What do children really think about family road trips with kids? In June 2014 Tom Ingram (11) and his siblings George (9) and Sophie (7) and his parents went on an epic family road trip around Australia that covered 17,000 kilometres in 70 days. They drove from Kiewa to Adelaide, then up through central Australia to the Flinders Ranges, the Oodnadatta track, Coober Pedy, Uluru (we were here 2 days and that was enough), Kings Canyon (pretty tough but great rim walk views), Alice Springs (awesome nocturnal animal tour), Darwin, Corroborree Billabong (where we stayed on a house boat. AMAZING – watch out for the crocs – we saw heaps!) and Kakadu. Then across to Queensland to Karumba, Atherton Tablelands, Seisia (near the top of Cape York) and down to Cape Tribulation (saw cassowaries at the Discovery Centre), Port Douglas, Magnetic Island and all the way back to Kiewa. Phew! Tom chatted to suitcases&strollers about his family road trip and about whether long drives are actually enjoyable for kids.
When your family first began planning your road trip, how did you feel about it?
I thought, “This will be fun” and I kind of felt a bit sad too because I wasn’t going to see my friends for ages and we were leaving Maggie (our dog) behind. I was excited too. I wasn’t really worried about the car trip because we had done a few long trips before.
How many hours a day did you spend in the car?
On average about 5. We had some really long days, some short days and some that we didn’t drive at all.
What's the longest amount you ever spent in the car without stopping?
9 hours from Laura to Seisia (far North Queensland).
What was the seating configuration in your car?
All 3 kids sat in the back seat. We didn’t have any space left in the boot!
How do you decide who sits where?
Sophie was in a booster and that couldn’t change, so that was easy. George and I changed but I mostly sat in the middle.
Did you like your seat?
No – I preferred the side where you can look out the window. We both like the side better than the middle. Mum and Dad made us swap sometimes.
What were your favourite things to do in the car to entertain yourself?
I liked playing a game we made up about who could spot the rarest animal for the day.
The type of things that won this were brumbies, bustards, palm cockatoos and major mitchell cockatoos. We had movies on the really long days. If it was only a few hours we didn’t watch them but if we had big days driving (over 3 or 4 hours maybe) we did. Mum and Dad tried to limit them.
Were you ever bored being in the car for long periods of time?
Yes! [Especially w]hen we had seen all the movies and we were coming home.
Was there any entertainment you wished you had in the car that you didn't have?
Maybe something different, like games on the iPad.
Was it uncomfortable to sit still in one spot for so long?
Yes! Sometimes the middle was good because I could stretch more if I felt a bit cramped and you can’t do that on the side. If I was tired I could rest on the Sophie’s car seat.
Did you or your siblings ever feel car sick?
Not very often but, if we did, we would just open a window for a while.
What was the most surprising thing about doing such a long family road trip?
I was surprised I actually didn’t get that bored. Some of the things you learnt were amazing. Especially in places like Kakadu.
Were there any exciting or interesting things you saw on your family road trip around Australia that you would have missed if you had caught a plane instead?
The animals – we would have missed them. Some of the stops we got to make along the way. Some of the waterfalls were great fun to swim in and I don’t think we would have seen as many if we flew.
Do you think you and your family bonded more on that road trip because you spent so long in the car together?
We definitely chatted more because there was no one else around. We did argue a bit too but I guess brothers and sisters are going to do that.
Do you enjoy family road trips now?
It depends where you are going and how long you are going for.
If you were to do the trip again, would you prefer to fly or drive?
I’d definitely prefer to drive because you would miss some amazing things if you flew.
What are your top 3 travel tips for kids who are going on long road trips?
Try and keep happy. If we annoy each other and Mum and Dad it is not as much fun. A pillow would have been good for the back of the car. Lollypops were good – they lasted a long time.