So, about my road trip. I drove the 800 or so kms back to my sunny home town of Adelaide, on my own with my 2 kids. Once we got there, we did lots of hour or so trips visiting family and/or sight-seeing and then drove home with mum via the Great Ocean Road. It was fantastic, we had a great time, but we did spend A LOT of time in the car.
The kids weren't too bad, given that all up we did nearly 2000 kms. I put a lot of thought and planning into what i would pack to keep them busy and entertained and i have to say, they never complained about being bored in the car (although there were a few "Are we driving again?! comments from my 5 year old)
So, what did I take?, I hear you ask, well my attack (or maybe my defence??) was multi-layered.
The first was that they absolutely love art and craft and drawing, so I set up 2 separate plastic containers with a blank note-book each, several small blank drawing pads, gluesticks, stickers, post it notes and a pencil case full of brand new textas. They each had their own containers and each container held pretty much the same items except Eds had a car/farm theme and Em's had a fairy/animal theme.
Putting the same items in both containers was absolutely deliberate and the fact that i packed 2 of everything was also deliberate. I think the key to eliminate (or at least reduce) fighting when you're in a confined space like this is to minimise the need to share. Sharing is good and children should certainly learn how to do it but not when mum is alone in a car and travelling at 110kms per hour! In this case, sharing is bad, very bad if it leads to fighting and so I tried to make it so they never had to do it.
The next thing I packed for them was a bag of toys. I just used a basic back pack, but i stuffed it as much as i could with building/thinking and imaginative play toys. Ed of course had his cars. I put them in a separate zip up bag so they were easy to find and keep together. I made some easily-transportable roads by getting some A3-sized pieces of foam and cutting them into long strips that were wide enough for 2 cars to drive down. I also added a new bag of plastic farm animals from the 2 dollar shop, some rocks, jar lids and buttons, as well as some small pieces of plastic building equipment.
Em had some tiny plastic babies i grabbed from an educational toy store and some little matchboxes from Riot Art and Craft to act as their beds. I also included some small squares of material. She also had the plastic animals and bits and pieces as well as a small puzzle.
To make sure they had a sturdy place to play and draw on I took a couple of lap trays we got from Target a few years back. They have the beanie stuff on the bottom kind of like an old "Stable Table" (which you can still buy in Big W)
I also got them each 4 work/colouring books. Ed loves stickers so he had a couple of sticker books while Em had more activity/puzzle books. I put the books and trays in the pocket behind the front seats. I made very sure that they could reach and have access to everything before we left. The containers went in the middle on top of each other, the bags went at their feet. For Ed I put them on top of a small case we wouldn't need until we arrived at our destination.
The next part of my plan was food. Little bits of it in small containers and plastic bags, hidden in the containers and toy bags. I used food that it would be difficult to choke on (for obvious reasons) and also things that are not eaten quickly - small crackers, sultanas etc. As a treat, they had a lollipop and a packet of mini M&Ms (or nemmy-nemmy's as Ed likes to call them). But i have to say the lollipop ended up in the pocket of Ed's car seat, which was a little yucky, because apparently he was too busy to eat it (good for me, bad for the seat!).
My in-case-of-emergency items were the portable DVD players my Mother-in-law bought for the kids. I was not a huge fan of these when the kids first got them, but they have won me over with their ability to soothe the kids just as i think their heads are about to explode. They really only used them on the extra long trips we took and only ever in the last hour or so when they really had done well to amuse themselves with what was going on around them.
Em even used hers as a CD player which is where my last, and perhaps most important as it turns out, purchase came in very handy. Some Fisher Price headphones. They cost me $29.95 and of course I got 2 - no sharing remember. They saved mum and I the experience of listening to John Farnham's "You're the Voice", over and over and over again as we drove the Great Ocean Road. After the fifth rotation of that song, those little headphones became worth their weight in gold.
My last line of defence was to stop drivng and we did that every 2 hours while I was driving alone and every 3 or so when mum was with me. I stopped in Horsham over night during the trip over on my own, because I thought expecting the children to be in the car more than four to five hours was asking a little too much of them - especially given I had no-one with me to help them if they needed anything while I was concentrating on the road. When we stopped, I made sure we had fun, we had a treat and ran around and it gave them something to look forward to. Now that they're a bit older, even the promise that we would stop soon, bought me a little time.
It was a great trip and I would absolutely do it again but not without raiding two dollar shops and packing those headphones first!!