What does "living the simple dream" mean to me?

I always hear people from our generation saying "Ahh, living the dream" when they are doing somthing our of the ordinary - for example: sipping cocktails in a spa of a fancy resort or perhaps they post "living the dream" as the caption beneath a photo of them moving into their new $500,000+ mansion-esque home they have just mortgaged their life away for. At first I was confused by how simple my ambitions were. All I wanted was to live in a caravan and be able to spend as much time enjoying the outdoors with my husband and son, without my husband having to be at work all the time. So for me, this became my simple dream. I find myself having those "Ahh living the dream" moments when I am sitting in a natural hot spring with my husband and son, drinking a beer, ten feet away from a crocodile infested river. Now mine, my husbands and my sons life is all about chasing our simple dream.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Travelling with young children - our experience.

Travelling with young children.
Zac entertaining himself in the car by playing with his helmet

When we began planning this trip, we knew we would be seeing Australia from an entirely different “angle” to most travellers our age. We knew that by having a 2 year old son (at the time of the finalising of our plans) we would have to work hard to find a way to make this travel lifestyle work for US as a family and our son as a child requiring stability, routine and structure.
With this in mind we decided on a few foundational “rules” we wanted to implement:

We felt that because we were filling his life with so much “unknown” at such a young age, developing a new, more suitable routine was necessary. We developed routines for average days, routines for car trips and routines for when we are stopped in a town working. Being able to ease into these routines has given our son back some of the structure his life was lacking. Our travel routine is as simple as our son being able to depend on the fact that we WILL stop for morning tea/lunch etc. and that we will rarely (if ever) travel past 2pm. Structuring our days on the road like this has led to a massive decrease in monotonous conversations of “are we there yet?” because our son feels secure and comfortable and genuinely knows when we WILL be “there” (even though “there” isn’t always where we had planned for it to be”.

When you start travelling and live a “holiday-esque” lifestyle occasionally the days can begin to become less defined. You start to realise you have no idea what day/time it is. Although this is a nice, relaxing experience for most of us adults, kids tend to like and crave those little activities that happen on certain days (something to look forward to). With this in mind we have set rituals that we follow even when on the road. It could be simple as Friday night dinner, every week, is homemade burger night. Or Saturday night you all watch a DVD together as a family, Monday morning could be “bush walk day” or Tuesday afternoon could be “craft time”. You could set a certain day of the week to Skype or ring your family back home. Any of these experiences can help to define your weeks more as well as create a small amount of structure, but not so much that it hinders your travel experience.
Have a day off here and there:

Zac and I on a "Rest day" painting some shells we had collected.

Let’s face it, living a life of leisure can be extremely exhausting. If it’s occasionally exhausting for us imagine how it might be for the little ones? Our son (as with most children) is very independent by nature. He loves to bush walk and demands to be left to his own devices rather than carried or assisted. When exploring Australia, many of the natural wonders you will want to see will involve physical activity to get to. We have found that even though our son is capable and does actually make his own way at the time – this does lead to increased tiredness later in the day (or even the next day). We have found that occasionally its nice to take a whole day off exploring, to have some time to stay at camp and all relax. During this time our son plays with toys, or in the dirt, we read books and simply rest. Sometimes these days are at free camps (which is even better because they are generally between towns and there is nothing to tempt you away from relaxing) and sometimes they are at caravan parks.
Children can get bored very fast in the car if they are not being stimulated.
We have found that because of this we HAVE to (this is just us) leave at around 5am so that we can get all of our driving for the day done by lunchtime or just after. After lunchtime our son just cannot handle being in the car anymore and becomes impossible to entertain. This generally means he gets to enjoy the afternoon of daylight hours to play, when we stop, which breaks up the days of travel for him!
A few of the activities we use in the car:
We purchased a mini portable TV (I know many people are against these but I think they are worth making an exception for once you switch to fulltime travel)
Flash cards (our son – like most children – just loves when we are involved with him) with the flash cards we are not only teaching him but having quality time together. We use them to teach him to spell out words, recognise letters, or just identify whatever the picture is on the card.
Play-dough (did that just make you shudder? Play-dough… in the car…. Is this lady crazy?) Our son is obsessed with play-dough, it’s his favourite “play thing”. We bought a small lap table for in the car and we give him one container of play-dough and a few little utensils and it keeps him entertained for hours. For some reason our cheap crappy seat covers don’t allow the playdough to stick to them so it simply dries and is brushed into our hands and put in the bin (not nearly as messy as you would think)
Whiteboards are fantastic for kids in the car. You can also get coloured whiteboard markers. Team those with a face-washer and they can draw for ours. This save on paper and is that little bit more exciting for the kids.
I also use the whiteboard to create stories with Zac. I will draw the story as I go along and allow him to contribute. This is so much fun and is a great way for him to explore his imagination.
Reading books – another great educational and entertaining activity.
We are yet to use them but I know a lot of people use audio books so I plan on trying those soon!
Just a few small toys (like some cars or Lego blocks) generally will entertain Zac for a little while.
talking about your surroundings, what you can see, where you are going and what there is to do there. We will somtimes give zac some brouchures and allow him to look through them and choose osmthing that looks fun to do or see when we arrive in the next town. This makes the trip more interesting and integrates his ideas and interests into what we do at the next town. 

Breaking up the trip a little:

Stop at a fast food place, with a playground. We occasionally will stop at a MacDonald’s and just buy a drink to share, and then take Zac into the playground for a play. There are nearly always other children for them to play with and the playgrounds make for really active play with lots of climbing, running and exploring. This is a great way to release some energy.
Stop at a beach for a swim and some fun in the sun while you eat lunch.
Plenty of rest areas have small playgrounds, utilise these when you see them.
Stop for a cooked lunch, this gives you more time to sit around and sometimes you can get the children’s bikes out and allow them to have a ride around with dad while mum is making lunch.
Where do we like to stay?

We love to “free camp”. Free camping is a fantastic way to see this country on a tight budget. Free camps also promote a lot of socialisation as they are generally in areas where there aren’t other things to do (in terms of going to restaurants or pre-planned activities). Our son always finds other children to play with when we free camp and it makes the trip a lot more interesting.

In terms of the best family friendly parks we have found the “Discovery holiday parks” chain to be the best. So far (in our experience) they have always been clean, had playgrounds for the children, had multiple other child friendly activities and have special offers like “free pancake breakfasts on Tuesdays” etc. They are our favourite parks and we tend to seek them out when we are somewhere near one and looking for paid accommodation for the night in our caravan. We also signed up to their membership program and receive a genuinely good discount on stays at their parks.


  1. It's great to see folk full timing with a youngster! I'm often asked about full timing with kids. I know now where to send them for advice! Regards Jools and "M"

  2. We travel a lot with the kids so having a routine is always good to have. I make sure we leave early in the morning so the kids can get a nap in the car. I let the kids pack their own backpacks with activities and I bring my iPad for them as well. They can play games, watch movies, and even watch TV through my provider DISH Network. I learned about the Sling Adapter when I started working at DISH and it allows me access to all our subscription channels and DVR recordings from my iPad. The kids can watch live TV anywhere we can get a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. The kids love watching their favorite shows live and I have the Blockbuster@home pass, which allows me to stream movies and the kids like that option as well. These are some really great tips you have on here and I think that stopping at a rest stop for lunch is a great idea because the kids can get out and play. I will bring along a Frisbee just in case the rest stop doesn’t have a playground.

  3. Hi there "Our Life In A Caravan", glad to hear you have someone to share my blog posts with! Our aim is to help people see how achievable this lifestyle is!

    Unknown - thanks for the great ideas, I will check them out! Sounds like you have "in travel" entertainment ALL sorted!!!!!

  4. Paultons Park Vouchers
    Best family friendly parks.It is a fantastic way to see this country on a tight budget.