We recently did a round road trip from Adelaide to Noosa. With 4 kids under 6. In a minivan (with a roof rack just to add coolness). In 2 weeks. Dan and I prepared for the worst and do you know what? It actually turned out to be one of our most amazing holidays.
I am unsure why we were nervous about this trip. We have done trips to New Zealand, Thailand, Hawaii, Melbourne and I travelled solo with Noah to Darwin more times than I can count (cheers Army) and they were also fun, relaxing and enjoyable trips. I have honestly found that the short flights have been the most challenging with the long haul flights and drives to be the most peaceful.
Here are some tips that I have collaborated from our experiences of not only travelling abroad but also long haul trips;
- Plan meals. I pre-packed healthy lunches, snacks and drinks for the long drives and plane trips. I find that having healthy prepared meals ensures the kids behaviour is better but also makes it a lot easier for impromptu picnic stops along the way and also during long haul flights when they’re hungry when meals aren’t being served. I generally pack chicken and salad sandwiches, cut up fruit, veg, rice crackers, cheese, nuts etc. I also love to freeze fruit boxes, yoghurt sachets or coconut water to keep the food cool and then give as a “treat”.
- When doing road trips leave early. I’m talking stupid early. 4.30am early. Hopefully your kids will stay asleep and then you can get a solid few hours of driving in before they wake up. Also put them in sensible clothes and clothes that you can change easy in the car.
- When flying my advise is to travel when your child is most settled. For us ours sleep amazingly on flights over night but are now old enough to play contently during the day. I would use what works best for yourself as there is nothing worse than being so tired yourself with an alert and rested baby/child to care for…
- Stay in accommodation that has atleast a kettle and a fridge. I actually much prefer cabins and accommodation with a kitchen. Again around food this makes life more easier and enjoyable for all involved. As a general rule we would go out for a breakfast or lunch and attempt to have dinner at the cabin etc. This helps have a routine and give the kids some down time to get settled for bed. Whilst this type of accommodation may be more expensive I find it saves a lot more on dining out.
- Don’t plan activities everyday. Whilst this sounds like the thing to do. Trust me it is not. Kids are just like us and also need some down time. Over stimulating them will only make the trip stressful and a boiling pot of tantrums. Allow for lazy mornings and an afternoon relaxing and playing in the room. Trust me they will need it.
- Only pack what you cant live without. This includes Panadol, medicines, sunscreen, body wash (if they have eczema etc), formula, bottles and some nappies. Most places will have anything you need. Lugging around huge bags of unnecessary items is just outright annoying. Well not for me, for Daniel. When travelling to Thailand we packed Scout sachets of baby food. He ended up refusing to eat it and eating the local cuisine instead. Encourage them to eat different foods. Again it will make it a more enjoyable experience and after all don’t you take them away to give them new experiences?
- When packing ensure that you pack 1 bag that you can easily access with your essentials eg toothbrushes, a change of clothes etc so that you only need to take in 1 bag if stopping only over night or an overnight flight.
- Allow people to help you. This is something I preach in everything I write. People don’t generally offer to help simply to judge you. Most people are genuinely kind. Let them help with the suitcase and interact with your overtired baby on the plane. Accepting help doesn’t diminish your capacity as a parent.
- Again with the meals but plan dinner times to be earlier than normal. That way if you go out there tends to be less people which means the kids can plan whilst you have a cocktail in relative peace.
- Travel with family and friends. This has been one of my most favourite things to do. There is nothing better than having new experiences with those that you love the most. This also allows you to have a break at times whilst they go out with others or if one stays with the baby whilst they have their nap.
- Be prepared for some tantrums and melt downs. We tend to forget that almost everything they are experiencing is a brand new experience. This may be a new location for us as adults but we have more life experience and knowledge of what to expect. They don’t. Again this comes back to ensuring that they have down time and time to explore in an unrushed manner. In saying that kids are amazingly resilient and adaptable. Let them play and explore. They’re not as silly and unsafe as we think (generally).
- Limit technology. We do give our kids dvd players and games to play on our phones on the flights and car ride but try and limit it to when they are in the car or watching a movie during a relaxing period. For us we notice a huge change in behaviour when they have had devices for longer periods of time. In saying this is, what noticed is that our children (especially our eldest) would start to ask for tech over experiences. Our children are growing up so quickly. I feel more quickly now they have access to information that we only received through experiences growing up. Don’t think I technology bashing at all I just feel there is time and places for everything and everything in moderation.
- Last but not least. Simply have fun. Throw away expectations and simply enjoy the moment.
In saying all these things I must add the disclaimer that my friends always tell me. This is that I am probably too lax in a lot of my parenting. I have been known to express at the airport before a redeye flight to Darwin with a 6 week old baby solo, we forgot to pack nappies for Harriet realising she only have swim nappies at 8pm across the other side of the island in Hawaii, after missing the bus back (fyi swim nappies hold zero anything) then to catch the last bus and having to walk 5km at 1am back to the hotel because apparently finding cabs at that time in near impossible. Luckily we had my mum, sister and brother in law to take turns carrying 4 sleeping children. I have a lot more stories for another day but will leave it at that for now…Daniel and I are both quite relaxed people by nature so these things don’t provoke much stress for us however I think if you prepare yourself and occasionally DON’T prepare yourself you may find that everything will still go smoothly just with just a funnier story as the ending.
I hope this helps ease the stress when planning the next trip with your little ones. Yet I honestly think travelling with children can make you experience cultures in ways you never thought possible.