There’s nothing better than packing up the bags, piling in the kids and hitting the open highway for a good old fashioned Kiwi family road trip.

With school holidays just around the corner, we spoke to Wotif.co.nz Travel Specialist, and mother of two, Kim Stockham and asked her for some expert family road trip tips, for navigating a fun and memorable family holiday on the road.

I think we can boil it down to planning, timing and eating! Be sure to include the following road trip tips as part of your family holiday planning:

5 great tips for Kiwi family road trips

1. Plan for the drive ahead

First up, put some time aside to pack as efficiently as you can (a hard task if you have little ones!) and make sure you have easy access inside the vehicle for important items so you’re not digging around amongst your luggage on the side of the road.

Pack bags with snacks and activities at the top, or in easy to grab pockets. This will prevent you from having to pull all of the clothes out each time you need something.

2. Timing is everything

Consider the best time of day to travel for your family – if you have babies or toddlers, aim to plan travel time around their usual sleep schedule.

Leaving home just before lunchtime can work well for babies and toddlers, with a lunchbox in the car and a peaceful afternoon snooze making for relaxing travel for Mums and Dads too.

Also, plan the quietest times on the road, even if it means an early morning start. Nothing will irritate both children and driver more, than getting stuck in holiday traffic.

3. It’s not just about the destination

Road trips are just as much about the journey and the fun things you enjoy as a family along the way.

Look to stop every couple of hours, checking out local playgrounds and attractions (check out suggestions in the fridge list below!).

Not only does this refresh all the passengers, but you’ll discover all sorts of interesting and off-the-beaten-path activities, that you’d otherwise miss if you just go directly from A to B.

4. Pack your snacks

Avoid ‘hangry’ backseat passengers by ensuring you’ve got plenty of easy-to-eat snacks. Satisfy toddlers with chopped fruit, veggies, crackers or other light snacks – they are perfect for small fingers, along with a sipper drink bottle.

Try to encourage older kids to make their own snacks and pack a lunchbox before leaving home; it’s a great way to avoid any whinging along the way.

5. Avoid backseat boredom

Babies tend to be happy travellers as long as they have their car seat toys, while toddlers love sing-along CD’s, DVD’s on portable players, books and even colouring in books for the kids.

For older children make sure you’ve charged up smartphones, tablets and electronic games.

Don’t forget the good old fashioned road trip car games too. These can fill in longer stretches on the road and can help to avoid the grizzles that tech can sometimes create.


Hot spots for your ‘fridge list’

Now you’ve got the expert tips, it’s time to get in the driver’s seat and plan your next family road trip. Here’s some destination ideas to get you started:

1. Auckland 

With hundreds of things to do for families, New Zealand’s largest city will always make a great road trip destination. Stay for a couple of days on the way up North to the Bay of Islands, or Northland, and make the start of your summer holiday an action-packed City-stay.

2. Taranaki 

One of our favourite road trip destinations, Taranaki is a gold mine of unexpected road trip treasures. Take your time meandering around the surf highway, and make sure to leave a day or two to properly explore Mt Taranaki.

3. Rotorua 

The classic stop on the New Zealand tourist trail, Rotorua will always be a destination spot. It has to be one of the best places to visit with kids. You’ll have no end to activity options, and there really is something for the whole family to do here.

4. Christchurch

Just like Auckland above, Christchurch is a great City-stay option en route to other South Island destinations. There are so many great things to do for families in this beautiful city. And Christchurch goes out of its way to make them affordable too!

5. Queenstown

If you’re planning a road trip to the South Island, then Queenstown must be on your itinerary. There’s so much to do in the activity-capital of New Zealand, your family will be spoilt for choice. Summer or Winter, Queenstown is a destination option with a capital ‘D’.

For more expert travel advice, check out our Family Travel section.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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