Thursday, April 18, 2013

Road Trip



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!


34 comments :

  1. Love the post Mel - such wise advice and great tips. We had been debating whether or not to attempt a plane flight over east with our girls in the upcoming school holidays but instead, have opted for a few separate shorted trips down south instead, each with only about 5 hours or less worth of driving time. Sophie is shocking in the car and so the thought of being confined on a plane with her, trying to keep her occupied and in her seat was not looking good. Grace is fine and will usually nod off at some point on long stretches. We are against DVD players in the car too... I figure we did alright without them when we were young and I'd rather the girls enjoy the scenery and so on. Wishing you a wonderful family trip together, I hope all goes smoothly and you have a fantastic time away xx

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  2. Wow! I'm full of admiration for you for even attempting to with 5 children ... Brave woman, indeed! Very good tips, and I hope you have a fabulous time, and am looking forward t hearing all about it. Those beautiful boys of yours are gong to break some hearts!

    Love Claire xxx

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  3. Wow how exciting! I'm definitely with you on "whatever works best for you" And if the rules don't work then change the rules! But car cricket? you had me worried for a minute!
    We've decided that the best solution for a long car journey (and they're never that long in the UK) is to wait for the eldest to be driving and let him take the other two in his car and he can follow me and the husband in a 2 seater sports car up front! ;)

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    1. Meant to say have a great time. x

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  4. Have a wonderful adventure together! Please can I come? I don't mind being strapped to the roof rack! :) x

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  5. Blimey, you don't do things by half do you Mel? Wishing you all a wonderful holiday. I look forward to reading all about your adventures along the way. x

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  6. Sounds so fun! Have a wonderful time on your adventure to The Red Centre. Such a special place, I love it there. Travel safe! Belinda xx

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  7. What a great picture and sterling advice.

    Have a super school holiday - mine have just gone back after two weeks off!

    Nina x

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  8. It's always the last twenty minutes in the car when the kids scream bloody murder, isn't it! Doesn't matter if the journey is a long one or a short one... Have a wonderful time!

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  9. Hope you all have a wonderful adventure ... Bee xx

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  10. I am full of admiration.. Enjoy every second. You deserve too x

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  11. travel safe...no doubt there will be great tales to tell when you get back. x

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  12. This is a great post Mel! Full of fantastic advice and ideas! Have a fabulous time and looking forward to hearing all about your experiences. xx

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  13. How exciting! Loved reading ths and can't wait to hear all about the actual trip. I'm with you on DVD players in the car!

    We have a vw caravelle which would be perfect for road trips but with the price of diesel hovering at £1.40 a litre I find I am loathed to drive anywhere! How much is petrol / diesel in australia?

    Good luck and Bon voyage xxx love Sarah

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  14. What an awesome holiday you guys are going to have! Travel safe and I can't wait to see pics.

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  15. Love a family roadtrip even if we have a serious chucker in our midst.....he now puts the window down before crying out 'here comes old chokey' & spraying the outside of the door! Sure that doesn't happen in your car! Safe travels & happy holidays! Rx

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  16. Lovely post! I hope you have a good time. It was a 5-6 hour drive to go to visit out grandparents as children, and we'd pass the time with a similar game to your "car cricket". My sisters and I would all pick a colour car, and you got one point every time your colour went past. White wasn't allowed, as it was just too common :-)
    Have fun!
    Sarah x

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  17. Great post! We love a road trip too. Lots of good advice too thank you kindly. P.S. your profile pic is gorgeous! xo

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  18. Have a wonderful wonderful time with your gang and that pic is beautiful. mel x

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  19. Have fun on your trip. I agree with the DVD players. We have just ditched ours and the boys were much more content once they had got over it!

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  20. This fellow Tasmanian blogger and Mummy says HI! And hopes you all have a great time on your trip!
    I'm sure you wont miss this cold snap we have at the moment!!

    Enjoy!!

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  21. Have a great time. Can not wait to see pictures of your adventure.

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  22. Have a wonderful time away on your big adventure Mel:) Take care and by the way congratulations on being picked in the top 100 bloggers on Kidspot too, how cool. xx

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  23. Oh, how exciting! Have a brilliant time. I totally agree with ditching the DVD players. The kids complained they couldn't here theirs over our radio/music, we couldn't talk over the volume of two competing Disney movies, the cds kept sticking, then they would break altogether half way through the journey. It was a wonderful moment when we realised that we could travel without them and it was actually BETTER!!

    Gillian x

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  24. This is just FANTASTIC Mel! what a star you are! We are seasoned car travellers and I agree with all of your suggestions! We ditched the DVD player really early on as it was a complete failure and now the kids know the drill so well, they are better at packing than I am! We are currently planning a drive from Melbourne to Sydney, but I would so love to do the red centre! Oh have heaps of fun and remember to take loads of Instagram pics!!! Oh, wishing you could plan a pit stop via my house! xx

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  25. Ours are getting too big for the car now in long stints with long legs. If we ever do a road trip it will have to be in a bus now with these tall teenage boys. I'm with you on the DVD players though. We've never bothered. I just figured it would give them something to argue about like where they were sitting for the best view as they drive past something magnificent. Kids need to learn to be still and think about thoughts. It is a lost art in these times of cuber silliness. Bon Voyage!

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  26. Hello! What beautiful pictures you have here :) a big congrats for being a finalist in Voices of 2013 too. Thank you for stopping by my blog and also telling me about your husband's Ichthyosis. Can you please email me (contact details on my blog) as I'm doing a blogging project he may be interested in. Thank you :)

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  27. Sounds like you guys are in for a great adventure - can't wait to see more about it! And car cricket! That takes me back - we used to play it on our trips to nan's every summer (that was a three hour drive - felt like forever at that age)

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  28. I love the idea of no DVD players and retraining them to the way we used to have to do it. Have a fabulous and safe trip xx

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  29. I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip ... I love that feeling when you first all get in the car and you're ON YOUR WAY! We've done a lot of road trips with our kids over the last 19 years, and didn't regret a single one. We did cave in the last few years with a dvd player, but our kids have headsets so we don't hear the movie, and my husband and I have great conversations. Your boys are so cute! Wendy

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  30. Great tips! I'm always interested to read about how others travels with kids. We love a road trip, too. We drove from Melbourne to Byron bay before the twins were two (the trip was good but I am not in a hurry to repeat the drive). With the 3 kids we have done the Melbourne to NSW central coast trip a number of times. We like to start early (sometimes around 4am when I was breast feeding and up anyway) and drive for the border. The kids will sleep (or not) and we can get a good 4-5 hours in before stopping. I agree with you on the DVD players. I intercepted a grandparent gifted DVD player a couple of Christmases ago. The kids were none the wiser.

    Have a great trip!!

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  31. I haven't had a chance to catch up with everyone's blogs for a week or so, it's nice to pop over here and see such a lovely photo at the top there! Have a great trip, it sounds amazing. 5,000km? I think distances seem much longer when you live in the tiny UK - that distance is pretty mindblowing, let along the longer one last year! It's hard to envisage quite how big Australia actually is :) bon voyage!

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  32. I think you are so right about the dvd players. There are a lot of lessons learnt having to travel long distances in a car with others. we hope to go on a road trip before moving to NZ so when the time comes I will no doubt be refering back to your big trip and sending you a list of questions about travelling with a dog.

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  33. Oh and there you go... if I'd read this post first I'd have saved all that mind scrabbling that went on, haha! I'll say it again... AMAZING Mel! Love your tips for road trips. We also enjoy a good road trip and have done many with the boys... though nothing as extensive as your adventures AND we only have 2 little people to consider. Our longest one has been Sydney to the Sunshine Coast and we have done it two years in a row... gluttons for punishment a lot of people have said to us ;) xoxo

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