• Rosemary Joyce

The Great New Zealand Road Trip... 10 hot tips for travelling with small children.

The legendary kiwi road trip. Freedom. Hours of spontaneous fun. Windows down, sunnies on and music blaring... All wonderful memories of your life pre-children. Fast forward to your current reality, and just the mere thought of your baby crying in the capsule and your preschooler asking "Are we there yet?" is enough to make you hang up your keys for good. Luckily, help is on its way. Our 10 hot tips for travelling long distances in the car with young children will change your family road trip from hell on earth to a hallelujah.

#1. Emergency nappies

Keep a snaplock bag with a few disposable nappies and a mini pack of wet wipes in your glove box until your children are well out of the toilet training phase. We were taught this awesome hack by a parent in one of our Toolbox Parenting Courses after she was caught short in a traffic jam with her baby during one of the Christchurch earthquakes. This hot tip has saved us many times when we've forgotten to repack the nappy bag. Aside from keeping everything neatly contained, the snaplock bag also doubles up as a sealable nappy rubbish bag if you need it. Remember to change the size of the nappies as your little one grows.


#2. Window shade

Think ahead and purchase a window shade before your trip. Having sun in the eyes makes any small person cry for long periods of time.


#3. Leave your pram at home

Big buggies take up way too much space in the car when packing for a holiday. Instead take a baby carrier that both you and your partner love to wear (so maybe not your favourite floral one...). If your baby carrier is packed where you can grab it, you can easily use it at any rest stop, shop or restaurant on the way, as well as throughout your holiday. Without a pram taking up half of your boot space you'll have lots more room to pack the stuff you actually need. If you really can't live without a pram, take a small collapsible stroller instead of your big 3 wheeled machine.


#4. Stop regularly

There is no hurry. You are allowed to stop on the way. A lot. It's better for everyone in the car if you have the chance to regularly get out and have a stretch. Beaches, school playgrounds and parks make great places to stop and explore. It is extremely unsafe to breastfeed in a moving car. So allow yourself plenty of extra travel time so you can stop as much as your baby needs.

#5. Think before you pack

Packing lightly will save you time both loading and unloading your car. If it's not a necessary item, don't take it. Portable baby gear is lighter and smaller to travel with (e.g. travel highchair, travel bassinet). Or ask your destination if they have a portacot and highchair available so you don't need to take yours. Avoid taking the whole toy box for your child/ren to play with. A couple of key items are all they need. Hours of play can be had when improvised from nature, using adult clothes as dress-ups, or household items such as empty drink bottles or kitchen utensils.


#6. Keep what you need en route accessible

We recently had a gorgeous couple visit us with their new baby. They were all packed ready for the long drive home when baby did a 'poo-nami', covering Mama from waist to toes. Baby had no issues because they had packed a spare change of clothes for him in their nappy bag. But all Mama's clothes were packed at the very bottom of their boot.

When it comes time for your road trip make sure you have the essentials available in your car. Once the boot is packed it's a no-go zone! Keep a spare change for Mama and every child in a small bag behind the front seat (somehow Dads never seem to need them). One of our children always finds a way to get wet when we take a rest stop, so an extra t-shirt and shorts that we can quickly grab saves us a lot of hassles. As well as clothes, we keep a towel and sunhats in the summer, or wooly hats and jackets in the winter in this bag. We also recommend taking lots of snacks and extra water, as it gets really expensive to buy food and drinks on the way once you have a few children.


#7. Take an angel with you

Why leave your support circle at home? If we are going on a long family holiday we take help with us. A niece, sister, brother, parent or in-law can provide an invaluable extra set of hands. They also make a great babysitter so you can actually sneak in some holiday time yourself! Travelling with another family who has the same age kids as you is equally as awesome.


#8. The 5am road trip

This simple idea was a God-send when our children were very young. Firstly, dress your children in tomorrow's clothes before they go to bed. That way all the washing can be done and hung out the night before you leave so dirty laundry is not waiting for you when you arrive home from holiday. Secondly, pack the car that evening while they are all asleep. Third, go to sleep yourself and then get up just before 5am. Fourth, take your sleeping children to the toilet (this step is very important lol!), then put them in the car. Now it's 5am and time to go.

The miracle of this idea is that children usually go straight back to sleep again in the car for at least a couple of hours. The roads are usually quieter and the driving parent less tired. At 8am you can stop for breakfast and you've already covered 3 hours of travel time!


#9. Take a rubbish container

Bits of rubbish, paper and fruit peels can get posted in all sorts of not nice places during a long car journey. Taking a small rubbish container that you can pass over to your toddlers in the car without it spilling everywhere saves a lot of car cleaning on arrival. A plastic cereal container with a flip lid makes a great car rubbish bin.


#10. Resist the movie

New Zealand has some of the best scenery in the world. Let your children see it! Resist the temptation to keep your children quiet with a movie. Start good car habits from when your children are small. The local library is your friend when it comes to preparing for your long journey. Audio books are free to hire, range from hilarious to deeply addictive, and mean that you can keep your kids entertained while they look out of the window. Our family became so entranced in the story of Robinson Crusoe one road trip that we missed the turn off to Queenstown and drove for an extra hour. Nobody minded... It meant we got to finish the story!


If you try all of these 10 hot tips and still don't enjoy travelling with your young family, never fear. You can always take the train.


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