We’ve now spent a total of 12 months (on and off or we wouldn’t have a job!) with our toddler in our campervan. Some of the time I wished we’d stayed home. Some of the time I had to admit the way we travelled ‘before’ had to change. It was tough but when we made a few changes to our camping itinerary and travelling style everyone was happier and we had a much more relaxed time, by the end we’d created a way of living that was sustainable long term (if only we were so lucky!) Here are a few things we learnt:
The easy bits…
- Always have a pack of baby wipes in the van, even if your toddler is toilet trained. There will always be accidents, better to be prepared!
- As per the above, always keep a spare set of bed sheets in your van with you.
- This next camping hack is completely wasteful and goes against everything I believe in, but you only need to utilise it for the shortest time until the ‘learning and accidents’ stage has passed, and it has saved me A LOT of stress when on the road. Before you leave on your trip, make a visit to the cheapest shop you can think of that sells kids clothes (it was Kmart for me) and purchase the cheapest bulk pack of undies. I got them for 70cents a pair. At that price a ‘big’ accident meant the undies went straight in the bin and I saved myself some messy washing.
- Have a stash of healthy ‘ready’ foods on hand for when you won’t be able to make dinner by ‘dinner time’ or will be going to a pub or restaurant and don’t know if they’ll offer anything for your little one. As an example, we always have at least a couple of tins of baked beans, tuna, an avocado, wholegrain crackers and peanut butter on hand.
- If you are as unlucky as us and have a toddler who hates car travel, you’ll find road tripping distances in Australia a nightmare too. I’ve also got a slight problem with utilising our ipad as babysitter so had to come up with another idea – music. If we played ‘her’ music, she was much more likely to sit there happily for an hour than if we played ‘our music’. How lovely, a road trip listing to the Hokey Pokey on repeat for an hour. Enter the best purchase we’ve made in a long time: A pair of children’s Bluetooth JBL headphones. These are so wonderful I could write a blog on the headphones alone. No cord, safety volume feature, comfy, great sound, LONG life (I rarely charge them) not that expensive ($50). You can play your child’s music on your phone and YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIST TO IT. Bonus: try calling grandparents and friends and letting your little one have a ‘private’ chat = another hour gone.
The bits that you might not want to do but make life easier for everyone if you do…
- This one’s pretty obvious but you may be tempted to push it, don’t bother. Travel short distances at a time (1.5 hours?) punctuated by 30 minute playground breaks.
- Google maps is great. You can open your map, show your location and then just type in ‘playground’ and they will show up on the map. You can even see ‘ratings’ and photos if there are any, plus walking or driving directions.
- As we all know, toddlers are creatures of routine and familiarity and these things make them feel happy and comfortable. Sesame Street didn’t play the same episode at the same time for one week as it’s primary marketing activity for no reason at all. Sleep in a different location every night and your toddler’s likely to feel (and act) a little unsettled. For this reason, we’d suggest planning to stay longer in each place than you usually would, and try to avoid staying anywhere for just one night.
- This one was discovered in Europe where there are more attractive ‘big cities’ that I’d traditionally loved to have visited, but it’s similarly true in Australia (1 night in Newcastle was stressful and disappointing after a few blissful weeks in tiny coastal towns). With a toddler (and I say this with gritted teeth) sometimes it’s better to avoid cities altogether. Cities mean it’s harder to get a carpark, there’s sometimes traffic, the campground might be out of the city meaning you have to work out ways with public transport or walking to get into the actual city centre. At the end of the day, what do WE want to do in a city anyway? I’ll tell you what. We want to go shopping (or at least window shopping!), see the sights and go out for coffee, dinner, drinks. Let’s be honest – none of these things are particularly toddler friendly. Better to save that Sydney stopover to a weekend away WITHOUT the kids.