Preparing to travel with young children can be daunting. The preparation, planning and logistics that are required can seem on par with mounting an expedition to climb Everest. That cheap flight to Bali that you saw advertised is a great deal, but the thought of getting there is overwhelming. Don’t despair. Just because you don’t want the cost and hassle of a big trip with your family doesn’t mean that you have to spend the rest of your life locked in your house.
Day trips can be extremely fun and rewarding experiences for both you and your kids. Remember that young kids can play with a wooden spoon and three mixing bowls without getting bored. They are intrigued when they see a lizard or a butterfly. The world is wonderful and exciting to them and seeing it through their eyes can help you gain a renewed appreciation for it too.
When travelling (or really doing anything) with kids, planning is critical. Research your options thoroughly beforehand. Figure out if places have food or if you will need to bring it. Identify where the bathrooms are located. Estimate costs so that you know what to expect and what you can afford.
- Let your child have some input: After you have narrowed down your options offer them the choice between your top two. That way they are invested in the trip. It was “their choice.”
- Set ground rules before you leave the house
- Factor in rest time: If your child still takes a nap do not skip it. Find time to take a break back in the car or find a shady spot to push them around in their stroller until they doze off. Even for slightly older kids an afternoon break is probably necessary. Find a quiet spot to sit and relax. Have a snack or a drink. Talk to them about what you have done so far.
- Create Games: To keep kids engaged interact with them. Count how many baby lambs you see on the farm. Play I Spy. Create a scavenger hunt beforehand for the place you are going.
I know, packing for a day trip? Yes! Making sure that you have everything you need will ensure that your trip goes smoothly. It helps reduce the chance of meltdowns for both your child and you. Some things to include depending on the age of your children and your destination are:
- Sun hat
- Insect repellant
- Water Bottles
- Jumper or coat
- Small thin blanket (drape over stroller when trying to nap, place on ground for impromptu picnics, use as a towel after unexpected water play)
- Favourite songs for the car journey
Again, this list will vary depending on your destination. Some items can easily be left in the car and only retrieved if necessary.
Obviously, where you live will determine what day trips you are able to take. Also, your stamina for time in the car will influence your choices. No matter what, you will have plenty of options to chose from. Think outside of the box and come up with some trips that your kids will enjoy. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Zoo or Wildlife Sanctuary
Most kids love animals. Seeing them in person, not just on TV or in a book, is a special experience.
If you go to a petting zoo and they get to pet baby goats, they will undoubtedly be delighted however, children can be afraid of being too close to the animals. If your child waves at all of the neighborhood dogs but tries to climb you like a tree when one comes close, you might want to avoid animal interaction and head for a more traditional zoo, where you are separated from the animals.
On the flip side, if you have a zoo in your town that you visit, look at the surrounding area for wildlife sanctuaries that would give you the opportunity for a day trip and give your children the chance to see animals in a more natural habitat.
2. Ride a Steam Train
Of course it is possible to ride a regular train to a destination or simply as an adventure itself, but there is something special about riding a steam train. For one thing, steam trains go at a much slower speed, so it is really possible to enjoy the views and the countryside you are passing through. Also, any child who has ever watched Thomas the Tank Engine will be enchanted by the chance to ride one of his friends. Many heritage railways offer special journeys for children with themes and games. Many excursions serve food, or stop enroute for you to have a picnic lunch.
3. Go Fruit Picking or Visit a Farm
It is good to show kids that food doesn’t originate at the grocery store. Taking a day trip to an orchard or farm will give them the opportunity to see first hand how food grows. Many of these places offer activities for kids including tractor or hay rides, animal feeding or petting, and playgrounds. One of the best things you can do on the farm is actually pick something that you can take home and incorporate into the next days meal plan.
Kids really enjoy berry picking, although it can be difficult to get really little ones to put the berries in a container and not into their mouths! Strawberries are especially good for kids to pick. They are larger therefore easier to pick than raspberries or blueberries. Also, the bushes don’t have thorns like raspberries do. Smaller tree fruits like cherries can be challenging for kids too. Better bets for tree fruits include peaches and apples.
Of course going in the water is a big draw at the beach, but don’t forget that there are plenty of other activities too. Digging in the sand and building sand structures is a great way to practice future engineering skills. Exploring tidal pools and looking for small animals and shells can be a great game for kids. Spotting larger wildlife, like whales or dolphins, is also a possibility. Drive a bit further away from home than you would usually go, bring a picnic lunch and find a beach where you don’t have to fight the crowds.
5. National Parks
With our indoor, sedentary lifestyle it is important that we get our kids moving and out into nature. National parks are a great place to do both of these things. You can look for interesting rock formations. You can take a hike. You can explore a waterfall. Some parks even have tracks that are appropriate for cycling. Just make sure you pick an option that suits your family’s, fitness and experience level. A hike up a small outcropping might be fun for you, but seem like a mountain to your toddler.
Overall, if you do some preparation you really can’t go wrong when planning a day trip. They can be fun and affordable. They also are a great way to spend family time and create memories for you and your children that you would never have if you stayed home and watched TV. Best of all, instead of staying in an uncomfortable hotel you get to go to sleep at night in your own comfortable bed.
Zoo: Australia Zoo www.australiazoo.com.au/
Train: Mary Valley Rattler (opening December 2017) maryvalleyrattler.com.au/
Farm: McMartin’s Farm www.mcmartinsfarm.com.au/about-us
Beach: Currumbin Beach www.destinationgoldcoast.com/places-to-see/currumbin
National Park: D’Aguilar National Park www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/daguilar/
Zoo: Healesville Sanctuary www.zoo.org.au/healesville
Train: Puffing Billy puffingbilly.com.au/en/visit-puffing-billy/with-kids/
Farm: Rayner’s Orchard www.raynersorchard.com.au/
Beach: Eastern Reserve Beach www.geelongaustralia.com.au/parks/item/easternbeach.aspx
National Park: Organ Pipes National Park parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/organ-pipes-national-park