Road tripping with kids – does it fill you with excitement or a little bit of dread, or perhaps a bit of both?
Being stuck together in a cramped space for hours on end can be a little freaky!
But, we think road tripping is one of the best and most practical ways to travel with your kids and is how we mostly do it.
We recently took a 10 day Outback Queensland road trip with our kids exploring the region from Roma to Winton. You can read more about why we think Outback Queensland is a great destination here, and our suggested 2-week itinerary.
Outback Queensland suits a road trip
Outback Queensland is the perfect destination to road trip with your kids.
In this region, public transport options are fewer and there are many small Outback towns and dirt roads leading you to surprising adventures you’d miss if you just flew in and out of the main hubs – I’m looking at you Lara Wetlands and Bonus Downs Farmstay!
Experiencing the boundless and open spaces is what makes this region so captivating.
Plus, we find road trips a unique way to bond with your children. There are no outside distractions to keep you from singing, playing games and having funny conversations (stay tuned for a future video offering tips for road tripping with kids and showcasing the fun you can have).
More reasons to road trip with kids
Road trips give you total flexibility with your itinerary and schedule. Leave when you want, take as many breaks as you want, and head down that hidden dirt road just to explore what’s at the end of it.
One of the memories we’ll forever laugh over from our Outback Queensland road trip is the morning we got lost chasing the sunrise at Captain Starlight’s Lookout in Longreach.
We discovered one of the most interesting pubs, full of character and stories at the Wellshot Hotel in Ilfracombe as we drove past on the way to Longreach.
Road trips are more comfortable
Travel catapults children out of their comfort zone. A road trip helps them ease into and adapt to the change. The car becomes their stable home base. Plus, Mums and Dads, you know you’ll love the extra comfort of your own seat and coffee cup holder too!
Another thing to consider, especially on Outback road trips, is that inside the car you can turn on the A/C and take a little relief from the heat. It’s a great way to keep kids refreshed and ready to explore.
You can carry more luggage on a road trip
We like to carry enough luggage to keep everyone happy and satisfied.
Bikes and scooters, surfboards, and snorkels make family travel much more fun. PLUS, we carry a lot of camera and tech equipment. I love to carry my high-speed blender so I can fill our tummies with nourishing smoothies and healthy, yummy chocolate snacks.
Road trips can be cheaper
Sometimes this depends on the price of fuel. Currently, in May 2016, road trips in Australia have never looked better. Plus, you can always tow a mobile home like we did with our camper trailer around Oz, which also gives you and the kids a bit more stability. Outback Queensland is the perfect destination to explore with a caravan or camper trailer.
The campgrounds in Outback Queensland are spacious, cheap and comfortable and often have social events such as poet evenings, happy hour drinks, live music, and a camp cookout like we had at Charleville. You can always pull over at a free rest camp to fill up on snacks and naps, or camp overnight.
So now you know why road trips are so good for you and the kids, let us share with you a few of our insider secrets to making a Queensland Outback road trip with kids a fun experience for everyone.
Watch our Outback Queensland vlogs:
Tips for an Outback Queensland road trip
1. Pack enough snacks
I can promise you 10 minutes into the trip the kids are going to be whining they’re hungry. Give your kids an individual lunchbox filled with healthy snacks. This helps them get used to planning and making their food last.
Caveat. This does require training so pack extra food in case they gobble it all down at once, which they will do at first. (By the way, don’t give them all the extra food you packed right away. Pretend you don’t have it for awhile, so they absorb the lesson of spacing out food!)
Some of our favourite snacks for road trips are popcorn, fruit, crackers, sandwiches, and choc protein balls.
Driving times can be up to three hours between cafes and road houses in the Outback so come prepared to keep everyone full and happy.
2. Bring your entertainment
We want you and the kids to do as much roadside gazing as you can, but their (and possibly your) attention span is limited, so bring your entertainment too.
We train our kids to be good travellers, so they know before we get in the car for any road trip, it’s their responsibility to pack their entertainment packs. This includes packing any comfort items like pillows, and their fave teddy. They’ve learned that if they forget, they’re stuck with boredom.
Some of our favourite ways to entertain the kids in the car are reading books, dolls, colouring/activity books. Kalyra loved to kick my butt in the game Boxes and don’t forget the old fave – which gets a bit boring after awhile – I spy.
For parent serenity, you cannot beat DVD’s on a tablet or built in DVD player. Tell us in the comments below some of our favourites. We did not have any DVD’s or iPads on this Outback Queensland road trip. In total, we drove over 2,800 km without them, and the kids barely whinged.
When they do whinge, I like to reply,
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t understand boredom because there is always something I can choose to do.”
They soon stop and make a different choice.
Our girls loved staring out the window at the endless plains, checking for roos, emus and delighting in the goats and cows crossing the road.
3. Plan Plenty of Rest stops
When you first start road tripping with your kids, the maximum time you spend driving should be minimal. We began our Australian road trip driving no more than three hours to our next destination – we ended the road trip able to drive 7-8 hours.
Plan a rest stop every two hours. Research beforehand where a nearby playground, toilets and a place to run will be.
There are plenty of rest stops when you drive in Outback Queensland, as well as many towns to stop for a break or deeper exploration. On our trip between Roma and Winton each town was no more than a 2.5 hour drive.
4. Assign family roles
Road trips go smoothly when every person plays a part. Assign each person a role, no matter how young. Savannah’s only 4, but she loves holding a map in her hand and telling us where to go. (Parents, you know you’re going to verify that yourself right?)
Older kids can help plan stops along the route and researching things to do in the next town.
Everyone can help pack and unpack the car. In our car, I’m usually in charge of navigation, snacks, and crowd control. Kalyra’s in charge of entertainment – including never ending Katy Perry songs, Savannah’s simply the chief happiness officer, and Craig’s the driver and in charge of Dad jokes!
Want more tips? Check out our road trip tips video
Driving tips for Outback Queensland
Plan the hours you drive around how your kids work best. We find early morning starts work for us, just after sunrise.
- Be careful of wildlife. There aren’t many places in Australia we’d recommend driving after dusk or before sunrise. There are far too many roos jumping around. If you are driving at these times, be hyper-vigilant and slow down. Honk your horns to warn any roos you’re passing and don’t swerve to miss them, slow down as much as you can.
- For younger kids, you might want to plan your drives around your child’s nap times. Be warned, kids normally sleep in the car, which can disrupt their bed time. So take this into consideration, especially if you’re fanatical about bedtime schedules and routines.
- We had our biggest drive time on the first day of the trip from Burleigh Heads to Roma and the last day of the trip from Roma home. It was a 7-8 hour drive which we broke up into 2 hour increments. Kids can handle the longest distance on the first days of the trip when it’s new, and they have the most energy. Also on the last day, they’re so tired, they’ll sleep a good majority of the trip home.
- In the Outback, we liked to drive in the middle of the day because it was too hot to do anything else and we could sit in the air-con. But, it depends on your schedule and season of travel.
- Plan driving times around when the driver is most fresh and alert! Don’t forget to switch driving roles between mum and dad.
- Monitor your petrol levels carefully. Always know how much is left in the tank and where the nearest fill station is. When driving in the Queensland Outback, it’s always best to carry a spare jerry can of fuel. On our trip, there were plenty of towns in between, not too much distance apart, so it wasn’t necessary. But do your research, in case you plan to travel in more remote regions.
- You can never have too much water. We made the mistake of not packing enough on one of the days on our trip and were thirsty for the entire day.
- You can drive in most of Outback Queensland with a 2WD, but for some of those off-road explorations, a 4WD is required. Every spot we visited on our road trip could have been done in a 2wd drive, except for some of Bladensburg National Park near Winton.
- Ensure that your vehicle is mechanically sound, carry a first aid kit, ample water and spares such as tyres (at the correct pressure), radiator hoses and fan belts, together with a good tool-kit.
- Be careful when passing and overtaking road trains and heavy vehicles, including other caravans. Ensure you have a clear line of sight, allow plenty of room and be prepared for vehicles to move a little from side to side as you overtake. Road train and caravan drivers usually indicate with their blinker that it’s safe for you to overtake. Give them a thank you wave as you move past. If a road train is approaching to overtake you, move as far to the left as possible and stop if necessary to allow it to overtake safely.
- Always check road and weather conditions if you go off the main roads and advise someone of your itinerary.
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