Depending on their age, involve the children in the planning stage of the trip and show them maps, brochures and photos
Travelling and camping with your kids is not only great fun, but it's highly educational for them and gives the entire family an opportunity to share experiences in the great Australian outback.
Safety when travelling should always be the first consideration; always make sure that everyone is wearing the appropriate seat belts or child seats with harnesses. Once they're buckled in you're on your way, the biggest issue often comes down to simply preventing them from getting bored on anything longer than an hour’s drive. If you can organise a window seat for each child then great, but if not, try to work out a fair rotational system to avoid the seat blues from setting in.
Depending on their age, involve the children in the planning stage of the trip and show them maps, brochures and photos of the places that you’re intending to visit. Even consider involving them in the decision-making process of what they'd like to do and see. This way everyone has some ownership in the trip.
By doing some research on the route you intend to travel prior to setting off, means that you can include attractions which will appeal to children and give everybody a break along the way. Without a doubt, kids are always interested in the Australian Tourist icons. For example, the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour in NSW has a great area for kids to play, as do most of the other Big Tourist attractions.
A few ideas to keep the kids busy:
1. Let them take some toys as well as games and books. Young children usually enjoy colouring in books and coloured pencils. Most importantly organise a firm surface for them to work on. Those foam backed eating trays work a treat!
2. Let them take an iPod or similar so they can listen to their music.
3. Depending on your budget and the availability of a DVD player in your car – let them take some DVDs to watch. There are a number of cost effective portable DVD players available.
4. Play some games, like the old favourites such as I spy and knock knock. See below.
Car Games for Kids
The great thing about these games is that they make the children focus their attention outside the vehicle, which will help to fend off motion sickness.
This game involves the kids spotting an item outside the car and then ticking it off a pictured item on their Spotto card. Once the sheet is filled the player yells out ‘Spotto’ and the first player to do so is the winner.
Parents can download Spotto Card sheets from the web and most of the motoring organisations like RACV, NRMA and RACQ, amongst others, offer these free downloads. They can be printed and then laminated for use with non-permanent markers.
Another game where the children look outside the car to spot items that begin with a particular letter. This game can be played as a team or individually. The kids look for things that begin with each letter of the alphabet. The object is to find one thing for each letter and write them down on the sheet. The first person to finish wins. Remember, with the letter X, this letter can appear anywhere in the word, it doesn't have to start with X. Again these sheets can be downloaded from the web and it is strongly advised to laminate them before the trip to make them durable and re-usable.
See who can get to Z first, a game in which the participants look for letters on license plates, signs, other vehicles, buildings or anything else they can spot. First, you must find A, then B, C, etc. Shout out each letter and point to where you find it. Make it harder by limiting to only license plates or billboard signs for older children.
NUMBER PLATE GAMES
There are lots of number plate games that can be found on the web. The most common is where you make a phrase out of the letters in a number plate, for example, VKL - very kind lady.
NAME THAT TUNE
This is a great game for the whole family to play, it really gets people scratching their head. Using the CD player in the car to play some music, play the first 2 seconds of the beginning of the song's lyrics then press the PAUSE button. Challenge players to sing the rest of the first line of the song. For bonus points the players must name the title of the song and who is singing it.
Download a myriad of Knock Knock jokes from the web. Laminate onto a board and give to one of the kids to ask the others.
It's also really important to have a range of healthy snacks, food and drink and within easy reach during the course of your journey. Also carry a bag or container within easy reach that contains things like a clean towel, a damp face washer sealed in a zip lock bag, motion sickness tablets, bottled water, straws, Band-Aids and any other medications etc. that may be required during the course of a normal day. When you arrive in a town it may be worthwhile to visit the local tourist information centre. They have a range of information on things like bush walks, camping areas, self-guided and guided tours and other children's activities within the local area. When you stop for a break (every two hours is recommended) try to do so at a park, playground or roadside stop where there may be some facilities. These locations get you and your vehicle off the road safely and in an area where kids can run around and burn off some energy. When travelling with kids, try to be realistic with your expectations of the distances that can be travelled each day and plan your trip so that you're only travelling during daylight hours. If you're staying in a caravan park that has a pool and other facilities, it's great to get there with plenty of daylight hours left for the kids to use and enjoy them. If you're camping, involve the kids in the camp setup.
Give them a specific job that they’re responsible for each and every time that you setup camp so they take ownership of that responsibility and feel like they’re part of the team. Depending on their age, children can undertake regular safe activities, such as picking up the milk and bread from the caravan park kiosk or hanging out wet towels from swimming.
It's also fun to encourage your kids to fill out a diary of the trip. This can be as simple as drawing things for the very young to actually writing down what was seen and done each day by the older kids. They can even cut out pictures from the local information brochures to illustrate.
Lastly, consider getting the kids involved in photography, digital cameras are not expensive these days and great memories of family holidays are often interesting when seen through the eyes of children. Encourage them to take plenty of shots.