Here are our top 10 tips for keeping everyone in the family happy while travelling with kids from A to B.
Travelling with kids, whether they are toddlers or teens, doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. In fact, regardless of whether you’re on a road trip or travelling by plane, or train, you have an opportunity to create family holiday memories to treasure and have a relaxing break to boot if you plan ahead.
1. Play a few games
Travelling on a highway for hours on end with children can be lots of fun. Said no one ever. No, really. A road trip doesn’t need to drive you around the bend. But you do need to be organised.
Is the goal to limit your children’s screen time? Keep it old-school with a few rounds of 99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall. Or play memory games, such as I went to the market and what did I see?, with each member of the family adding something – a hat or a harpsichord – to the list of things to remember. Spotto is always a favourite as members of the family compete to add to their tally of yellow cars. If energy levels are low, tune in to podcasts and audiobooks too.
Think of something fun to ease boredom during your long and exhilarating road trip. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
2. Ask your children to DJ
If you’re feeling harrowed ahead of your holiday, forget I Spy and fast-forward to Spotify. Start recruiting your kids to curate a playlist before you pull out of the driveway. It will keep them occupied while you try to pack.
Parents with younger children can tailor the playlist toward their own taste to avoid inflicting earworms for days. Rather than just defaulting to cheesy songs for children, try to introduce them to some of your favourite bands. Blasting out songs you all like to listen to makes for a fun dynamic on a driving holiday.
Spectacular sea views await you. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
3. Plan to put on the brakes a lot
It’s important that you veer off the highway often so the family can stretch their legs. Find an attraction you want to visit and then drop a pin on the map to find nearby parks, playgrounds, or a safe spot to swim or surf.
One of my hottest tips is to pack a sturdy picnic blanket, such as these beauties from Miss Amara Rugs, which you can actually hose down after a gathering on the grass. You can also scope out family-friendly wineries such as Scarborough Wines, in the Hunter Valley, which has giant checkers and Jenga to keep the kids happy while you’re sipping and swishing.
Places like Treetops Adventure, which has 15 locations across the country, are also great places to press pause.
Let your kids have fun for a while. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
4. All the gear and a few ideas
A hot tip when it comes to engineering a happy family holiday is to introduce your children to things you like doing. Think surfing, kayaking, bushwalking and skiing.
It’s a great idea to pack a Penny skateboard or scooter in your luggage to make it more fun for kids with little legs to go the distance, regardless of whether you’re travelling by car or plane.
Enrol your kids in safe and fun surfing lessons. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Packing a frisbee may also inspire children to get from A to B. Three points to get it to that tree. Two points to hit that sign. Bush walks can also be incentivised by the promise of a swim at the end.
Making kids in charge of their own Wheelie Bag is also a practical way to get them to help lug all your gear around bus, plane or train terminals. And if all gets too much, a SleepKeeper pillow carrier is a compact and comfy sleep aid.
Treat your family to a well-deserved beach getaway. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
5. Encourage them to keep a journal
It’s a great idea to encourage your children to write in their journals when you’re on the road. They might not always be motivated. But when they go back to read their diaries, it will be a great trip down memory lane. It’s a creative way for them to remember the best bits about a holiday and to get an insight into their younger selves.
It can also buy you some much-coveted hammock time when travelling with kids. Paste in relevant postcards or tickets to amusement parks, or gigs, which serve as visual reminders of all the fun you’ve had.
Speaking of fun, limit your time in art galleries or at music festivals to focus on your favourite exhibit or band. There will always be times things will go to hell in a handbasket, so be prepared to pull the pin and pivot.
Introduce the wonders of travelling to your kid early on.
6. Fill your Esky with healthy snacks
The most relaxing way to spend a few weeks on the road with children is to have a stash of snacks on standby. Opt for a beautiful bento box from Majime Life which has lots of little compartments to keep them occupied with cheese, crackers, fresh fruit and sandwiches.
You can also make up a big batch of pasta alla Pomodoro and freeze it ahead of a road trip so it doubles as an ice pack for the day and then is defrosted by the time you arrive at your destination with hungry travellers in tow.
Pack healthy and delicious meals for your kids before travelling.
7. Reward good behaviour with an occasional treat
Research conducted by Holiday Inn recently found that 91 per cent of parents travelling with kids said if their child has a terrible holiday, they will too. The study also found that three-quarters of kids admit they are most happy when they enjoy foods such as pancakes and ice cream. Holiday Inn took the findings to heart, offering 24/7 free ice cream for all Holiday Inn Kids’ Critics (for a limited time only).
Of course, one of the best things about a family holiday is rewarding your children with an ice cream, pie, or fish and chips by the sea. Travel in style with beach chairs such as these retro-cool ones, and a posh picnic hamper to make an occasion of it.
Two kids eating ice cream by the seaside promenade. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
8. Have balls, books and surfboards
Demarcate the space between children in the back seat with a flexible fold-up bag of books. Regardless of their age, a huge pile of their favourite books is bound to keep them entertained. If you’ve done a lot of walking, swimming, skating or surfing, then you can also find a shady spot to kick back in the open air and read books together.
Having an ongoing UNO competition with a score sheet that lasts for the entire holiday is another low-fi way to keep everyone entertained. Nurture your children’s love of travel with books such as Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel Quiz Book and Ultimate Travel Crosswords.
Father and son kayaking along the emerald blue waters of Coral Bay. (Image: ©Tourism Western Australia)
9. BYO chargers but limit screen time
It’s not a great idea to stick your kids in front of a device at every turn. It will alter their mood for the worse and that peace and quiet in the short term will adversely affect their behaviour over the course of the day. You don’t need to be Mary Poppins. Everything in moderation.
On that note, make sure you have enough portable chargers in case of emergencies – cancelled planes, traffic delays – but also engineer your day so that the most amount of fun is not found staring at a screen. Keep your kindles and iPads charged for a more hi-fi holiday. Check out this guide on how to pack a tech survival kit put together by Express VPN.
Unplug your devices to stay connected with your loved ones. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
10. Book family-friendly accommodation
According to the latest research from Holiday Inn, more than half of Australian parents said they would consider changing their hotel accommodation when traveling with kids if their children were unhappy.
Given the findings, it makes sense to do your homework when it comes to choosing accommodation.
The brand is so heavily invested in the findings it is calling on kids to review its hotels as part of its Kids Critics program. In addition to ensuring the kids are happy, there are many hotels and resorts like the Holiday Inn that offers Kids Stay & Eat Free packages. We’re looking at you Hamilton Island.
Stay closer to nature as you bond with your family. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)