Like most West Australians, I’m used to covering a fair bit of distance, and in my younger years, would think nothing of driving down to Albany for the night, or up to Coral Bay for a quick swim. But after years of mostly solo travel, I suddenly had three other people to think about. I quickly found out that taking a road trip with two kids in tow, and getting them to our destination without anyone having a meltdown, requires quite a bit of extra planning. Here's five things I've learned:
1. It’s going to take longer
While I’m used to driving long distances without having to stop very often, it’s just not plausible when you’ve got kids. They need to stop every couple of hours (which at times can feel like it’s every five minutes) to go to the bathroom, eat, release some energy, or just because they’re bored and need a change of scenery.
So, however long Google Maps says it’s going to take, add a couple of hours on and plan from there. It will generally mean you’ll have to leave earlier, but the advantage to bundling the kids into the car in the early hours of the morning is they’re usually too tired to argue (for at least the first few kilometres!)
2. Pull over the first time they say they’re sick
We learned this one the hard way on a recent drive up to Kalbarri. I thought I’d done the right thing by making sure we had lots of car snacks, but didn’t realise one of the kids had eaten 8 hours worth in about the first half an hour. So when the child in question piped up and said they weren’t feeling well, we didn’t take it too seriously and kept driving. That was a fatal error. We, and the car, spent the rest of the journey covered in the aforementioned snacks.
Moral of the story: the first time a child says they’re sick, start looking for somewhere to pull over safely rather than having to make an emergency stop on the side of the road after you’ve been projectile-vomited on.
3. Bring plenty of snacks
Grazing constantly is a major past time for the kids, and if you don’t want to be badgered every time they see a sign that promises “the world’s greatest pie”, it’s better to stock up on a wide variety of car snacks. But, pay attention to lesson 2, and dole the snacks out at a reasonable interval yourself if you don’t want to see (or be covered in) them again later.
Making sure the kids have full tummies makes them a lot less likely to constantly distract you, allowing you to concentrate on the road and stick to the speed limit, rather than putting your foot down in an effort to make the whingeing stop!
4. Bring things to do
The kids learned the hard way that travelling without something to do is not that fun, when they lost their ipads right before a flight and had to stare at the back of the seat in front of them for 7 hours. So now, they ensure that their gadgets are loaded and charged before we leave. A deck of Uno cards also doesn’t go astray.
The distractions have a dual purpose: 1. They’re too absorbed in whatever they’re watching to fight and 2. You don’t have to take your eyes off the road to try and play 100 games of Eye Spy in a row.
5. Explain the rules of engagement before you leave
One thing we’ve learned with the kids is to explain how the journey is going to go before we leave. The kids do a lot better when they know how long they’re going to have sit still for, how many times we’re going to stop, and have been assured (several times) that they’re going to get hot food at least once during the trip.
Once they know all that, they understand what the parameters are and will (hopefully) leave you to concentrate on the road for the journey without the obligatory “are we there yet” coming from the back seat every five minutes until you arrive.
Safe travels and good luck!