Overlanding With Kids: 5 Quick Tips
Hello everyone and Happy New Year!
I did a good bit of travelling over the last few months and took my 5-year-old with me most of the time. Overlanding with kids brings a whole new challenge to getting out so I thought I’d share some of my experiences and recommendations.
The truth is that it really sucks… BUT I have 5 tips to make it better!
1. Get to know your kid
This is a little tongue-in-cheek but its serious too. You need to know your kid’s attention span, what entertains them, bladder capacity, communication, and physiology.
I’ll share an example with you: My kid loves to play games on our Switch and he’ll do that for hours (entertainment). He also gets motion sick (physiology) but will not tell us until the LAST second (communication). He is also content to sit there and stare out the window for hours or take a nap so I will not let him play any games or watch any screens while on winding roads and he sits back there quietly until we stop next.
You should know this level of detail about your kid and sometimes it takes a trip or two to figure it out.
I am not good at this but I am learning. Those trips where you are figuring out how to travel with your kid are going to be tough. How do I know my kid gets motion sick but won’t tell me about it? Well, I have had projectile vomiting from the back seat on a winding roads… twice. This is how learning happens but I assure you it is not fun learning these lessons.
Traveling with kids also means that plans will not play out as intended. They will need to go to the bathroom 30 sec after you get back onto the road after a fuel stop and they will ask meaningless questions and make you miss your turn/exit when the next one is 10 miles down the road. These things have happened and will continue to happen, you just have to get over it and press on.
3. Build an “Adventure”
For them, this isn’t a trip, it is an adventure to a new world. I always try to make this an important point to them. We aren’t trying to just get to a destination, we are going to stop and hike in the woods, stop at all of the overlooks to see what lies in the valley below, stop to see the paragliders, animals, cool roadside attractions, etc.
Build a fire even if you don’t want to or have them help photograph things. I did some light painting with my son and he loved it. I also gave him a little point and shoot camera and he loves taking pictures of everything and uploading them to the computer to see what he got.
If you like overlanding and want to bring them along, you have to make the trip enjoyable for them as well. Stop being selfish.
4. Manage their expectations
Don’t tell them you will be there soon if you aren’t. That may keep them quiet for a little bit but that does nothing for their enjoyment the rest of the trip. We’ll tell my son that it is going to be a long time but offer him something to do or tell him that we will stop soon so he can get out and look at something, take care of the dogs, or help put gas in the Jeep.
Little things like “helping” gas up the Jeep can make a huge difference in your trips because they are involved and not locked in the back seat spectating.
5. Manage your own expectations
A trip with a kiddo has to be a lot about the kiddo. If you are like me and am trying to put a lot of miles down to see a historic site or are trying to see how many mountain trails you can do in a 16-hour day without stopping, those probably need to be trips you do alone.
Trips with the kids need to revolve a lot around the kids if you want everyone to have an enjoyable time. You’re going to stop a lot, plans are going to fall apart, physiological incidents ARE GOING TO HAPPEN! If you go into a trip knowing this and are mentally prepared for the disaster that is traveling with kids, you’ll be fine and it will be much less of a disaster.