Written by Kylie Kaden
If you’d rather poke sticks in your eyes than change a Portaloo cassette, campervanning with kids is unlikely to float your boat. But if you like flexibility (from toilet breaks to departure times) and you’re keen to temporarily shed the superfluous – a road-tripping holiday may be your ticket to a cost-effective way to travel.
- Think snail – your home is always with you. Unpack once and immediately have that settled feeling. No more sippy cups or phone chargers left in hotels. No more ‘first night frenzy’ trying to get buzzed kids down in unfamiliar beds.
- Greater control – things don’t always go to plan when you add The Kid Factor – independent travel allows you to stop, pee, sleep and eat on demand, reducing the likelihood of ugly scenes.
- More space than airline luggage – bring the trike! (Still try to pack light as you may curse the non-essentials when you trip over them each morning).
- Cost effective – off-season campervan hire is often no dearer than renting a standard sedan yet supplies free accommodation – and self-catering is a great way to reduce spending.
- The Vanner’s club – feel the friendliness of the (not so) secret campers club as you’re now a member. Don’t forget to wave!
- Campervans are heated, fitted with flat-screen TVs, microwaves, bathrooms, USB media players and surround sound -you’re not exactly roughing it.
- Road games, cards, all that corny togetherness might just warm your heart and forge lifelong memories.
- You can explore the road less travelled – picnic on absolute beachfront while bub sleeps, watch the sunset wine in-hand while your child climbs the spiders web in the camp playground.
- You are only cooped up to sleep and drive. The outdoors is the biggest playground.
- Grumpiness, and togetherness are both amplified in confined spaces.
- There will be tantrums (and not just from the kids), sat-nav malfunctions, missed turnoffs and times you really don’t like each other.
- Camping illegally can land you a hefty fine.
- Campervans have inbuilt hazards kids adore – buttons, high bunks, gas fittings and levers. Constant supervision required.
- If you’re not used to sharing a bed with a diagonally-sleeping child, be prepared to get kicked.
The best and worst experiences happen in metal box holidays. Here are some pointers on having more pros than cons:
- Pack your patience.
- Limit driving to 300ks a day (less in mountainous/snowy areas). Break up driving days with stay days.
- Say yes as often as you can.
- Kid’s audiobooks make long stretches less monotonous (Roald Dahl is a fave).
- Get a van only as big as you need – you still have to park the thing. We found a 6 birth Maui had permanent beds for 4 which reduced bedtime rearranging.
- Read specs carefully to ensure enough car seat anchor points and if taking your own boosters (airlines often allow free extra baggage for infants) check it complies with local laws. For children prone to motion sickness, ensure the configuration allows forward facing positions.
- Stock up on non-perishables in supermarkets before exploring remote areas – eating out three meals a day can get tiresome and expensive.
- Twenty-four-seven-kids-in-your-face can be grueling. Employ ‘divide and conquer’ as a strategy. Split kids for different adventures or take turns soaking up ‘me’ time while the other parent takes one for the team, then swap. Fairly.
- Handovers either side of vehicle rental can take longer than you think. Be prepared with snacks and distractions.
- Consider the age and temperament of your children. While most travelers tolerate the ruckus of family chaos (many have their own) if your baby cries three hours a night, having an audience in the next site will turn holiday into hell. If your munchkin is a serial absconder, campsites will be heaven for them (but torture for you). Consider playpens, closed-off annexes or delaying your trip till they are less flighty (or bribable).
- Older kids: Planning day trips – attractions, caves, glaciers, bike-hire – mould their minds into believing it was their idea and they’ll be easier to pull away from the iPad. Try a travel scrapbook to encourage reflecting on their experiences.
- Become accustomed to the chinking of crockery as you bounce along (close the cupboards and place fruit in the crisper while driving to avoid bruising).
Road-tripping with kids offers flexibility and adventure, combined with a dash of crazy. With the right planning and attitude, it offers a cost-effective and relaxing travel option.
After all, doesn’t fortune favour the brave?
By Kylie Kaden