Packing for a family road trip is akin to moving house – it takes forever, it’s exhausting, no one wants to do it, and you always feel like something has been left behind. Unfortunately, you can’t pay some burly blokes to do it either, which makes moving house better than packing a car for a trip with kids. Take a deep breath; WhichCar is here to help with a what-to-pack checklist.
While a daunting thought at first, travelling with an infant is actually pretty easy. They sleep a lot, their cries aren’t at fever pitch (yet), and you can feed them almost anywhere. But they need so much stuff.
An easy way to ensure you remember everything to pack is to whack a sheet of paper on the fridge a week before you leave, and then write down the vital must-haves you use during that week. Rookies will forget the Panadol, the spare wipes and the (not one but two) spare changes of clothes for the first driving leg.
You will also need the following within arm’s reach (not in your suitcase):
- Nappies and wipes;
- nappy rash cream;
- throwaway nappy bags;
- a changing mat;
- and a first-aid kit including a thermometer and medications like Panadol and wind/colic meds. If a kid is going to get sick, bet on it happening when you’re away.
Also be sure to pack:
- At least two clothing outfits;
- teethers and soothers;
- travel steriliser kit;
- and formula milk or breastmilk for a faster feed on the go, with a bottle warmer ($20 from most auto and camping stores) that can operate using the cigarette lighter.
Babies shouldn’t be in capsules and car seats for more than a couple of hours at a time, and, for those stops, bring shade and rain protection. The good old golf umbrella will do just fine, whether rain or shine, to protect your baby when you stop.
If you use a baby monitor with sounds to lull the little one to sleep at night, don’t forget to pack it. The sounds, plus the night lights that typically come with them, are a godsend at your destination.
However, if you forget, scan the apps available on your phone for familiar sounds that match, and there are also ‘candle’ apps that provide a comforting soft nightlight. This can also be used in the car as you travel.
If possible, pack your own cot sheets (whether you take a Portacot or not) – preferably ones that your baby has already slept in. The familiar smell of home can be comforting when everything else has changed.
Finally, try to leave one of the rear seats (relatively) free. You will probably end up sitting next to your baby at some point, dangling shiny objects and trying to sing them back to sleep.
TODDLERS TO THREENAGERS
Older kids can make travel seem like time has stopped. Two hours feels like two days with a bored toddler in the back, so pack for entertainment as well as practicality.
When preparing for the trip, ask your wee one to pick a few of their favourite toys for the trip. But monitor them closely – a ‘few’ toys can turn into the entire contingent.
Invest in a boot organiser and a rear seat organiser with pockets – the ones that hang from the back seats to keep all toys, bottles and paraphernalia within reach and off the floor where it can roll under pedals.
Reading books, colouring books and pencils are good short-term amusements, but some kids get carsick far too quickly for this option. If you don’t want to resort to the iPad or mind-numbing movies playing for hours, see how they go with an audiobook. Classic tales voiced by known actors can keep the car eerily quiet for hours, and they can still watch the world go past while the story entertains them.
Here’s the killer when it comes to food: You shouldn’t pack lollies, sweets, or sugar. Not unless you want to stop every 90 minutes to let the kids scream around the nearest playground. Even high-sugar fruits and juice boxes should be avoided for the more fidgety kids – a certain writer had her parents do this every trip – otherwise the child cannot bear the confinement of the car. High-fibre snacks are best, as they are filling and can help the problem some kids have with their bodies packing up after prolonged inactivity and not enough fresh air.
Yet again, you will be stopping frequently, but this time to alleviate boredom as well as sore backsides. So plan ahead and make it interesting, and check out places to stop along the way. Kids love exploring, and trips can become memorable and fun instead of a routine A-to-B journey.
Lastly, pack a cheap kid-proof digital camera, or sacrifice an old one. They go for nothing these days (and are much cheaper than your phone). Kids will take photos of everything and anything they see, and it becomes a journal of the trip. One in a hundred will be a good picture, but it’ll be a keeper.