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Driving Masters 3.0 and 0.3

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#1 JohBD

Posted 15 June 2009 - 11:30 AM

Our family of four has just returned from out third weekend away in six weeks. No we don’t have so much money we go away every fortnight, and we definitely don’t make a habit out of travelling as much as we have recently, hence this post about travelling with children.

As my regular readers will know, I have two sons – Noah who turned three last month and Ethan who is four months. Travelling with just Noah had always proved disastrous, so why do it with two? A bit of sheer madness tossed in with the need for a break.

The first trip within this six-week period was at the end of May when we spent the weekend in Port Macquarie with family, the second two weeks ago was visiting a cattle, sheep and biodynamic compost farm at Ben Lomond (near Guyra) and the third, this past weekend, was to Kandos (near Mudgee) to see my brother. We live on the NSW Central Coast, so the shortest of these jaunts was 4.5 hours and the longest 6.5.

Ethan is still young enough to just want to sleep and eat, with the odd cuddle in between when we stopped. Noah is past that age, but not quite at the, “Are we there yet?” point, so we had to plan carefully for both of them. Now I’ve painted the picture of our trips for you, I’ll let you know what I’ve learnt about travelling with two children.

1. Take lots of activities – I bought Noah the kid’s equivalent of a Stable Table after our first trip so he could draw, play with toys and eat easily on his lap while we drove. We also bought him a colouring book and crayons especially for the car trips and that, along with his books, cars and trains, kept him well occupied.

2. Take lots of snacks – Noah is going through the stage when he is eating only a few foods, and his favourite right now is “begemite sambiges”, so I made two sandwiches for the long travelling days on each trip. I also packed drinks, fruit, biscuits for us and milk and cereal so breakfast was easy.

3. Leaving Friday and returning Sunday is best – we considered leaving very early on Saturday morning and coming back on Sunday afternoon for the second and third trips, but actually travelled on Friday and Sunday for all three weekends. This meant Saturday was purely for enjoying the purpose of the weekend away – relaxing, seeing new sights and having fun. Waking up at the destination on Saturday morning made it seem much more like a holiday.

4. Driving at night is easier – before now we had mostly travelled long distances during the day, but for our Ben Lomond and Kandos trips we travelled both times on Friday night, as we didn’t leave until mid afternoon on Friday due to work. Both kids slept better and longer in the car than usual, because it was their normal sleep time.

5. Nobody likes sitting in the car for a long time – it’s easy to want to keep driving as long as possible to get to the destination quicker, but that theory doesn’t wash with kids. Noah needed to expend energy as he’d been cooped up in the car, and Ethan wanted to stretch and communicate with his parents so we stopped, on average, every two hours, just like Driver Reviver signs recommend.

6. Taking kids out of routine, even for fun, means days of catch-up when back home – both boys like their lives to run like clockwork every day (is this a boy thing?), so when we took them out of this routine for the weekend the first few days of the following weeks were filled with more unsettled behaviour and bad sleep than normal as we all got back into the swing of day-to-day life.

7. There’s no place like home – I’ve travelled through many countries and love new experiences, but there is nothing like the feeling as I pull up into my driveway and see, smell, hear the familiarity of home.

Noah is definitely getting better as a traveller the more we do. We’ve learnt from our mistake of taking Noah away and having a bad time so not repeating it. Instead we’re taking them both on regular trips and we’re getting it down to a fine art now. I think it’s time for a month or so at home now though!

I’d love to hear about how you travel with children over long distances. I look forward to your stories.

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