Feature article

How to stay sane on a family road trip

Keeping your marbles intact and family happy on a family road trip can be tricky. Here's our top tips.

It’s official: road trip season is officially upon us! As such, we figured it’s the perfect time to consider the best ways to keep the family happy and yourself sane on your Kiwi holiday road trip.

Here’s our top five tips for a happy family and peaceful driving.

1) Play together to stay together

What better way to fill the hours on the road and keep your flock happy and entertained than by playing travel games? It’s free, it’s fun and in-car games are a Kiwi family road trip institution. These are our five favourites:

  • Car cricket – each person in the car takes a turn being the ‘batter’ and makes runs by counting the cars you pass going in the opposite direction. When the flow is broken by anything other than a car (a truck, bus, motorbike, campervan etc), the batter is out and the next player steps up. The person with the most runs at the end of the game wins. You can make it even more fun by adding 4s and 6s for different, unusual vehicle types spotted. Howzat?!
  • Number plate initials – simply take the letters from the first number plate you see and make up a phrase from it. For example, MEC848 becomes ‘Mum’s endless chatter’ or suchlike. As everyone takes a turn and tries to outdo each other, the suggestions will become more and more ridiculous and amusing!
  • I spy – an absolute road trip classic, in which one person chooses something they can see and declares to their fellow travellers, "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with...A (or whatever letter of the alphabet the item starts with)". Everyone else has to try and guess what the object is – whoever gets it right, takes the next turn.
  • Hey cow! – a slightly less well known game, but perfect for playing whilst journeying across rural NZ, this game sees players take turns to call out "hey cow!" whilst passing herds of cows – then counting how many of the lovely livestock raise their heads and look at the car in response. The highest number wins.
  • Car colour game – arguably the most simple of the lot, this game requires each player to pick a particular colour and then keep track of the number of cars they see in that colour. The player with the highest number wins. It’s a good idea to ban certain colours from use or the game can be over before it has even started! For example, nobody can pick silver.

2) Music makes us happy

Nothing raises the spirits on a road trip like an awesome family playlist! Put together a compilation of uplifting gems and you’ll soon have everyone singing along with a smile on their face. Consider tailoring the song selections around the reason for the trip – for example, if you’re travelling somewhere for the holiday season, line up those festive classics.

Audio books are another great option for keeping everyone entertained. Choose a popular, exciting classic to keep the family enthralled. Or, if your passengers are tiny tots and the audiobook is unlikely to be suitable for the adults up front, isolate the audio to the back of the car to keep everyone happy!

3) Comfort for contentment

The more comfortable your passengers, the more likely they are to be content. Content passengers = less whinging. If the little’un has a favourite blanket, make sure they can snuggle up under it in the back. Give them pillows for naps and, depending on what sort of time you’re travelling and the nature of the trip, maybe even let them travel in their pyjamas for ultimate travel cosiness.

Ensure that you have clean up options in the car too (wet wipes, tissues etc) as sticky mitts or sniffly noses will make for discomforted and potentially grouchy travellers.

4) Avoid getting hangry

We can all get grouchy when in need of a feed, and car passengers are no different. Ahead of departure, make sure to stock a variety of snacking options to suit all tastes. Rewarding the kids with a lolly for good behaviour might seem like bribery to some, but as far as we’re concerned it’s just common sense!

Avoid any snacks that could be particularly messy or hard to eat – any food requiring a dining utensil beyond a simple spoon or spork is probably not going to work on the road. In this instance, finger food is king.

5) Schedule stop-off breaks

Head down, bum up is all well and good when you want to make rapid progress but it’s not good for your sanity, freshness, or those of your car-bound family. Relax a little and schedule a decent amount of stop-offs.

Not only will this allow everyone to stretch their legs, visit the bathroom etc, but will give some much needed rest from the rigours of the road and, even better, you can cram in some visits to places of interest or natural beauty. This will break up the journey wonderfully and give everyone a morale boost – allowing you to load everyone back on board for the next leg with a smile on their face and excitement to share.

Enjoy the ride

By utilising these top tips, you should now be feeling ready for anything on your family road trip! A happy driver and cheerful passengers makes for a better experience for everyone, so let’s keep Kiwi roads a place of joyful and safe travellers this holiday season.