Top 8 tips for travelling in Australia with kids

July 01, 2024
Top 8 tips for travelling in Australia with kids
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Travelling with your kids can be a great experience but it also comes with a certain level of chaos if you’re not prepared for it. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping the kids entertained while you’re on the road.

Timing is everything

Planning is a key part of every trip, and make sure you consider what time of day works best for your departure. If you’ve got young children who still have a day nap or go to sleep early, time your trip to start when they will be most likely to fall asleep. This way you’ll be able to get some kilometres under your tyres before they wake up and need entertaining. If you're travelling interstate, don't forget to factor in any different time zones that might be in play.

It’s also essential that you all get a good night’s sleep the night before you leave — cranky parents and cranky kids do not a good trip make.

When travelling with small kids, make sure you've got your car seats organised before you need to leave.

Vehicle fridges are a great idea when travelling with the whole family. If you can fit them in the car with you — ideally where you or an older child can reach — all the better. If not, put it somewhere in the boot or ute tray where it is not in direct sun. Allow time to cool down the fridge with 240V power before you leave home and, where possible, pack the fridge with precooled or frozen items.

Get the kids involved

One of the best ways to ensure a good trip is to involve the kids in the planning process, especially if you're heading on a Big Lap of Australia. Let them choose some spots to visit on the way or at your final destination and have a say in some of the activities they want to do. If they're young and not able to do their own research, offer them a list of some of the best places they can choose from.

Plus, by deciding on a route and trip itinerary you’ll be able to narrow down what gear you need to take with you and what can be left behind. After all, if you're heading to the Blue Mountains rather than the Great Barrier Reef you might not need the same kind of outdoor toys. And if the kids know you're going to an off-grid location you'll be able to get their input on what they want to bring with them to keep them entertained.

National parks are a great place to go with kids if you're travelling on a budget but want to see some spectacular locations. The Northern Territory has some of Australia's most popular destinations, including Litchfield and Kakadu National Park, but make sure you plan your journey around the wet and dry seasons. But if you're travelling to popular spots, be prepared to deal with a lot of people. School holidays and the summer months are the prime time for a family holiday, and there will be many like-minded travellers on the road with you.

Car-friendly entertainment

Car games are a great way to keep the kids entertained, particularly on longer rides or if you're limiting screen time. Old favourites like ‘I Spy’ and ‘Spotto’ will keep children of all ages entertained, especially if you mix it up and start creating your own versions or lists of things to ‘spot’.

Packing activity books, colouring books and sticker books are always a hit with younger children and can be a very easy way to keep them entertained for an extended trip. Consider packing a clipboard or even something like a cooking tray for them to lean the books on.

Reading and working on activity books can cause motion sickness though, so consider alternate entertainment such as audio books appropriate for their ages. If you’ve got spare devices, each kid can listen to their own or find a family-friendly series to play through the speakers.

Older kids are much more self-sufficient when it comes to keeping themselves entertained but be sure to check they’ve got what they need before you hit the road. Books packed, phones charged, and earphones/headphones and charging cords close at hand.

Pack snacks

A car trip isn’t complete without road snacks, but it’s even more essential when you’ve got kids on board. Kids love a good snack and having them packed before you go will avoid paying an arm and a leg at petrol stations and rest stops.

Try to keep things light and healthy when you can with some fresh food. Most kids just want something to munch on to break up the boredom, and too many sugary treats can lead to more chaos than you’d like. That said, some treats or the promise of an ice cream can come in handy to avoid mutiny in the back seat.

Fresh fruit is a great option when travelling with kids, but if you're crossing state or territory borders don't forget to check the rules about taking fruit or vegetables with you as many states and territories have quarantine or biosecurity zones.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall ...

One of the most dangerous things when driving with kids is parents trying to twist around in their seats to see what’s going on, particularly if you’ve got a baby or toddler on board. A good solution is installing extra rear vision mirrors so you can see everything going on in the back seats. There are also mirrors designed to be installed with back-facing baby seats so you can see your little one’s face.

Stay sun safe

Staying sun safe isn’t only for when you’ve arrived at your location. Your car windows won’t protect you from all UV rays, and the sun can be an inconvenience when you’re trying to get younger kids to nap while driving.
Getting window sunshades for each window seat is a good idea. There’s a whole range out there, some of which will be made for particular car makes and models. But in a pinch, lower the window a smidge, tuck a towel in and raise the glass again.

Sunglasses are good to have handy as well, although not all young kids will put up with them.

And of course, don’t forget to replenish the sunscreen.

Plan your breaks

Regular breaks are a must when driving long distances, and they’ll give the driver and the kids the chance to go for a walk and stretch their legs, find a bathroom and enjoy a snack or meal.

If you plan your route ahead of time, find locations where there is a park, picnic table and bathrooms nearby so that you can enjoy a relaxing break before getting back in the car.

Practice patience

The chorus of ‘are we there yet?’, I’m bored’, ‘I’m hungry’ and so on can grate on even the most well-practiced travelling parent. But remember, kids get bored easily and this is just something you have to take in your stride. And while the trip might be harrowing, the destination will be worth it. Kids can be great fun to travel with — and a great excuse to unleash your inner child and visit some fun and unique spots around Australia.

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