Travel: Top 3 tips for happy kids on the road

By: Therese Howell, Photography by: Therese Howell

Three simple strategies for a pleasant and safe trip for you and your young'uns.

Travel: Top 3 tips for happy kids on the road
Travel: Top 3 tips for happy kids on the road

THE HOWELL FAMILY made "the big one" a reality with two preschoolers in tow. Here are the ground rules that helped ensure their trip around Australia was a pleasant and safe one.

1. Food and Sleep
If you miss the boat on either of these, you just know you’re going to have a meltdown on your hands. I recommend you maintain their usual routines as much as practical, while still seeing and doing everything that makes your travels worthwhile (the occasional late night isn’t the end of world).

This may mean stopping for lunch on the side of the road rather than a picturesque location (driving for that extra half an hour with miserable, hungry kids isn’t worth it); and travelling at the time of day they usually have a day sleep usually guarantees slumber – nothing puts young children to sleep like the hum of an engine.

Try to keep the junk food to a minimum or you may end up with the reverse problem: a sugar rush with a nasty come-down. Water is the perfect drink. It can be consumed in the car with no mess and is readily available.

2. Toys and activities
Pack as lightly as possible with only the essential tried and true favourites – usually matchbox cars and a couple of small dolls (for both the boys and girls). Honest, they are going to play with the dirt, grass, mud, rocks, bark and chase animals more than you know. Oh, and don’t forget the bikes, our kids never tire of riding bikes. Don’t pack books: when you have finished with the tourist brochures for each area, they love nothing more than to flick through the pages and talk about the photos of animals and places they have seen – priceless.

3. Discipline
A hard one for any parent, but while travelling there are a number of potential dangers and each child needs to know their boundaries. Continually running out onto the road at 10am checkout time in a caravan park, playing near crocodile waters, or touching the gas cylinders are accidents waiting to happen. You’ll need to both be consistent with the rules and find a suitable form of punishment when these rules aren’t adhered to. I recommend sending them to the car (it works in a similar fashion to sending them to their room, except this solution has the added benefit of sound-proofing), or sitting quietly under a tree for a while. At worst, ban a favourite toy or activity (usually the bike) for the day. You’ll find that with consistent discipline, the entire family has an enjoyable and safe travelling experience.

LINK: Read about the Howells' big adventure here

WORDS AND PICS Therese Howell
Source: Caravan World Jan 2010