Hubby and I have always been keen to go on family adventures and holidays with our kids but we realised early on things did not always go the way we had fantasised in our heads.
We also had to learn that a “family holiday” was very different to a “couples holiday” haha (eg. bring on the local RSL). We have travelled overseas twice with our kids when there were two and both of those times they were still quite young, which has taught us a thing or two.
We have just come back from our first road trip holiday to Hervey Bay – the ‘home of the humpbacks’ – with the 3 kids (including a 2 month old baby) and I have to say it was worth the effort. The whale watching was incredible – to see these majestic 40 tonne mammals in their natural environment. More on that next week in a separate blog post, stay tuned! In the meantime, I wanted to share my top tips for making road trips and weekend getaways work while still having a great time based on our recent trip to the Fraser Coast.
Teach the kids to pack their own bags (yes even a 4 and 6 year old can do it). I created a packing list based on words and pictures that both kids can follow to pack their bag every time we go away. We spend quite a bit of time at the grandparents house and this is a great way to decrease my load even when it is just a short stay away for one night. The other great thing is the kids absolutely loved being able to pack their own bag and they stuck to the list and it was a success all round.
Have everything packed in the car the night before you are leaving. When you have 3 kids you never know what is going to unfold on any given day haha. What I do know is every night my kids are in bed asleep and hubby and I have space to do things we need to. There is nothing worse than the pre holiday packing stress and the household screaming and fighting trying to get everything in the car and out the door on time. In my personal experience putting things aside and packing for about a week before we go on any major holiday and having everything set to go the night before is a must. Hubby thought I was a bit of a freak with this initially but now he is onboard and has experienced how much easier and less stressful it is having everything done early.
Leave early in the morning. This is another one of those big effort things but it always works out best for us. There is nothing worse than leaving to drive on holidays somewhere at the same time as everyone else and getting stuck in hours of traffic. There is a good chance when you are holidaying so is everyone else. We did leave crazy early for our Hervey Bay trip but that was mostly because Mr 2 months doesn’t love the car at times and having a screaming baby for 4 hours in a car is more of a nightmare for me than getting up at 4am chucking the kids in the car and getting on the road. I am not saying leave at 4am haha but leaving earlyish works for kids as they are excited and in a good mood and you will miss all the traffic which can be nightmarish with kids in the car.
Survive the first day. Holidaying with kids is hard work and by the time you get in the car to begin your adventure you are exhausted already from all the packing. I have learnt to adopt a survival attitude on the first day and to expect that it is going to be hard work and difficult. Kids just want the fun to start right now but there is driving and checking in and unpacking car etc etc. When you get more adventurous with your holidays the first day becomes harder. If you expect this is going to be the case then it is easier for you to handle. I always throw in a tin or two of spaghetti as backup for when we are exhausted and the kids want food and I can’t be bothered going out as I just need to sit and breath. On our trip to Hervey Bay we had the spaghetti on the first day for lunch at 2pm just after we checked in. After travelling 300km with a young family, in and out of the car we were exhausted and the kids were hungry.
Pick a good family friendly accommodation. The number one thing we have worked out is the most important thing for our family when it comes to accommodation is the pool. Our accommodation needs to have a kid friendly pool as our kids spend so much time in it. We would also suggest booking accommodation with some kind of kitchen even if it is smallish and asking for ground level. I know a view is great but eliminating waiting for lifts or walking up and down stairs and having direct access to the pool is GREAT when you have kids. We stayed at White Crest Holiday Apartments along the Esplanade which was fabulous and had all of these benefits. The pool was fabulous for kids and had a toddler section and we were on the ground floor. Rob the manager was also a really great guy and very helpful.
Book accommodation within walking distance of food, shops and the beach. I don’t know about you but getting in and out of the car multiple times a day with 3 children is not my idea of fun haha. Obviously we did get out and about in the car most days, however having the option to pop out from your hotel to grab a coffee, stroll to the beach or get lunch without needing the car really helps. Hervey Bay is great for this as the Esplanade goes on for quite a stretch and there are mountains of accommodation options within walking distance. It is also a super kid friendly beach with calm water which is a major plus as it makes it a lot easier to let them be free to play without the stress of massive crashing waves, rips and drowning.
Find places to visit with lots of cheap or free activities. One of the great things about holidaying outside of the major cities is they offer much better value in my personal experience. On our drive into Hervey Bay on the first day we stopped off in Maryborough to visit the home of Mary Poppins (or at least the person who wrote it). The kids were relieved to get out of the car but also had a nice time looking at the colourful chalk inspired drawings, statues and old buildings. During our stay in Hervey Bay we spent an afternoon at theWetSide Water Education Park (pictured above) which was 100% free. This was probably one of our kids’ most favourite things to do during our stay and they had a blast. We also popped into the Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary which was a quaint animal park with friendly animals the kids could feed and pat. It costs $30 total for a family pass (2 adults and 2 kids) and you can stay as long as you like. I’d also recommend a visit to the Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere before you go whale watching. The kids really enjoyed learning about the whales, they also got to hold some starfish and there were some great interactive activities and displays for them. It costs $19 total for a family pass (2 adults and 2 kids) which was a total bargain in my opinion for the quality of this attraction.
Eat at the RSL. Seriously though by the time the evening hits and you have tired, worn out kids on your hands you want somewhere which is easy and quick to get a meal and isn’t too precious about noise. The first night we stayed in Hervey Bay we ate at the local RSL which was awesome – we could still order amazing food (fresh seafood platter pictured above) plus there was a kid’s club we could book our kids in for free for up to 3 hours fully supervised and run by trained staff. YAY!! I would recommend going to the fancy nice places for breakfast as the kids have just woken up from a good night sleep and are often at their best in the morning. We had breakfast on the Marina at Bistro Aubergine and it was delicious!! Let’s just say I was very glad I was no longer pregnant and could partake in smoked salmon and fresh hollandaise sauce.
Split up when you need to. I know for me I can get caught in the trap of this is a family holiday and we all need to spend 24 / 7 together, but this is not always the best. Hubby is the one who has taught me that sometimes it is best to separate haha. On this holiday it has meant that he has taken the two older girls out for lunch and to the shops or beach while I have stayed at home with baby Ellis and had a rest and sleep with him. When it is all too much and the kids are fighting or hubby and I are, a few hours apart does everyone a whole lot of good.
If you have a baby invest in a baby carrier of some kind. Day sleeps become a bit tricky on holidays with you have a little one who does 2 or 3 sleeps a day. We have survived 3 kids by relying very heavily on our baby carrier. It means bubba can sleep on the run and the older kids still get to do things during the day instead of just hang around the apartment waiting for bubba to wake up. It also means I get to participate more in the day’s activities. I LOVE LOVE LOVE baby carriers and know they have saved my sanity and work a treat on holidays.
Go for a minimum of 3 nights. It is such an epic thing packing and organising a holiday with kids that you have to make the most of it. The first day, as mentioned earlier, is always really hard work and the plan is survival until the next morning. As the days roll on everyone gets into the groove and the fun times really begin. We find 3 nights is a good minimum but anywhere up to 5 nights can work quite well too.
Our kids love a family holiday and get so excited in the lead up. I will be the first to admit that it is not always easy and can be pretty hard work at times. I tend to adopt a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude and am happy to break the normal rules mostly relating to food and TV lol. Some of my best memories growing up were of camping holidays with my family and when I look back at the tents and effort my mum and dad put in 30 years ago I don’t think I should be complaining. I want to offer my kids the same opportunities to build memories and have a great time with us without it costing a fortune.
Our trip to Hervey Bay was great and in all honesty would have to be one of the most family friendly and affordable places we have visited as a family to date. Stay tuned for my whale watching post, or find out more about the region at www.whalesherveybay.com.au .
Happy Family Holidaying!!!!!!!!!