Top tips for caravanning with kids
Driving around Australia with a caravan is a big ask. But with children as well? Take our soothing advice.
What to take
Well, take your kids, if you must. But only if they come fully equipped with self-entertainment systems. Think pens, paper, craft materials. Help them get into the swing of things by decorating their own travel cases, taking pride in looking after their own stuff, and keeping their things in one place. Crazy talk, I know, but you might be pleasantly surprised...
When you tell people you’re off on a big road trip with kids you tend to get a mix of sympathy, bemusement and sound advice. And that’s just from your children’s teachers. Be sure to check with these education experts about the best way to keep your kids on track while they’re out of school, and if it’s a long trip, try to be back in time for a little school before the year’s out to give the kids a chance to catch up with friends and school in general. If your kids are still pre-teen like ours, they might even reply to questions about the trip with something more than a grunt and a shrug.
What to say
You may have to explain yourself a lot, pre-departure. I regret failing to print up a brochure to hand out to every second person who asked which way we were headed etc. Standard replies include: “We’re going anti-clockwise, inside lane, it’s shorter,” and “no, we don’t think we’ve lost our minds. We think spending months in a confined space with two small kids will be fun. OK, maybe we have lost our minds.”
How to prepare
Grit your teeth and get the kids doing more chores before you go. They won’t like it, but it will pay off when you hit the road and everybody is needed to pitch in. Pain-free camping set-ups and departures are much easier if family members of all ages have their jobs down pat. In the weeks before we headed off our dishwasher died, which got us all in peak washing-drying-putting-away mode. I think of it as a sink-half-full approach.
Keep 'em keen
Never underestimate the entertainment potential of a country-town op shop. Give the kids a gold coin or two and tell them to get to it. It’s all for a good cause, in more ways than one. Nothing is too silly if it’s going to keep the kiddies quiet for a few miles, and if it’s noisy you can always offload it at the next country-town op shop when the kids aren’t looking.
Be sure to get a good mechanic to look for any possible signs of trouble before you head off. Even though our caravan seemed fine, a pre-departure service turned up a faulty electrical plug and a broken cable. While you’re at it, you and your family should book in for a check-up with your dentist and GP. The last thing you need is the physical equivalent of a broken cable when you’re a long, long drive from help.
On the road
Little travellers don’t know how good they’ve got it, but try to tell them that and they won’t even answer. In our case, that’s because they’re plugged into an audiobook and gazing into the middle distance, lost in a world of dragon training and multi-storey treehouses. Kiddy headphones are silence-inducing bliss if you want to avoid the umpteenth diary entry of a wimpy kid, but there’s also nothing quite like a great talking book that all the family can listen to for those long stretches.
Most folk who do the big lap round Oz will rave about what a great trip it was. What they tend to leave out is the madcap rush to get organised and on the road in the first place. But my theory is it’s like childbirth – they’ve blocked out the pain because the end result makes it all worth it. Right, kids? Kids?
RACV can help
RACV Touring Caravan Insurance comes in one comprehensive, affordable and flexible package, with the features, benefits and service you expect from RACV.
RACV’s Total Care includes Emergency Roadside Assistance for your caravan Australia wide.
Members save 25 per cent at RACV Cobram and Inverloch Resorts. Both have caravan parks.