Travelling with young kids can be so much fun. You get to find somewhere new to explore! And discovering (or rediscovering) somewhere through the eyes of a little person can be so magical.
This year we’ve been lucky enough to go on several trips around Australia – to Port Douglas, Cairns, Port Macquarie and Canberra. Not to forget, of course, hidden gems in (or within driving distance) of our home city, Sydney – Centennial Parklands, Balls Head, Lane Cove National Park, Narrabeen Lakes and the Blue Mountains to name but a few.
In each situation, we’ve gone on little day trips (from our home or hotel room), and it’s day trips like these that have been the core of our travel memories. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a pro at day tripping with young kids, but I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way, which have made our life easier (and more enjoyable) when we’re on the road. I thought I would share these with you today.
My Top Five Tips for Day Trip Travel with Young Kids
1. Plan for any longer drives
Sometimes our day trips involve a few hours driving (from Port Douglas to the Daintree Rainforest, or from Sydney to the Blue Mountains for example). We like to borrow audiobooks from the library for these trips – a great story will keep my kids happy for much longer than a music CD ever would. Listening to stories that are rich in language is also great for their vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Here’s a few of our favourite stories: with story-lines that aren’t too scary or mature for the preschooler crowd. I’ve listed these in rough age order. The first ones would be suitable for 2 year olds or thereabouts.
- Playschool Dinosaur Stories, by various authors, read by Leah Vandenberg and Andrew McFarlane.
- Dogs and Mogs, by various authors, read by Andrew McFarlane and Lean Vandenberg.
- Winnie-the-Pooh (unabridged), by A. A. Milne, read by Peter Dennis.
- Guess How Much I Love You (Special Moments), by Sam McBratney.
- The Billy B Brown Collection (1 or 2), by Sally Rippin, read by Eloise Mignon.
- The Magic Faraway Tree Collection, by Enid Blyton, read by Kate Winslet.
- Jack Russell Dog Detective Collection (1 or 2), by Darrel and Sally Odgers, read by Alan King.
- Fairy Realm Collection (1 & 2) by Emily Rhoda, read by Lucy Bell.
- Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (or most of Roald Dahl books, except for Matilda, which I think is better for a slightly older, school-age audience.)
2. Fewer activities is actually more.
When you arrive at a new and wonderful holiday destination, it’s tempting to try and squeeze a lot into one day, but multiple venues usually means lots of ‘stop that’ and ‘hurry up’, which isn’t much fun for little kids. Instead, we try to choose one or two main locations a day, where we can spend a decent amount of time playing, wandering and exploring. We try to choose activities that are hands on, where kids can set their own pace.
3. Pack light.
I used to pack ‘everything but the kitchen sink’, thinking that I was being a ‘good mum’ by preparing for every eventuality. But I’ve since discovered that all this extra stuff was a burden: it made me feel like I had to ‘stay with and look after’ our stuff all the time. When you have two young kids who might run off in opposite directions, I’ve found it’s easier to pack less and be more mobile.
Depending on where we are going, I try now to pack just phones, wallet, keys, hats, water bottle, small notebook, pencil, and possibly a camera in a light backpack, which still keeps our hands free. I might also pack healthy, yet sturdy snacks (like apples, carrots and muesli bars) in the backpack too, knowing that the contents (and weight) of our food will reduce as the day progresses.
Sunscreen is applied before we set out. ‘Just in case’ supplies (like spare clothes, small towels, wet wipes, extra sunscreen) can be kept in the car where possible, which is usually a few minutes walk back to the car park from wherever we are, if we really do need to access them. (Better that I or Mr Banya duck back to the car to grab a change of clothes in an emergency, than for us to lug spare sets for both girls around all day long.) We’ve completely abandoned any pretext of picnic rugs, large towels, plastic plates, utensils, and toys…
And I have to say, the feeling is liberating! With just a small backpack, we are feel free to join in the kids’ games (and be fun parents)! And when the little kids inevitably tire at the end of the day, our arms are free to cuddle and carry them.
4. Nature makes awesome toys.
Speaking of toys, we hardly take toys from home with us any more. This is partly due to our ‘pack light’ philosophy, and partly because I’ve noticed that the kids play better without them. There are so many natural toys all around us: leaves, sticks, seed pods, flowers, rocks and dirt (and mud if you add water) – what could possibly be better than these? We love to go exploring and discover what treasures we can (responsibly) collect, and see if we can come up with new ways to play with them.
5. We love games!
When we’re not lucky enough to be immersed in nature or hands-on activities, we play lots of good old-fashioned word and card games, which are great for family bonding. They often only need some fellow team mates and your imagination.
My (awesome) brother gave me this little book of ‘parlour games‘ a few years ago, which has given us loads of fun ideas, and we’ve made up some others as we went along. Here are our favourites:
- ‘I Spy’ is always fun. As we have a pre-reader who doesn’t know her alphabet yet, we play a few variations. We started out spying something that was a particular colour or texture. We’re now up to spying something that starts with a particular phonetic sound (instead of saying the letter name). I spy with my little eye, something that starts with the sound ‘ssssss’.
- One of my dear friends introduced us to a fun game called ‘Fortunately and Unfortunately’. It’s a story-telling game, where each person takes turns to come up with wild plot twists starting with either fortunately or unfortunately. “Fortunately the kids were allowed to play at lunchtime. Unfortunately the game stopped when aliens landed in the playground! Fortunately the aliens were friendly and handed out cupcakes! Unfortunately alien cupcakes taste like worms! Fortunately some baby birds had just hatched and they really loved the taste of worm-flavoured cupcakes!” My kids love this game!
- We played ‘Mirror Drawing’ in Port Douglas recently. It just needs paper, pencil, and a mirror (all of which were already in the hotel room when we arrived). Each person held a piece paper against their chest, and drew a picture whilst only looking at their reflection in the mirror. The funniest picture won!
- A simple old deck of cards doesn’t take up much space in a suitcase, and can be hours of fun. I’ve started adding a deck to our backpack if I know we’ll have some waiting time to fill in. With my three year old, I give her just a few cards to start with (all the 2,3,4 and 5s for example) and let her sort by colour, number, suit or however they like. You can also set up a basic memory game with these cards as well. When they get older, Snap by suits and/or Snap by numbers is fun as well. (And it’s all fabulous maths practice!)
These are my top tips for making day tripping with young kids fun – but I’m by no means an expert. I’m just doing my best and making it up as I go along!
Where have you been this year? Do you have any travel tips to share? I’d love to hear. 🙂
This post is part of a Nuffnang native advertising series.
Like it? Share it…
Good tips and I like your book or book CD list.
Love these tips, especially number 2. Less is definitely more when it comes to day trips with kids.
Thanks Ness! And yes, I agree, I think that's the one that takes the stress out of it all….
Great tips 😄 Can’t wait until my littlest is a better traveler and we can start enjoying short trips like this
Ah yes, it's tricky when they are younger. I found when Bee was really really little, as our days were punctuated with naps and it was enough just to go for a walk around the block most days, lol. We found it started getting more enjoyable when she was about 2.5 years old…
Great tips. Thanks Danya
Thanks Kate 🙂
Thanks for the audio story suggestions, we are always looking for new ones. Agreed they are so great for travelling.
You're very welcome! We're always looking for new ones too, so if you find any good ones, please do let me know! 🙂
Great post and I love the nature makes awesome toys tip! Thanks
Great post and love your nature as toys tips!
My recent post Christmas Tree Ornament for Kids to Make
We really like traveling with our kids. It isn’t because we have tantrum free children or because ours can miraculously take naps anywhere.
Oh, yes that would be handy! We did struggle when our littlest still napped, it's much handier now that they can both last the whole day.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
I wish I could’ve read this before when my daughter was younger, very good article