miss 3 what is it? ‘’The door at kindy”. Yep, cos we would have totally guessed that given we are 3 hours away from kindy. Plus the door is actually more orange than red, but that’s a debate for another day.

For the 8 hours it took us to get home, we were pretty lucky that the kids only started to get stir crazy once we hit Warringah. This was when we needed to pull out the big guns. Miss 3 ended up watching Peppa Pig on dad’s phone and our 18-month-old was using a Peppa Pig paint program on the iPad.

We try and only bring out the electronics when we are a good way into the trip. Even I was over being in the car by the time we reached Sydney. So to avoid more whining I was more than happy for the kids to watch something that kept them entertained.

By setting realistic expectations before you set off on a trip, it can take a lot of the anxiety out of a long trip with kids. Do you have any other tips on surviving a car trip with little ones?

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