Travelling with Kids
Our kids love campervan holidays. There's lots of variety and excitement and new friends to meet along the way. Here are a few things that we've learned that really make a difference when you're touring by campervan with kids.
First, remember the golden rule - "If the kids ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Touring with kids is not like touring with your mates in your backpacker days - you can't party all night, sleep in, then drive huge distances and expect everyone to be relaxed and cheerful. You've got to plan with the kids in mind.
Don't go too far. Your kids will be much happier if you cover shorter distances and stop more often. If you need to cover long distances, do it in one or two goes, rather than medium distances every day. If the kids are good at sleeping while driving, do the long trips when they're sleeping (remember they have to be in a child restraint if under 140cm tall or in a seatbelt if taller).
Bring layers of clothes rather than a big coat e.g. warm underlayer or thermals (polypropylene for autumn, winter, and spring), fleece jacket (warm and water resistant), warm hat or beanie - All Black ones are best (good to have even in summer for cool nights), and waterproof jacket or raincoat. Pack an extra towel for each of the kids. Most kids love to swim and even in the winter there are hot pools in many places around the country (one of the benefits of being on a fault line).
Head torches are really handy (see bed time below). Bring a few favourite toys and activities - get them to help choose - but not too many as space is limited.
Activity books that have lots of variety, especially ones with a NZ theme, are ideal for younger kids. You'll find lots of great ones to choose from at any good bookseller or at the airport terminal. Choose some favourite DVDs and CDs to bring. If they have a favourite blanket or cuddly, bring it.
Find campsites with other kids and help your kids to meet them. Sometimes, it takes Mum or Dad to break the ice in an unfamiliar place - before you know it, they'll be exchanging email addresses. Stay at commercial campsites with playgrounds from time to time. Some of the bigger campgrounds have better equipped playgrounds than the local town centre.
One of the few challenges of touring by campervan with kids is you don't have separate rooms to put the kids to bed in and, in many cases, the kids have to share the same bed (sounds like a recipe for disaster!) However, some Wilderness motorhomes have separate single beds in the rear and a double bed upfront which is ideal for families. Mum and Dad share the double bed and the kids get the singles. There's even a curtain or sliding door to separate the rear bedroom. Use the motorhome selector to find the right model.
Unless you want to go to bed early every night, you need to make a plan for how you'll get them to sleep while you're still awake. In the summer, you can sit outside on the outdoor chairs when you put the kids to bed. That's a peaceful time to unwind. In winter, turn out the lights when you put the kids in their beds then use a head torch to read or do something else until they go to sleep. Most kids will stay asleep if you turn the front lounge lights back on once they have gone to sleep. Then crack open the bottle of wine, watch the sunset, and take in the wonder of the day.