Fancy a long drive with three little people?

 School holidays, trip to the farm, brother's 30th birthday. What other excuses do I need for a trip to Esperance? Not many. Well none actually. I would have gone at the 'it's school holidays, what are we going to do' notion. Only this time it would just be me and the kids. Solo. 8, 9 or 10 hours. It really wasn't going to matter how long it was going to take, it was just going to be long. Once I made the decision to go, I didn't lend any more worry to it. Decision made. Going.

Pack the car. The night before, be 100% ready to go.
I've begun to keep a 'car toys box' in the cupboard. No thinking required about what to put in it, plus the toys are different to their regular play toys. Ours contains:

  • a clipboard with mazes, dot to dots and colouring in sheets
  • colouring in and activity books
  • pencil case with pencils and textas
  • Magical textas and Magical colouring in (Crayola Color Wonder)book
  • a few little cars, kaleidoscope, harmonica (winner, should get another one), coloured necklace (also a winner), toy camera
  • Magnetic play scene - a little tin with magnet vehicles inside it (they don't use this all that much, but I like it and think they should too so keep taking it, hoping they'll like it better the next time!)
  • Lego blocks (for 2yo) and Trio building blocks (for 4yo)
  • 2 books (not enough this time, usually I pack more but this time I was thinking minimalist)
  • threading activity card (didn't use it this time because there was no string...oops!) 

Also highly recommended comes a DVD player, though my kids didn't really watch it a whole lot this time. And next to me on the seat is the snack basket. I got this idea from Heath, a friend whom we travelled across to Queensland with two years ago, who had a whole tub on the back seat of the car.  Heath had his 'snack box' full of goodies, which he refilled with is own basket in the supermarket, slyly passing it over to his wife Erandi, only as she went through the checkout with the rest of the shop. Trampas caught on and began to employ this same 'snack box' shopping method by the time we'd reached Cape York. If it contained a block of chocolate, I was OK with the snack box shop thing. My snack box did have a block of Lindt dark chocolate, which I bought most of home with me. Restrained I know. I'm still on my exercise-eating plan.

Anyway, the snack basket contained...well a lot of stuff. Bananas, apples, muesli bars, nuts and dried fruit, yoghurt-apricot balls, home made muesli bar slice, kids biscuits - Wheelies, tiny teddies, dunkaroos (remember those?!) and probably enough for 2 days travel. Oh, yes and my block of Lindt chocolate. I have to admit that positioning it on the passenger seat next to me wasn't such a great idea as my hand often reached in for something. Still, I wasn't tempted to buy chips or takeaway for lunch as I'd made our own the night before, which we ate at Wave Rock.

So how did I get the kids to behave so well. The 8 month old was easy. Feed her, change her nappy, give her a new toy every once in a while. She nods off to sleep for an hour or so and unless her 2yo brother pokes her in the eye she's generally happy.

Leaving early helps. 6.30am start and change out of PJs on the road (that in itself was exciting, because where will we put our clothes on??!!). We did that in Corrigin. There is a big dog, helicopter, train, bridge to walk over and a wishing well. What more could the kids want. Other than it being about 10 degrees outside while I'm getting them changed, they were pretty excited about riding in the helicopter.

Bribe #1 Wave Rock. If you are really good, we'll stop at Wave Rock. This sounds cool to a 4 year old, even if he has no idea what I'm on about or what to expect. We don't normally travel via Hyden to Esperance.  The boys ran ahead of me up the path. An excited Keegan ran back, closely followed by his little brother who didn't want to stay at the big rock by himself. "Mum. (a little breathless) There's an an an ENORMOUS rock just up there. It's just ENORMOUS". The grin on his face was pretty enormous too. He wanted to climb it. I said no. He got a bit grumpy after that and didn't want a photo.

Bribe #2 Strawberry milkshake. Although I'd said we'd get one in Ravensthorpe, it was raining when we got there and the place I was going to stop at was closed, so I pushed on. Could I stave off the milkshake for 2 hours? I was going to try. Well, too bad if I couldn't, there wasn't anywhere I could have got one after that, anyway! So when the grumpies set in about and hour before Esperance, I pulled out the Dunkaroos. Just a tiny little bit of chocolate mess. Probably wont go there again. It kept them quiet for the final half hour though, so it was worth it. If the chocolate had gone any further than their faces and hands, they (and I) would have been in big trouble with Dad for making a mess in his car.

And a great game I will try again next time (thank you Elke for this one) is a version of I-spy bingo on paper - fill a page with pictures of objects you might, or might not, see along the way and cross them off as you see them, colour them in too. I made one for the trip home. Keegan was very particular with finding the exact "green brown and blue sign", bulldozer, tiny teddy in car (the tiny teddies in the packets didn't count) so we didn't mark off all that many and next time I'd only put 10 or so on the page, perhaps laminate it so the baby doesn't eat the corner off.  Lucky we had two copies!

Having done a few long trips, our children are great little travellers and being a little prepared makes it just that bit easier. I am also very lucky to have children who can sit for so long without screaming or too much whining, making the journey oh, so much easier!! I swear they aren't as good when both Mum and Dad are in the car, perhaps they know not to push too many buttons...

A visit to cousin Indy & Jett's house


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