Planning a gap year?


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But feeling a little daunted?

Not sure which way to turn?

Wondering where you'll end up

And what might happen along the way?

Fear not!!

We have loads of tips and advice to share with you

From our own amazing Family Gap Year!

Long Distance Travel with Children

"Never take a cross country trip with a kid who has just learned to whistle" Jean Deuel


The children and I drove, not including bus and taxi and coach trips, in our various car hire vehicles over 11’000 km across the five month period.

The longest drive we did was from Brisbane to Sydney, a straight days travel of over 9 hours but on the whole we averaged between two and three hours most days that we were on the road.

Every parent worth his or her salt will know that these long trips can be telling on everyone and it is important to know when enough is enough and when to call it quits. That said practice makes perfect and we were all pretty good at getting into the zone by the time we reached New Zealand.

Travelling with Children

Obviously when you are doing very long drives it is important that you keep key safety factors in mind.

Car safety checks

You will invariably be driving a hire car and there is always a feeling that they would have taken good care of the vehicle and insured that it was completely road worthy. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't check the air pressure in the tires, the oil, water and fuel levels as well as windscreen washer

Buckle Up

Make sure everyone buckles up - despite the temptation in hour five to say, fine, unbuckle yourself.

Quite apart from obvious safety issues in some countries, like Australia, there are significant fines for not buckling up.

Take a Break

You are on a gap year for goodness sake. This means leaving deadlines and the like behind. Don't push yourself. Take frequent breaks. It's an important opportunity for everyone in the car to use the restroom, stretch their legs, and get a little exercise. Breaks in your drive will give everyone the opportunity to re energize and press on.

Feeling Sleepy

If you can't take a break immediately (there were places in Africa where I felt that stopping could be potentially life threatening and in Australia where long roads didn't offer safe stops.)

Listen to loud music and sing along despite what the children say.

Open the windows wide

Eat something

Along the way we learnt many tricks and games to make the time go faster.

(Suggestion If you have a good list of games print them out and keep them in easy reach in the car - So often we'd say - 'let's play something fun' then immediately have our minds go totally blank despite actually having a list.)

Games for the kids alone:

Electronic games (both girls had a Nintendo DS)

DVD's - Some of the families we met up with let their kids watch dvd's on the way but that seemed to defeat the object of seeing a new country as far as I was concerned

the girls played card games and top trumps across the back seat

They drew on each others backs and guessed what the other was drawing

And to keep mum awake

We sang endlessly (and badly) along to the radio, the Ipod, Christmas Carols and made up our own songs

We played eye spy (sent me to sleep)

We loved the Alphabet Game where you had to find a name for every letter of the alphabet. For example girls names, Alex, Belinda, Clara, Diana, Lisa ....

One of our favourites was the memory game. The first person would start, 'I went to the woods and I saw a witch,'. The second person would carry on, 'I went to the woods and I saw a witch and a carrot,'. The next person would see a witch, a carrot and an umbrella and so it would go on. The most we ever remembered was over 50 items.

Word Association was great too as we really didn't have to think hard, all we had to say was what we associated with the previous word. For example: Boat = sail = water = dolphin. This could be really funny too.

Just a minute was good value too. Where you have to speak for a minute without repeating yourself, hesitating or saying er or um. Another variation of this was not saying the word yes or no.

The Number Plate Game: Take the nearest number plate for the first group of three letters. The first letter is the initial of the person's name; the second is where they work, and the third where they live. The same idea worked well with numbers too in that we'd see a number plate like GHT 256 K. Gina works in hotel and lives in Tokyo and she is 32.
How did I get 32? And the girls would work out what I timesed, added, divided etc to reach that number

Scavenger Hunt for Road Trips
We'd all have a list of things to watch for while we drove and the first to tick all the boxes was the winner
We'd watch for things like:
Church, Kangaroo, Silo, Traffic lights, ambulance, possum, caravan, picket fence, fir tree, oak tree etc etc. This can be as challenging as you want.


Educational (not exactly riveting but meant we were doing homework as we travelled so we had less to do when we reached our destination)

Each of the children took turns to be the navigator while I proceeded to get hopelessly lost under their direction their map reading did improve.

They worked out how far it was to our destination by road, by river or as the crow flew

We listened to our French and German lessons on the Ipod broadcast through the car speakers

We did times tables, division, square roots

We played word association and spelling

We played thesaurus. Another word for judge - sagacious, another word for argue - debate, another word for lessen - diminish and so on and so forth

We played dictionary - striations - those rocks ahead have striations what does this mean and how in geographic terms did this happen?

The kids worked out how much petrol we used, worked out how long it would take to get somewhere at our current speed, they guessed how much it would cost to fill up at the next petrol station and would tell me how much it would have been in Sterling, Singapore dollars, Malaysian Ringats, Australia etc


Story Books

We also loaded a number of children's audio books onto the Ipod. This made the hours whizz by and even I found myself laughing, in fact so hysterically at Jacqueline Wilson's Cat Mummy that at one point that I had to pull over.
We got these books free from the library and it was a great way of making time flow on the long drives.

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