Travelling off-road with kids is highly rewarding, but it also comes with its own challenges. However, with these tips from endless travellers The Blonde Nomads you can make every journey more enjoyable for the backseat and less stressful for the front seat.
Rob Morris (adventure dad from The Blonde Nomads) shares his tips on off-road adventures with the family.
There’s no doubt that exploring the great outdoors is awesome fun for kids (and us big kids too!). Getting down and dirty, using their imaginations and burning off all that never-ending energy is good for their mental and physical health. The thought of taking the ‘little tackers’ along on your adventures, especially to some remote locations can make some parents feel a little anxious or stressed, but with a little preparation and pre-planning, you’re all sure to have an epic time.
Here’s our top 9 hot tips for off-road touring with kids:
1. Get them involved
We like to not only let our kids know the plan for each day, but we even get them involved in the planning too. Having this knowledge means that they know what to expect each day before we head off, what activity is coming up next and also how long the day will be. This makes our adventures go a lot smoother, and they can’t chuck a ‘tanty’ because they helped us organise it.
Often on a road trip kids will say they’re hungry when they’re actually just bored. Having some little ‘time wasters’ as we call them can keep them occupied until something else shiny comes along. Some of our go-to snacks include: Pistachios/nuts, boiled eggs (let them peel it themselves), trail mix, mandarins, apples, bananas, carrots, rice chips. Also, lots of water - it keeps them hydrated and also fills them up.
3. Wee stops
The words “I’M BUSTING!” can be quite a stressful thing to hear when you’re doing 110km/h with a road train up your clacker! By making sure you stop for a wee break fairly frequently, everyone can answer the call of nature before this happens (and it’s non-negotiable – everyone goes at each stop). These stops are also a great opportunity for the kids to have a play and burn some energy while us adults take a break and stretch our legs too.
4. Meal plan
Whatever food you think you ’ll need for the day, double it and it may just last you till lunchtime! When you’re touring with kids you want meals that are quick, easy, travel well and that you know they are actually going to eat; don’t try anything new and fancy. A few suggestions we love include -
Breakfast: Muesli + yoghurt, toast or cereal. Bircher muesli is a great one to travel with as this can be pre-made in a big batch that you keep in the fridge/esky.
Lunch: Wraps with any kind of filling. Our go-to wraps are a can of tuna, mayo, cheese, lettuce and hummus. They even fold up and are easy to hold so don’t even require a plate.
Dinners: When on long trips we like to pre-make at least the first night’s meal to make things easier. Our faves include Mexican mince (cook extra to have on toast for brekkie), Sausages and veggies (cook extra for sauso sambos for lunch) and tuna pasta (one pot wonder).
5. Keep ‘em busy
Whether you’re travelling in the car or just hanging around camp, kids always need entertaining. Gone are the days of ‘Eye Spy’ (although we still do that occasionally). In the car we like to have a few activity books with stickers and colouring-in. We also have two DVD players and a tablet, but they aren’t allowed either of them until they do some other activities because we say the batteries have to ‘charge’ first.
Around camp we like more hands-on things like doing art and craft (2 Dollar shops are great for this), we also have a Nature Hunt Checklist that you can download here. And the most favourite thing is making mud pies/potions and building stick teepees. It’s amazing to see what they can create.
6. Gimme Shelter
Caravan, Camper Trailer, Tent or Swags - whatever you choose for your adventure abode, you definitely want to ensure it is waterproof and quick to set up. After a long drive, the last thing you want is to spend hours setting up camp while trying to watch, feed and entertain the kids. If you have a new tent, make sure you do a trial run at home first. As the kids get older, they can even graduate into their own tent. This is a win/win as the kids get their own space and and the adults get their own privacy.
7. Kiddies table
As soon as kids can feed themselves it’s a good idea to get them their own small chairs and a little low table, as small chairs don’t work well at a normal camp table height. Kids love this because they feel all special and the adults can have half a chance at a normal dinner convo (even though the kiddie table is not far away, or maybe it should be? Say 500m?). It comes in handy with activities too.
8. Throwing shade
A great addition to any family adventure car is a foldout awning, the quicker the setup the better or you won’t be bothered to get it out. We set up our awning in less than a minute. This is awesome for providing shade in summer and also can keep any pesky rain out while you setup or pack down camp. It’s an absolute must as far as we’re concerned.
9. Safety Sam
I guess we’d better be responsible parents too! Always carry more drinking water than you need, preferably in at least two containers in case one leaks. We live in Australia, the land of ‘everything wants to kill you’, so have a couple of snake bandages and know how to use them and teach the kids too. We also recommend you travel with a simple first aid kit with Band-Aids, antiseptic swabs and so on (and duct tape if the kids get too mouthy!).
Invest in a satellite phone or PLB (personal locating beacon) if travelling out of phone reception and make a point to teach everyone how to use it - even the kids. A UHF radio is also great to have in your truck or even little handheld ones. Last (and arguably most important) of all, don’t forget the coffee (am!) and the beer and/or wine (pm!), because you’ve bloody earned it!