With spring holidays at our doorstep, thousands of Aussie parents will be opting to take their little darlings on a much-needed break from the drama of school life. Many will be taking the ‘easy’ option of flying away.
When money is tight, or simply if you prefer to load kids into your car for that extremely intense bonding feeling (think Chevy Chase & National Lampoon’s Vacation), a road trip is the way to go.
How do parents deal with travel with multiple children who insist on whining ‘are we there yet?’ every five minutes? Or -- even worse -- kids who insist on fighting and name-calling.
Mother-of-two and parenting blogger Caro Webster said road trips do not have to be tortuous.
“While some mothers prefer to make regular stops to let kids out for exercise, my way is to get the pain out of the way very quickly and keep driving until you get there -- unless it’s more than a five-hour trip. For long trips, letting kids out for a run in a park or a food break is good. But, for short trips, just hit the road and get it over with as fast as possible,” Webster said.
Webster is a big fan of car games, from ‘I Spy’ to alphabet games to word play using other cars’ number plates -- but she said nothing beats good conversation.
“I try to think of a few topics to chat to the kids about. If they’re young, you can talk about anything from nature, to stories about fairies and encourage them to really think about things. For older kids, like tweens and teens, being in the car together can be an opportunity to discuss bigger issues like sex, drugs, dating and life in general.”
Sally Webb, author of Travel Without Tears told The Huffington Post Australia road trips shouldn’t be all hard work, but if you are well prepared, you can save yourself a lot of angst.
“Long journeys are also a perfect environment to impose your own music loves onto your children, so they know the words to every Johnny Cash song thanks to road trips with Daddy,” Webb said.
“It doesn’t have to be ten hours of boredom as you schlepp up the Pacific Highway to Brisbane. It can be invaluable, uninterrupted time for you and your family to talk. You’re a captive audience for each other, after all.”
Fill the esky with: fruit, cut into bite sized pieces, or whole apples and bananas; yoghurts in tubes (less mess, no spoons needed) frozen (so they keep other things cold); rice or corn cakes; peeled hard boiled eggs, cut in half, sprinkled with salt and pepper; sandwiches are easy too.
They are not daggy, they’re fun, especially when read by the likes of Stephen Fry, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench and Hugh Laurie. Roald Dahl’s BFG is our family favourite and covers almost half the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne.
Teach your children the games you played as a kid: I Spy, Spotto, the number plate game (finding A to Z on passing cars’ rego plates). We love Car Cricket. You can make up your own rules, but essentially each person in the car has an “innings”. If you pass a truck you get four runs, a car towing a caravan is a six, and if you pass a red car you’re out.
Some kids are quite comfortable reading or drawing in the car. Place a choice of books in places they can reach them easily, and perhaps take a small tray with Lego, small toys, or colouring books and pencils, which they can rest on their knees. Hours of family fun!
Kids can’t grizzle and suck on a sweet at the same time.
Keep the iPad as a last resort
Don’t start the journey with kids on screens. Hold the iPads/DVD players back until the kids really are at their wits ends. And don’t forget the headphones.
Clean up your act
You can never have enough tissues or baby wipes. A non-water hand sanitiser is also a good idea for the toilets you encounter along the way (or the emergency nature wee) where there might not be any running water and/or soap.
If all else fails, resort to bribery
Put a bag of jelly snakes on the dashboard and every time a child is out of line throw a snake out the window. Whether you give them one at the end is up to you.