Travelling with Kids 5 - 12 Years & Teenagers

Older kids don't have the same special planning needs as for babies and young toddlers however they are easily bored. A long car trip is just about going to drive them bonkas unless you get smart and give special consideration to how to make the driving part of the trip FUN. Always remember the trip starts the moment you leave your driveway! This article is full of practical advice to help you achieve just that.
Article By: ExplorOz Team
Created: June 2008
Revised: March 2016
Latest Feedback: March 2016

Car Travelling with Kids

Car travelling is a necessary part of the 4WD experience but too many people cram too many kilometres into a tight itinerary and set themselves long boring days on the bitumen. To many city dwellers, it may be a long drive to actually get off the bitumen and many people mistakenly think that the real trip doesn't begin until they hit the dirt. Please, do not subject yourself and your family to long drives of over 600km in one day just to "get started". The trip starts when you leave your driveway. With this in mind, you should consider that by pushing the family in the car for hours on end will only create bored passengers. Our first section then concentrates on making the driving fun.

For "Electronic-Age" Kids

For car travelling, game consoles or iPads with game apps, educational games or kids movies are often provided by parents to their children to keep the kids quiet most of the time. These small electronic devices usually run on rechargeable batteries and can keep the kids entertained for hours.

The problem is that car trips can often well exceed the recommended 2 hour screen time duration. There is much evidence to show that exceeding the recommended screen time can be detrimental to sleep patterns, and behaviour so you may well wish to consider how you can monitor this.

One suggestion you might consider is to have an "electronic free day" in which everyone in the family curbs the temptation to use their phone, tablet, or game console. If there is a navigational device in the vehicle then discuss if this is to be included or excluded. Get the kids involved in making the rules for best success.

Other ideas that can be trialled on trips are to find apps and tools that you can put on the device that makes the device a tool for the trip and not just a game console. eg. download a compass app and get the family involved in Geocaching.

Talk about the Tread Lightly principles and encourage your kids to use the phone or iPad camera to take photos to record special memories and sights. Use a voice recorder app to capture sounds of bird calls. Perhaps you can even encourage them (post trip) to create their record of their trip using one of the many online book creation tools.

Outdoor Activities for Kids

  • Kids love water and will happily spend all day splashing around in rockholes, billabongs and beaches. Find a nice, safe spot and all you'll have to do is watch them and occasionally re-apply the sunblock.

  • This age group also seem to have an uncanny ability to make friends with just about everyone, anywhere. Look for camp locations that are popular with other family groups or camp grounds that provide a playground/swings.

  • Kids also love wildlife and even the smallest insect can be a source of endless interest. A special treat might be a nocturnal walk with a torch to spot possums. As an example, the Carnarvon Gorge National Park in Queensland is an excellent location for this age group.

  • A great tip for bushwalks is to give the kids a pea whistle. Instruct them to wear it around their necks and if they get lost or separated from you they can sit down in the shade and blow as hard as they can. You might also need to teach them the "one about the boy who cried wolf"... anyway, its a cheap and reassuring tip. A camping trip is a big adventure and they will come back with a better understanding of nature and bush life if you foster this with some gentle guidance.

  • Fishing - most kids have endless patience when it comes to fishing and you can start them at any age now that you can buy kids rods with plastic fish attached to the end!

  • Also, consider taking a first aid kit for those unforeseen little mishaps.

  • Here's a great pdf brochure full of tips & tricks for engaging kids with nature. Getting Kids into National Parks

Travelling with Teenagers

  • Rotate seating positions, this means each child can sit in the front seat and see. The UHF Radio means you can talk to other vehicles on the road and the friendly banter can make the driving time a little more interesting. This age group love music and will probably not be to your liking so letting them bring along their phones and headphones will have advantages.

  • This age group can also be encouraged to draw, paint or write stories based on what their holiday experiences. There are plenty of fascinating local artists in outback towns that show your kids that art is not necessarily recreating reality. It's more about capturing the colours. Pack a set of pastel crayons and watercolour paints and see what they come up.

  • This age group are usually right into music so help them to compose song words describing the trip and set it to their favourite tune. They might even do a performance around the campfire on the last night!

  • Give teenagers the opportunity to learn the skills of more risky "adult" tasks such as chopping firewood, lighting the fire, learning to drive. All within reason of course and under strict parental guidance as age appropriate. This is the ideal opportunity to regain some quality time with your teen - they all want to learn how to be adults so take time to show them how to do tasks properly and then reward them by letting them take responsibility for that task for the rest of the trip.

  • Camping trips also provide another valuable opportunity to reinforce with your teens the importance of family team work and household chores. On the first day of your trip try to establish a routine with each child assigned a task such as washing up. You might like to sweeten the deal by offering to pay for the chore - ideal if you are camped in a caravan park with a kiosk where they can go and blow their pocket money. Just keep it small (say 50c per wash up) and encourage saving for something you will allow them to buy during the trip (even if just lollies from the caravan park kiosk).

Schooling

In Australia, education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 to 17 (Tasmania 5-16 years) either in school or registered to homeschool. Once enrolled, children are required to attend school each day it is open for students, with occasional absences being allowed on justified grounds (eg. sick, medical, urgent family, religious).

In regards to travel, families are encouraged to plan for this during school holidays, however in some circumstances students may be eligible to enrol in distance education for travel periods over 50 school days.

Most teachers of primary school aged children will accommodate parents wishing to take their kids out of school for a few weeks for a trip. At this age, educators recognise the importance of giving young minds the opportunity to explore and experience different environments and lifestyles as much as possible, plus they recognise that sometimes learning in context from parents in real-life situations is just as valuable as in the classroom - and sometimes even more so.

For older kids, your school may not be able to cater for your absence. Generally each state operates its own Distance Education Scheme. Talk to your school principal well in advance and seek their advice and referrals. Don't leave it to the last minute. Start with looking at the Australian Government's website and follow links.

Here are a few useful websites you can refer to for further information:-

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