With five children ranging from four through to sixteen, I have experienced some of the best and worst of travelling with children. Tempting as it often is to postpone our annual trips away together, albeit with backseat fights, clothing of every shape, colour and size hanging out of seven overstuffed suitcases, and of course the never ending hunger pains, we seem to forget all the reasons why we shouldn't do this thing called the 'Family Road Trip', and continue to plan our next great adventure into unchartered Australian soil and what undoubtedly becomes the making of memories.
Below are some tips we have learnt along the way for a more enjoyable family campervan holiday:
TIP 1: Choose a family friendly destination. This should be common sense, but many parents don't think carefully enough about where they are going and what route they are taking with the kids in mind. Travelling Australia in under a month is a great ideal, but little children may not appreciate the hours upon hours of sunburnt country as much as you. Setting up camp next to the 'Beware of Crocodiles' sign in the Outback Aussie Caravan Park also might not be the best choice.
Do some internet research and find some family friendly parks that offer children facilities, or base yourselves near some great family attractions that will become an exciting part of the holiday. Talk about where you are going as a family and get the children involved in the research and planning. This will double the anticipation as well as provide some extra information along the way.
TIP 2: Preparation. Lists are my sanity savers. Write them weeks in advance of your packing frenzy. Stick them on the fridge or on the toilet door if that works. Food lists, what to bring and what to buy lists, what to do with the pets lists. The list goes on. Once you are on the road and away from your day to day routine you will be glad you put a lot of effort into your luggage.
Being organised does not come naturally to me, so this step is always a long and arduous process, and then once we pull out of the driveway, I allow myself a few deep breaths before someone remembers that inevitable item that Mum forgot to add to the list.
TIP 3: Make it fun. This is a must do in our family. What is the point of a holiday if there's no fun involved? Of course there are always the moments that sneak up on us (usually in the back seat) but the general plan is to have as much fun as possible even when circumstances don't go as much to plan as we expected.
Rain can be one primary dampener of fun, but children are adaptable, and having to resort to Plan B, or C, won't wreck the holiday. Travel games, packs of cards and some books for a possible few days inside the campervan are always a great idea. Turning up to an attraction on the one day it's closed for maintenance doesn't have to spoil the fun either. Head to the nearest information centre and make the most of your day together. Being flexible is the key to a fun family holiday.
TIP 4: Shorter trips and longer stops. Being a very relaxed person but having a big family means there still has to be a daily plan, even if we don't have to stick to it. Writing up a day to day schedule allowing enough time for day to day tasks helps to minimize the stress of travelling, and the children will remember a more relaxed holiday.
Allow enough time for everything, from getting all the kids up in to morning to preparing dinner. Instead of leaving at 6am to make the most of the day, leave refreshed a few hours later with a happy family in tow. A more leisurely itinerary with longer stops will give you a chance to enjoy the moments, the scenery and your time together, instead of rushing around and getting stressed. There are always days when you need to get up early, but if you incorporate a few relaxing days you will be glad.
TIP 5: Lots of good food. The family holiday is not the time or place to start a weird diet or health kick. Before you shop, ask everyone in the family what favourite meal they would like, and try to slot it in somewhere. If you are eating in, allow for lots of extra treats and a change from meals at home. There is something about holidays that increases the appetite. Maybe it's the salt air, or change in routine? Whatever it is, embrace the moment and enjoy your dinners! If you are eating out, choose a family friendly restaurant or take away so that everyone is enjoying themselves. Stock up on delicious good food, and of course buy plenty of snack food for any lengthy road trips. Some of my best family memories are eating ice creams together on the beach, a simple tradition that we made sure took place every holiday.
TIP 6: Exercise. Children need to exercise every day, its that simple. A family holiday is a great opportunity to get out in the sunshine and play together. Pack a soccer ball, tennis racquets or fishing rods and enjoy the outdoors with the people you love most. Choose a destination with plenty of walking tracks, or close to the beach. Visit attractions where there is exercise involved, or just make sure you visit a park daily and play. There are many tourist parks offering kids programmes that will get them out and about and also give you the break you much deserve. Interacting with each other as a family is what your holiday should be about anyway, and its so easy to do.
TIP 7: Record your holiday. It doesn't matter how you do it, but in this modern age we live in, there are so many ways to preserve your holiday for years to come. Video footage from your children can be the funniest to watch when you get home, and captures the moment from their perspective. Take plenty of photos and use them as a slide show on your laptop later on. Buy a visual arts book for your child/children and suggest they write a travel journal. Every night before bed they can draw or write about their day. This is a great way to get them asking questions and writing, even at an early age. Collecting mementos from every place visited is another fun idea and will end up as holiday treasures when they get home.
A campervan is the perfect choice of travel for the family getaway, and with a lot of kids in tow, the savings in accommodation and food alone is a drawcard for us. Our travel costs are almost halved when staying in a campervan as we would normally require two motel rooms each night. Multiple beds, a kitchen and a loo on wheels, what more could you ask for? Wherever you decide to travel, plan carefully, have lots of fun each day and eat lots of good food. This will ensure you are on the road to great family holiday.
Jenny Brewer is a travel agent whose passion is writing. After spending her leisure time writing childrens stories, she now enjoys writing about travel destinations. For more of her articles visit Campervans Australia