Long trips with kids?
It’s enough to put parents off any holiday that requires their kids sit in one place for more than about an hour! They can be excruciating for sure. I recall returning from a holiday with our three kids on an epic 38 hours travel leg, only to have a milk induced vomit projected across the backseat of our car only 20 minutes from our front door! 20 minutes!!!! Truly a nightmare! I’ll spare you the details but let me just say that the curdled milk was everywhere, including in the air-conditioning vent and the tracks of the front car seats. Very, very bad way to end a holiday!!
But I am older and wiser now. I have learnt a few things about travelling with kids that can make it a whole lot easier (not the least of which is no big milkshakes for kids at the airport before driving home!). Here are my top 5 tips for managing long trips with kids:
1. Work with existing sleep patterns. Try to cover the km’s when they are sleeping, when they would normally sleeping. So for example when we drive to Queensland from Sydney (about a 12 hour drive if you are going straight through) we leave at about 6:00pm. By 8:00pm we stop for a roadside dinner. By 9:00pm they are all fast asleep in the back seat and we can drive as late as we like. We usually stop half way at a motel and transfer them all into their beds. Next morning we are all good to go with only a short run left.
2. Plan your entertainment and drip feed it. Have a bag ready with books, colouring in stuff, music etc BUT don’t give it all to them at once. Let them sit and enjoy the ride for the first hour then hand over ONE source of entertainment. Let them enjoy it to death…then be bored for a little while, then hand over piece number two. You get way more mileage from your entertainment this way.
3. Be ready and willing to be part of the entertainment. Don’t think you can recline your chair and watch the gripping inflight movie in peace while they are still awake. It’s not going to happen. If you are going to watch something, make it short and easily interruptible like a sit-com or music videos. That way they can (and will!) interrupt you and you won’t get (as) annoyed.
4. Feed and clean them up first. I find kids love travel food. Be it the fun inflight meals, the roadside McDonald’s or the motel breakfast with toast in paper sleeves and orange juice with a little paper lid on the glass. So hold your own hunger and get them fed. Don’t even look at your food until they have eaten and you have cleaned up all the paraphernalia. Once they are contented they will leave you alone so you can enjoy your meal in semi-peace.
5. Stop, revive and survive. Kids need more breaks to go to the toilet, stretch their legs or simply for a change the scenery once in a while. Plan the stops as much as you can and take them. I know we all like to make great time but with kids on long trips it is an exercise in diminishing returns. If you don’t stop and refresh frequently enough the kids WILL go into meltdown at some point, and that tipping point is hard to return from.
I love going on holidays with our kids. They are great fun and help me enjoy so much more of the day-to-day holiday with them around. So get your plan in place and get on the road or in the air with your gang. Just be well organised with your transport plans and it’ll be a blast.