So, you’re about to do a bit of a family road trip with one or more small humans?

We currently live in Sydney but we are from up north near Byron and have a lot of family and friends on the Sunny Coast so I spend a lot of time driving up and down the East Coast.

I usually do it solo with our two kids who are five and six and have been since they were almost one and two. I reckon I have worked out the perfect (ish) formula, or one that works for us anyway!

I still plan our trips like this five years down the track, sometimes stretching out the drive time a little as they get older.

I’m notoriously bad at planning ahead and did it Lily style the first time I drove solo with the kids from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast. It didn’t go well. At all.

At one point I was crouched on the gravel on the side of the freeway trying to change the baby’s nappy with one hand while clutching the shirt of the toddler with the other.

Our little dog was on a lead around my ankle. Trucks flying past, dog FREAKING out. Kids freaking out. Crap. So totally crap.

Needless to say, when the opportunity arose to do it again I sure as hell wasn’t going to set myself up for a repeat performance and spent a little time planning ahead.

And voila, here it is, the magic formula…


Map it out –

Map the trip from exact start point to end point in Google Maps. Then divide the trip into segments between 2 and 2.5 hours.

My sweet spot has stayed the same for years as far as the length of time the kids will put up with being in the car. Two and a half hours is definitely the max, it all goes tits up on cue right about there.

Google Maps makes this pretty easy by dividing the trip in two automatically. You don’t need to be too hardcore about getting this exact, remember you have a half hour leeway to work with.

However, if you are a bit of a perfectionist and you do want to get it spot on you can use the Geo Midpoint site to find the exact halfway point between locations.

Find the biggest town closest to the 2/2.5 hour points and do some Googling.

You want indoor play centers, quality fenced playgrounds and water parks (in summer).

The trick is finding somewhere it is safe for them to run a little wild without pissing too many people off and without anyone getting seriously injured.

I’ve created a list of my favourite parks and playgrounds on the East Coast, there is an interactive map to make it easy to figure out what is on your route.

There is also an app called Playground Finder in AU that is awesome for finding great parks.

Other users rate the playgrounds and unless they have at least 4 stars I don’t bother, that way you can be pretty sure you are onto a winner.

Once I have an address for the stop I put it in my calendar on the iPhone so I can just tap the address when I am getting close and have the GPS to direct me.

It will automatically take you to maps and give you voice direction to the destination. I use the Week Calendar app on my iPhone and find it really easy to use.

This is what it looks like in my calendar.

I tend to make my break stops between 30 and 45 minutes, maximum 1 hour. Otherwise it just takes way too long to get anywhere.


Food –

Save all the eating for when you are driving.

I know I know, I also swore never to feed the kids in the car but seriously, if it gets me to the destination relatively peacefully then I’m down with it at this point.

This doesn’t work when they are still on milk of course but in that case I’d always feed the baby just before I got in the car rather than the other way around.

Just choose food that isn’t going to be really messy. I do a lunch box for each kid and put it in his or her lap to eat while we are driving.

Whole apples and boxes of sultanas are awesome as they take ages to eat. Just beware the sultana sugar high. I’ve don’t up this list of healthy (ish) snacks for road trips with heaps of ideas to add to your shopping list.

A couple of sandwiches and some vita wheats later and you’re an hour down the highway and no one has lost it.

Oh, do yourself a favour and get one of those Wow cups from Coles or Woolies.

They don’t leak, ever, it’s bloody amazing. A good friend recommended them and they rock. They are also really easy to clean.


Stories –

I’ve got a few friends who really can’t handle kids stories on in the car so potentially this won’t float your boat but I would rather listen to the same playschool CD 15 times than answer incessant questions or listen to whinging.

There is a really cool CD my mum got for our kids at Woodford Folk Festival recently, it’s songs for young kids, but done in a way where you (sorta, aside from the toilet training and manners stuff 🙂 ) feel like you’re listening to grown up music.

It’s by the Teeny Tiny Stevies and is called Useful Songs For Little People, you can get it online here

I think their song “On the toilet”  is actually responsible for toilet training my 2 year in about 5 days, gold!

Check it out – On the toilet -Teeny Tiny Stevies

I use Audible a lot to download reasonably priced stories, I then burn them from Itunes onto a disc to play in the car.

You can also use the Audible app to listen directly from your phone on bluetooth.

If you need some ideas check out my favourite kids stories on audible or kids audiobooks & songs about caring for the environment.

You can also download the ABC app ABC KIDS listen, it is an online radio station with music and stories for kids aged 0-5 and it’s free and fabulous. It’s on this list of handy apps for road tripping with kids (that don’t involve screens) which has a bunch of great apps to keep the kids occupied without any screen time.


Toys –

I tend to try and pack as light as I possibly can so I avoid taking too many toys and or books.

Check out road trip & camping toys that don’t take up too much space for some space saving ideas or 10 ways to entertain your kids on a road trip for some ideas for in the car play.

What I have been known to do is get a few things from the op shop before I leave.

It covers a few bases, one being that it’s something they haven’t seen before so the novelty factor is high.

The other is that you can give them away or switch them out at an op shop when you get there and get some new stuff for the return trip.

For babies in rear facing seats those taggy blankets that make a scrunchy noise work a treat, as do the clip on mobiles you can attach to the back of the head rest.

Those mirrors that you attach to the bottom of their seat so they can see you are also awesome, Ivy was a bit tricky in the car until we got one and she was pretty cool after that.

Don’t forget – Toilet paper, baby wipes, rubbish bags, more baby wipes and a potty if you’re at that stage. You can also check out my list of essential items to pack for a road trip.

I’ve recently put together post that outlines all the steps I take each time I head off on an adventure with the kids.

It will send you in the direction of the posts that will be most useful at every stage, from deciding where to go to what to feed the kids once you get there.

The plan was to sorta eliminate the need for you to think too much cos who’s got time for that right! When there’s wee humans running around anyway…

Check it out at planning the perfect road trip with kids, you won’t regret it 😉

Well, there you have it. Map it out, divide it up and don’t deviate from the plan, ever!

Have fun and good luck!


Lily x


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