Oh but I do love me a good road trip! Holidays are nearly here, and I cannot wait to get into the car with my little soccer team!
If you’re lucky, holidays mean travelling. I’ve observed over the years that travelling with children can bring on a sense of blind panic for many people! … it doesn’t need to be that way! Holidays are for relaxation and FUN and need not be accompanied by concern.
People are often very surprised at the fact that I manage to travel with five children (under the age of six), whilst staying calm and still having FUN! So, I thought it a good idea to share some of my tips with you. (PS… while writing this article my hubby asked if I could share them with him too… so here they are, in their sprawling romantic glory).
Here are my top tips to staying sane, having fun and getting maximum relaxation out of your holidays… WITH your children!
Part 1: Preparing yourself for the trip
1. Get your mind right! The road trip is often going to be a very large portion of your trip! So don’t march through it like something you need to conquer! Enjoy it as part of the vacation! Watch your words ahead of the trip and remember that travelling is FUN!
2. A wise mamma once shared this formula with me… ‘Drive an hour, sleep a night’. I have found it is perfect. If your destination is one hour away, one night will suffice. If your final destination is 7 hours away, you’re going to need 7 nights to get the most out of your travel time.
3. I hate lists. Always have. Probably always will. But if a list is your thing, knock yourself out. Whatever you do, have a means of check points to ensure that you have everything you need. One of my small trigger points is a pack of wet wipes in each door of the car and a spare nappy for every child in the back of the seat in front of them. This is a lifesaver, every single trip… it means no digging through the boot for supplies as you’re balanced precariously in a full parking lot due to a poonami. Stop, drop and keep on rolling.
4. ‘Knot-a-bag’… if you don’t know what they are, you should (they should be paying me for this too). Knot-a-bag in every single opening in the car that will take them… this means you have nappy clean ups under control, a rubbish bag accessible and space for the disaster clothes when someone does the inevitable explosion in a car seat.
5. Packing your bags. Guys… I know that the environment is important and all, but holidays are literally a time that I cannot go without a gazillion sealable plastic bags. I pack every child an outfit per day, with undies, socks, the whole shebang, into a small sealable bag. This way, well-meaning children can’t undo my packing whilst searching for an outfit. There’s also a suitable outfit for each day (I am not sure if it’s just that my kids are weird, but it also means that I go on holiday with children who look vaguely put together and not so hobo like… which seems to be my kids desired look when they get half a chance). The bags always come in handy for bits and pieces on the other side… and again… did I speak about poonamis? Bags are GREAT for poonamis and vomit clean up (I promised I’d keep it real k… this Pinterest version of parenting doesn’t fit my lifestyle).
6. I am chaos all rolled up in one. Just ask my long-suffering husband. BUT… travelling with kids is one time that organisation is a lifesaver! Take time packing your bags AND car so that they make sense. If you are having a one night stay over before the main part of your trip, pack a small bag with a single set of clothing for each person so that you don’t have to haul everyone’s luggage out. This seems small… but I swear you’ll thank me. Single bed. Single set of clothing each.
7. Jacket next to every car seat. Good for weather. Great as an alternative to a blanket. Good space saver.
8. Stay hydrated… I know I sound like a real adult now (I work hard to fight off this title), but folks, a dehydrated kid can be a real… uhm… treat. Make sure everyone has water in the car, including you.
9. Food… if you’re in my car… you’re eating. Not only does it keep you occupied, it keeps you at a reasonable decibel level. Pack lots of snacks for the trip.
10. If you stop, for whatever reason, make sure everyone has a tinkle, change everyone’s nappies and fill up with fuel. Every single time. Kids sleeping in the car is a gift. You know the story about gift horses. Don’t be so rigid in your travel plans that you can’t stop at a one stop because it wasn’t your plan. If the kids are awake… stop at the one stop. Pee. Stretch your legs. Change the nappies. Fill up with fuel. Move on. The next one stop you might be able to miss… because there’s silence in the car… don’t ruin the gift because you’re low on fuel and can’t avoid it! Stop when they’re awake, keep pushing when they’re sleeping.
11. Give in to technology. It’s one occasion you can do so guilt free. Let them watch their wretched tablets. Make sure to put nice soft covers on them so that they can’t become dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash.
12. Get your timing right… I want to write this, but I am laughing as I do… I have five kids… there’s no ‘right’ time! But in my opinion, kids travel best with full tummies and at a time that doesn’t cut into their normal play time. So early mornings and evenings are generally when you will see the Heins on the road in all our basking glory… 3m high trailer and all:)
13. If I can give you one nugget of overriding advice… get your mind right! You can pack all the right things, leave at the right time, sing the right songs and tinkle on cue… but if your mind ain’t in that happy holiday space, the trip’s still going to be long… and it’ll ensure its interspersed with uninvited distractions! See it as an adventure, and then even the poonami on Field’s Hill seems like a good story to keep in the memory bank!
What are your top tips for travelling with children? We’d love to hear them!
Wishing you safe AND happy travels,