Car Travel With Kids – Enjoying The Trip!

car travel with kids - enjoying the trip

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I set off yesterday morning with the 5 kids for a car trip with the kids to Mildura. Mr I was meant to be coming along, but his football team has made the finals, so with an elimination final on Sunday he needed to stay in Melbourne.

For me, enjoying car travel with kids is dependent upon two things:

  • preparation
  • attitude

car trip with kids

As we have made this trip numerous times, the kids are all pretty aware of what is involved. It is a full days drive. We left home before 10am, dropped Mr I off at work in the city and made our way to the Calder Highway. Many hours later we arrived at 5.15pm at my sister’s house in Mildura.

Here is what we do to make it the car trip as enjoyable as possible for all of us:

car travel with kids - taking breaks
Take plenty of breaks from the drive, at places where the kids can have some fun. Our eldest found what he called a “natural slide” and the kids had a ball going up and down it while I stretched my legs.

car travel with kids - audio books
Music and audiobooks. We are old school and don’t have a DVD player for the car and I prefer it this way. The Roald Dahl audio books are fantastic and I can highly recommend them. I love that they are CDs all my kids will listen do despite the range in ages (2 – 12 y.o). You can find more of my recommended audio books for car trips here – 10 Great Children’s Audio Books For Long Car Trips.

car travel with kids - canola
We talk about what we see out the window. This is a canola field. We talked about how they crush the seeds from this plant and make oil and margarine from it.

car travel with kids - healthy snacks
Each child has their own back pack containing their food for the trip. To see the type of things I pack you can check out my list – For the car, food and drink.

car travel with kids - my addiction
I may be a little to fond of this drink – my only source of caffeine as I don’t really drink tea or coffee (and before you tell me – I know it is horribly bad for me!). Note the towel on the floor in the photo. I always pack a towel and wet face washer and they always come in handy!

car travel with kids - voice memos
After the kids had lunch in the car, the toddler and one other child had a nap. With the Roald Dahl audio books on, I faded the sound to the back of the car, put on my headphones (with mouthpiece) and used the Voice Memos function on my iPhone.

I had lots of ideas going around in my head, so I recorded them – some ideas for presentations coming up, outlines for posts I want to write over the next few weeks and ideas for a couple of projects I am developing. It is impossible to always remember these ideas, but recording them means, I can listen back to them next week when I am home and have a base to start from.

car travel with kids - dinosaurs
We always pack a small collection of suitable toys and print outs for the kids to do. You can download the Planning With Kids – Travel Activity Pack to help keep the kids occupied on long car trips – it is a zip file (6.2MB) and includes:

  • Spot The Sign Game
  • Junior Primary Maths Grids
  • Middle Primary Maths Grids
  • Upper Primary Maths Grids
  • Early Readers Word Search
  • Car Road Trip Word Search
  • Kids Printable Activities Website List

car travel with kids - medicine
I always pack basic medicines. With 5 kids, there is a pretty good chance that one of them will need it. This trip it was our daughter, who started running a fever half way through the trip.

car travel with kids - park time
Play, fresh air and toilet stops always help change the mood in the car!

car travel with kids - mallee scrub
As we drove through Hattah, we talked about how native vegetation can actually be rejuvenated by bush fires.

car travel with kids - tour of the murray
We learnt that the Tour of The Murray cycling event was going to be in Mildura this weekend.

car travel with kids - the pod
Thanks to Mr I’s mum and dad who bought us this pod a few years ago to go on top of the Tarago, packing the car is so much easier. It does however mean that making it to Mildura on a tank of petrol on a windy day is pushing it.

car travel with kids - running on empty
Planning your trip so you can refuel as needed is pretty important. We joined the many cycling teams refueling at Redcliffs (15 minutes from Mildura!). Mr I reckons we would have made it to Mildura with what was left – I am cautious though and was never going to test it out!

What do you do to make long car travel with kids enjoyable?


  1. Rosemary Butcher says

    I love the idea of the individual backpacks loaded with age specific activities. We travel from Sydney to Melbourne a few times a year and I am constantly changing and improving what we take and how we manage the trip. Thanks for your information.’

  2. says

    We reguarly drive 4 hours between our farm and Sydney. I often try to download some podcasts of children stories so that the kids can listen to a new story or 2. We have also bought a jack that goes into our ipod and allows all 3 kids to listen to the same ipod at the same time each with their own head phones- a big money saver – and we don’t have to listen to the wiggles for the 30 millionth time.

  3. says

    excellent ideas. we tried dvd player but miss 4 gets car sick. she pretty much whines the whole trip. lol. we’re doing a 9 hour trip next week. we are stopping over night in a motel and have also lined up a stop at a friends house

  4. says

    Thanks for the activity pack and the idea of audio books. We do a few car trips as my parents like 4 hours away. We do have a portable DVD player ready to go for the next trip but books and music cd’s help also.
    I also pack the boot with the kids clothes at the top so changes can be made if necessary.

  5. says

    Great tips! We’re old school too and resist the idea of a car DVD player – we play lots of I-Spy (with colours, not letters, given A’s age) and sing songs, talk about what’s outside, she looks at books and plays with a soft toy or two. The audio books are a great idea too – thanks for the tip.

  6. Abbington says

    Thanks for all the tips! We do a lot of long car trips, as well. Our favourite audio book so far has been ‘Paddington Bear’ with Stephen Fry narrating – we all enjoyed that! My son has also enjoyed ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’.

    Our local library recently started a service of loaning audiobooks online – you download the audiofile from the comfort of home, the deal being that you delete it from your computer/other devices after two weeks. (We’ve have been enjoying some of Isobelle Carmody’s books this way – the ‘Little Fur’ series). This has greatly expanded our selection of things to listen to in the car, and is also handy if I haven’t made it to the library before a trip, as I can still do it the night before the trip!

    Our car does not have a separate speaker to the 3rd row, so we often find that the two in the back can’t hear very well, especially if the baby and toddler are noisy, so we invested in a cheap MP3 player – we can plug it into a socket to play through the car speaker, or my son can listen to it on his own in the 3rd row if necessary.

    We don’t have a DVD player in the car, either, and none of our kids have a Nintendo DS yet, either – however, we do have my family’s old ‘Nintendo Game & Watch’s’ from the 1980’s! And the kids have been enjoying Donkey Kong tournaments from the back!

  7. says

    The discovery of audio books was pure gold. I need them just to get across town in peace. Sometimes just to get through breakfast! Current faves with the Munchkin are the Roald Dahl collection, “How to Train your Dragon” books (divinely read by David Tennant) and The Velveteen Rabbit (Samuel West version). I’ll be heading online to pick up The Faraway Tree and whatever else I can get my hands on next time we do a big trip.

    • says

      Oh we love the David Tennant How to Train Your Dragon books too. Isn’t he wonderful? I read the latest one (or two?) to the kids myself (we couldn’t wait anymore for him to do it), but it just wasn’t the same!