This is guest post by Gwen Mackey. You can follow her on Twitter.
Have you ever been on a family holiday and just couldn’t wait for it to be over? Hopefully, you haven’t. Unfortunately, this is the exact feeling I had quite recently. My husband and I wanted to do the family road trip thing, driving from Sydney to the Gold Coast. The plan was to end up on the Gold Coast ready to take on the fun at the famous theme parks. However, by the time we got to the Gold Coast, I was more than happy to just turn around and go home again!
I learned a lot from the trip and from this experience, and I now know what I need to do in the future so that my husband and I don’t have a breakdown (again!). Although the experience was overwhelming, I know that with a bit more preparation and having a plan in place then our trip will go more smoothly next time.
Plan, plan, plan
One of the biggest pitfalls we experienced was not planning nearly enough. We severely underestimated the duration of the trip and the items we would need. Therefore, planning will always be key. Whether it’s an interstate trip or a drive that will take a couple of hours to get to a relative’s house, planning the actual trip and the roads to take is necessary.
We live in a day and age where our phones can tell us exactly where to go, when to turn and what roads to take. But, unfortunately, these aren’t always the best options. The GPS on our phones led us to a number of roads that weren’t up to date or weren’t the best choice. Had we taken the time to view the most up-to-date map before leaving – and planned the roads to take – we would have gotten to our destination a lot easier.
Plan together as a family
One thing I wished I had done before our trip was to tell the kids a little more about where we were going and what we were doing. My youngest daughter experienced some anxiety on the road. You see, I never mentioned to them that the trip could potentially mean several hours in the car. The most I mentioned was that we were driving to Queensland to go to theme parks. Needless to say, after five hours on the road, my beautiful girl was getting quite restless and wanted to go home again. Had we planned the route with her and explained the timeframe of the trip, she likely would have been able to better prepare herself mentally for the trip ahead.
A great way to plan together as a family is to create a checklist of essential items you will need when hitting the open road. Don’t wait until the night before! Keep a list that is visible to the whole family, say on the fridge, so they can all help with the list.
Make sure you stop and rest
Planning a trip should also include planning stops. There were a number of times when we’d pass a town and within 15 minutes, the kids needed to go to the toilet or cried out that they were hungry. Because we didn’t plan our stops, this led to long lengths of time on the road filled with the kid’s whining. Not only is it ideal to stop for toilet breaks and much-needed food, part of the fun is seeing the sights along the way.
I would highly recommend to stop and rest every two hours. Make time to stop at some of the beautiful towns you’re bound to pass through and make some memories along the way. One of the great things about Australia is the amount of ‘giant’ things we have. The popular ones are The Big Banana, the Big Golden Guitar and The Big Prawn, which are always fun for everyone to ooh and aah over.
Check your vehicle thoroughly
One of the key things to remember is to check your car before leaving. Having your car overheating on the side of the road is never fun (trust me), so giving your car a once-over before leaving is ideal. This includes checking all fluids like water and coolant levels, oil, steering fluid and of course, keeping petrol levels up. Even if your fluid levels are all in check, it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep these fluids on board in case anything was to happen. Keeping bottles of water, coolant and the oil stocked for your car is likely to come in handy.
Remember that safety is always first
As careful as we are, something always happens and someone will get hurt, stung or itchy from something. This is exactly what happened with my family. Half way through our trip, one of the children got a nasty sting and, of course, we hadn’t planned properly and the first aid kit was still at home. Needless to say, this resulted in a pit stop to a small town to pick up supplies.
According to a recent survey, nearly 19% of people going on road trips don’t have anyone organising a first aid kit for their trip. You can save a lot of time and hassle by ensuring you have a suitable first aid kit on board. Make sure to include items like anti-sting creams, bandages, antiseptic wipes and even painkillers and antihistamines.
Keep the kids entertained
Our kids didn’t say “Are we there yet?” over and over again, but they did get bored. The tablets and smartphones only give them so much entertainment (and battery life), plus we try and limit their time in front of a screen. The family road trip is one way to get the family together for some fun activities along the way. Whether it’s having a karaoke competition or playing games like ‘I Spy” and ‘20 Questions’, you can have a lot of fun along the way. If those kinds of games seem a little too old hat, there are few more options for road games for kids you should try out. For times when singing and pointing things out get a little worn, colouring books, travel games like Guess Who, books, magazines, comics and easy origami are great items.
Planning for a great road trip with the family
When my husband and I next decide to take on the open road with the kids, we know there are a few things we need to prepare and plan ahead of time so that everyone is happy. Depending on your next trip, you may have a lot to plan or a little. Either way, planning is key, and preparing yourself for things that might not even happen will help to ensure your trip is as stress-free as possible.