A DOZEN TIPS FOR YOUR SAFETY & SANITY
“There’s never time to wait around for your Goth son to apply his mascara in the BP toilets, or your daughter to throw a sulk because they were out of Bubble-0-Bills.”
KEEP CALM & BE A DAMN ADULT: Tyre exploded out on the old fisheries track? Try to keep the blue language to a minimum and the deep breathing to a maximum. Remember to think in a logical step-by-step process as with any recovery. A recovery isn’t just of the vehicle, it’s of its occupants.
DRIVE GOOD: Nothing new here. You’ve got the most important cargo ever. Take your foot off the floor, drive with adequate lighting, don’t slipstream, basically, y’know, just don’t be a tool. We’re not sure if this is a tip, because if you are a tool you’ll ignore this anyway.
MAKE A LIST: And start on it early because toddlers won’t go anywhere without their stuffed giraffe. It’s usually the basic items you’ll forget when you pack late though. You’ll remember the Barbie remote-control hovercraft but you’ll forget to pack food.
“Children are as open to bribes as council politicians.”
PACK LIGHT: I’m sure there are a million sage-like comments over at Brainyquote.com mentioning that packing light is the greatest quality a person can have and blah, blah, blah. But they’re right! Make a game out of who can take the least amount of crap. A friend with three girls under eight-years-old bought them all small personal backpacks but only on the proviso that anything they took with them during the drive had to fit within the bag’s confines. A great way to teach responsibility and minimalism.
SET YOURSELF UP: If you require a baby seat and a stroller make make sure they are easily accessed. If someone draws the short straw and has to sit next to it in an awkward position then don’t be afraid to reward them for their discomfort. Children are as open to bribes as council politicians.
ELECTRONICS ARE YOUR FRIEND: But make a stern rule ‘for the car only’. Customised kids headphones can be bought on the cheap as well, and can keep them in their own uninterrupted headspace. Outside the car, ration their use to ½ hour per day, but make sure you also stick to that rule. You don’t want to be that family of pasty tech geeks wandering the outback with bedsores and rickets.
“No one wants to drive around with half the tare-weight of their vehicle taken up by pie tins, banana peels and atrophied apple cores.”
TAKE YOUR TIME WITH TODDLERS: They’re exploratory little critters, every time the 4WD stops it’s like a moon landing for them and they’ll want to check everything out. Adjust your settings and itineraries to allow for longer and more frequent stops. The opposite applies to teenagers. When not moving 100 miles an hour, their factory setting is to dawdle and preen and waste time. There’s never time to wait around for your Goth son to apply his mascara in the BP toilets, or your daughter to throw a sulk because they were out of Bubble-0-Bills.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN: Sure, go educational on the games front, but kids will sniff out the dorky stuff as quickly as parents will try to foist it on them. Aim for something they’ll like that will also challenge them, things like Minecraft and Luminosity sharpen your kids reaction times and problem solving abilities and they’ll enjoy it. Kids enjoying themselves isn’t a bad thing.
SHOPPING BAGS: Not only do bag-ladies use them as fashionable brooches, and not only do turtles find them downright delicious, shopping bags also have a higher purpose when it comes to the family roadie. Keep a couple of eco-friendly plastic bags in the car and, at petrol stops and toilet breaks, encourage everyone to evacuate their area of garbage. No one wants to drive around with half the tare-weight of their vehicle taken up by pie tins, banana peels and atrophied apple cores.
“You don’t want to be that family of pasty tech geeks wandering the outback with bedsores and rickets.”
CONVERSATION: Unless your kids are complete dingbats, they will also want to converse from time to time, so include them. Don’t just talk in the front about the paperwork stacking up on your desk at work, or your recurring medical problems, ask them how they’re going with things, their friends, what they enjoy about school, what sucks about school, yikes, validate them! Ask them what they think of certain things throughout the drive – it’ll often crack you up; “Mum, that guy at the Shell looked like he’d slept in pig vomit.” Pig vomit man will go down in family folklore.
GIVE THE PENS A MISS: Back in the bad old days, parents would buy torturous things to entertain their kids in the car. Colouring books? Just try staying within the lines on that trip up the Blue Mountains.
WATCH THE CORN SYRUP INTAKE: They say a cup of sugar poured into your fuel tank will cause all sorts of nightmares and the same applies when pouring sugar into the mouths of children and parents in a confined space. Forget the twists and turns of the High Country you’ll also be dealing with a very real emotional rollercoaster within the cabin. Empty packets of Smarties and Slurpee cups are about the worst thing you can see when you peer into the back seat, because you are not ready for this. Don’t get us wrong, we’re huge fans of the Aussie sugarcane industry, a big part of our country is built on it, but there’s a time and a place for a Jim Jones style mass corn-syrup overdose, and it’s not in a car.