Travel Tips

12 Top Tips for Road Trips

Travel Tips

Here's some ideas to make your holiday with kids special!
Check out our top tips for planning a family holiday in New Zealand or anywhere!

Before you leave...

* If possible, book your flights for non-peak travel times (e.g. Monday–Thursday, avoiding weekends if you can). Fewer crowds mean less stress. Flying in the evening or night is better, so your child is able to sleep on the plane.

* Pack lots of entertainment for the flight (snacks, drinks, books, colouring books, travel-size games, playing cards, other activities, little gifts). Bring more than you think you'll need so that you’re prepared for any delays.

* Prepare your children for the trip. Give them a calendar to mark off the days before they go on holiday. Tell them what to expect at the airport and on the plane. (For toddlers and above).

* Book your children’s meals ahead of time, where it be children's meals or infant meals. Their meals and special dietary meals are brought out first, allowing you to get your children settled eating their meals before your own arrives.

* If the airline allows, select your seats ahead of time. Always request a bassinet seat if your child is under 2 depending on availability of bassinets.

* When flying with small children, some people believe the best seats are the front row or bulkhead seats where the bassinets are. These do have more legroom, however the armrests here don't always fold up (because they contain the tray tables that would normally be in front where the bassinet is instead). Another option to consider is the window seats. During daylight, kids will enjoy looking out the window. And at night, the wall provides something to lean a pillow against. You’ll also have armrests that fold up, enabling children to sleep lying across the seats.

At the airport

* Allow extra time at the airport. As a parent you already know that everything takes l-o-n-g-e-r when traveling with kids.

* Give your children safety rules, such as what to do if you become separated. For example, should they stay where they are and wait for you? Or should they go to the nearest shop?

* Even if you don't normally use a child harness, consider using one in the airport. You’ll need a free hand to have passports and boarding passes ready and you may be distracted when checking in and claiming your luggage. If you have to let go of your child's hand, at least with a child harness you can have them on a strap around your wrist.

* Look up the airport(s) you’ll be using ahead of time online. Many airports have designated family areas or play areas that are good spots for lengthy stopovers.

* If you are bringing an umbrella-style stroller to the gate, find out at check-in whether it will be available at the airplane doors when you leave the plane or whether you will have to go to a special baggage claim area for it. If the airlines cant tell you this, why not try out an innovative product called "Ride On Carry On". It is an ingenious chair which straps onto your rollaboard luggage and converts it into a travel stroller.

On the plane

* Take-off and landing can be painful for little ears. Bring along ear filters which buffer eardrums against rapidly changing air pressure. Encourage your child to swallow by having a water bottle or even lollipops (if the child is allowed one). If you are traveling with an infant, bottle or breastfeed them on the way up and on the way down to help pop their ears.

* For maximum entertainment value, bring toys out one at a time, and put one away before introducing the next. Create a “bag of surprises” from the $2 shop that they can reach into when bored.

* Seat your child by the window. Most kids find the view fascinating. There is also less chance of them getting bumped by the drinks/meals trolley and other passengers walking up and down the aisles.

* Remember, not all passengers appreciate the joys of children, even a wonderful child like yours! Plan to keep your child entertained. Some parents deliberately choose seats at the back of the plane where engine noise can help muffle piping voices.

12 Top Tips for Road Trips

1. So, the kids wanna bring their art supplies to color and draw during the road trip. It’s a great idea to keep them busy and entertained. But you want to keep them organized as well. You can reuse an old DVD case to keep all their art supplies in order. The DVD case works as a personalized easel. You can even get extra creative and wrap the case with colorful paper to add some extra spunk.

2. You can use a shoe organizer on the back of the driver and passenger seat to organize all sorts of items that you are bringing along for the road trip. You can put books, toys and really any sort of supply in the shoe organizer and now you have more car room.

3. Put silicone muffin liners inside of cup holders in the car. This helps you clean up the car after the trip is over. Any crumbs or spills will be caught in the muffin liners which saves you a mess after your trip.

4. Bring a plastic cereal container with you and use it as a trash can. With snack wrappers, tissues, etc. you will want a place to collect all your trash instead of having it strung throughout the car. A plastic cereal container is the perfect size to stash all your trash and fits nicely on your car floor like a trashcan and it even has a lid. You can use plastic grocery bags as liners too

5. Playing games in the car will make the long drive go by much faster. It’s fun for the kids and can even be fun for you. Here’s an assortment of some of the best games to play during road trips…

6. License Plate Game is this one is a classic! Each player can have a piece of paper and pen. If you’re in the U.S. road tripping, make a list of all the different states you pass by while on the road. The winner is the person with the most states listed. You can make things more fun by doing double points for naming the state’s capital or if you see a license plate from another country.

7. I-Spy is another classic game that everyone knows how to play. Of course, there are the basic items you will pass during your road trip like clouds or the sky or maybe a bird or tree. But mix things up and choose more unique landscapes like a mountain or valley or pasture. Just make sure all the objects are still in a view to keep the game fair and fun.

8. 20 Questions. It’s’ a great car game and is so extremely simple. Players just choose a person and then have other passenger guess who it is with a limit of 20 questions. To make the game more challengers…players can choose more off-the-wall people but if you wanna take the game down a few notches choose easier people. This game is best for kids that are a little older since it can be more difficult compared to I-Spy.

9. The “Animal Game” is like 20 questions. Have one player choose an animal or you could choose another category, but animals tend to be fun. All the other players must guess what the animal is but can only ask yes or no questions. For example,…Does the animal live in Australia? Is the animal a carnivore? Each player is only allowed one actual guess…so if you ask, “Is it a Koala?” and the answer is no…then this player is out of the game. So obviously, it is best to wait till you are very confident in your guess.

10. Memory Game or some call it the picnic game. One player starts out the game by saying, “I’m going out on a picnic and I’m bringing…” and then they list an item. The next player must remember the item listed by the first player and now needs to add something else to the story. Then the game continues but getting something wrong in the story means you’re out.

11. Quiet Game is every parent’s favourite car game. So, the kids have been bickering or you’re just tired of the high noise level in the car. Well now it sounds like the perfect time to play the quiet game. Basically, the rules go like this. Who can stay quiet the longest. So, countdown 3, 2, 1, hush puppies!! Hopefully the silence lasts a decent amount of time before the giggles set in.

12. Would you rather is another great and interesting game to play during a long road trip. Would you rather jump in a tank with snakes or swim with sharks? Each player takes turns making up different scenarios. It’s the perfect game for every age level.

Read more great tips at Your RV Lifestyle – 77 tips for travelling with children  >>

Map of New Zealand
  • Central Otago
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Coromandel
  • Dunedin
  • Gisborne
  • Fiordland
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Manawatu
  • Nelson & Golden Bay
  • Northland
  • North Canterbury
  • Rotorua
  • Queenstown
  • Taranaki
  • South Canterbury
  • Taupo
  • Southland
  • Waikato
  • Wanaka
  • West Coast
  • Whangarei
  • Bay of Islands
  • Tauranga
  • Gisborne
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Kapiti
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Stewart Island
  • Central Plateau
  • Invercargill
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • Hokitika
  • Westport
  • Glenorchy

Our favourite destinations…

Auckland destination2

Auckland

New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.

Christchurch

With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.

Queenstown

With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.

Rotorua

Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!

Northland

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.