The School Holidays couldn't have come soon enough. It doesn't seem to matter that Tasmania has joined the rest of the Country with its 4 shorter School Terms instead of 3 - everyone seems to be just as crotchety at the end of a Term regardless of duration.
We're going on a Road Trip. It's an expensive proposition getting 7 people off the Island, especially if you fly and then have to pay for a car at the other end. So when you have 5 Kids and the Ferry across to the Mainland has a "Kids Sail For Free" promotion, we wasted no time booking (just 2!) tickets across for the family as well as the car. To save time, fuel and freight costs we are leaving the caravan behind in favour of a tent.
We're not trekking as far or wide as The Big Adventure around Australia that we did just over a year ago but it's still serious enough that you can hop in the car at 10 degrees and drive North until you reach a temperature of 30 degrees. We're heading to The Red Centre. It's a 5,000 km round trip not including the 12 hour overnight Ferry.
We are upping the ante this time too with the addition of the 5th child. However the Whippet is staying behind so that probably balances things out completely. There's no room in the car for Remy Boy anymore and we wouldn't want him to burn his paws in the Desert like last time would we? He'll be much happier staying behind.
I get asked a lot of questions about our trip around Australia, more specifically how we stuffed 6 people and a dog in a confined space for a 3 month period without going completely mad. All I can say is that the Kids are generally pretty good travellers to start with. We all love going away and seeing and doing new things so that's a good start already. I can honestly say I found driving in the thick of Sydney traffic for 5 minutes far worse than driving 15,000 km on the great open roads. I'm so tired right now too that I can't think of anything more enjoyable that being able to sit for a few hours without getting up or picking up anything for anybody.
Here are some things that worked for us.
1) We travel at or just before the end of the school term - not waiting a single minute, hour or day for the Kids to catch up on rest. Their exhaustion following a busy school term is an asset on a big road trip as they will most likely do a bit of catch-up sleeping at the start of the trip. When we left Sydney on our last trip, all 4 Kids were asleep within half an hour and it was such a good start.
2) Take food and lots of it. Nothing worse than hearing the "I'm hungry" cries from the rear section of the car. A quick stop for food and drink usually takes a minimum of 30 minutes and eats into driving time. Having food in the car gives them something to do as well.
3) Ditch the DVD players - I know a lot of people use the portable DVD players with success but we don't like them or use them. Two reasons, firstly I want the Kids to enjoy the journey - in a literal and metaphorical sense. I want them to look out the window and actually be comfortable doing nothing like we did in the good old days. It takes practice. The Kids are now so used to long drives that they don't even batt an eyelid for a 3 hour stint. Secondly, these DVD players are a pain in the neck with a big tribe. We tried them once a few years ago, there were fights over what to watch, when to watch it, where to sit for best viewing pleasure, the DVD skipped a million times which meant I had to break my back turning around to fix the darn thing and then as soon as anyone opened their mouths to talk, that part of the movie was missed and we had to rewind it. Total nightmare. Maybe if you have 1 or 2 Kids that are fully committed to a movie session on a journey of 2 hours and with only 1 adult in the car that doesn't want to talk to anyone else then maybe it's a really good thing. If there are 2 adults in the car, you can't talk to each other or listen to music when a DVD is on. I think it's important for everyone to enjoy a road trip and I can't think of anything worse than listening to kids movies or music for 8 hours straight. But that's just me and I'm a big advocate for doing whatever works to keep things harmonious so do what you have to do. Our Kids love listening to our music and we have some great playlists ready for the trip.
4) We don't dilly dally and prefer to do a longer stretch without stopping rather than driving for an hour, stopping, driving another hour, stopping etc. It also means you get more time to relax at a place rather than being in the car all day long or everyday for that matter. It depends on what there is to do but on the stretch up through the centre of Australia where there is nowhere to stop other than halfway at Coober Pedy, we would start early, do 3-4 hours, have a big lunch break and then get going again for another 3-4 hours.
5) The Kids play eye spy, punch buggy, and car cricket. Car cricket is perfect for the stretch up through the centre of Australia where you hardly see any cars. It's a game where you take turns getting a score when a vehicle passes your car - normal cars score 1, Motorbikes and Utes score 2, SUV's score 4, a bus/truck/roadtrain scores 6 and its out for a 4WD.
6) Don't guild the lily. If you want to avoid the "are we there yet?" game, tell the Kids the truth, that it is going to be a long day of driving but we are stopping for a big break for lunch in the middle of the day.
7) We pack light. Everyone has a tiny bag each. I am the lightest packer in the World and my dislike for doing laundry at the other end of a trip is made bearable by packing light.
8) We take a football in the car for stops so the Kids can run around and wesr themselves out.
9) We don't have a timetable or itinerary so we can just do what we want. This time around we'll have to arrange breaks around Flynn's feeds so need to be flexible so we can stop when we need to..
10) Be organised on the home front. This is my biggest downfall. I spent today getting the car serviced, new wheels put on the car, purchasing extra pellets and hay for the animals, cleaning out the Budgie Cage so it wasn't a total embarrassment handing it over to a friend for the Holidays and getting Flynn's 4 month vaccinations done - all things that could have been done a week ago. It's now 10pm and I have to pack! But I pack light so it shouldn't take long :-)
11) Regardless of how long we have been in the car, 3 hours or 10 hours, the wheels always seem to fall off upon arrival at our destination. It happened every single time on our last trip. It is actually amazing how you can sit in a confined space for hours on end perfectly happy but a 2 minute delay upon arrival can turn into a nightmare. We would arrive after a long drive and there would be a lovely person at the camp spot or caravan park that wanted a nice long chit chat when all we wanted to do was get out of the car and stretch our legs. But we had to wait in the car while The Pianoman was in the little office filling out forms or getting keys or handing over a credit card and answering questions about the weather. The Kids would then start whining or be desperate for the bathroom and my blood pressure would rise to unhealthy levels. I don't seem to have any tips for dealing with this annoying issue. It's all part of the adventure I guess.
Anyway, tomorrow we will be on the road. I'll still be popping in from time to time and I'm looking forward to catching up on all your Posts and replying to your messages. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on my last Post so thank you so much! And welcome to any new followers - it's lovely to have you here.
See you on the other side!