Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island, SA © South Australia Tourism Commission

Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island, South Australia © South Australia Tourism Commission

Family travel tips: how to plan a family trip

Hill Inlet, Whitsundays, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

Hill Inlet, Whitsundays, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland

When travelling as a family, a bit of planning can go a long way to ensure a truly memorable break. One key consideration is time of year. With most families scheduling trips during the school holidays, it’s important to plan ahead to make sure you have access to your first choices for accommodation and experiences.

While it’s important to plan key elements of your holiday, strive to have a flexible itinerary in place to account for unforeseen circumstances that could disrupt your timetable. For example, the day you may have picked for a surf lesson could end up being rainy or windy. If you leave a few days in your schedule for downtime, that will give you the opportunity to move activities to other days if needed.

When planning your activities, be sure to check in advance with any organised tours or experiences you’d like to book. Some have limited capacity and may be fully booked weeks ahead of time. So if your family has their heart set on a specific experience, it may be best to secure your booking first and plan other activities around that.

Emu Bay Lavender Farm, Kangaroo Island, SA © South Australian Tourism Commission

Emu Bay Lavender Farm, Kangaroo Island, South Australia © South Australian Tourism Commission

Keep the kids entertained and the budget in check by taking advantage of free experiences. Many kid-friendly museums offer free general admission (although you may need to book in advance) and it’s easy to find incredible public parks, playgrounds, botanic gardens and water-play parks that are completely free. Even our dining scene is kid-friendly, with some restaurants offering free kids’ meals on certain days of the week.

A packed itinerary can wear out even the most seasoned of travellers, and kids are certainly no exception. Be sure to allow plenty of downtime between tours and activities to rest and reflect. It may also help energy and enthusiasm levels if your downtime coincides with the hottest time of the day. Give everyone a break from the sun, replenish your fluids and put your feet up for a few hours before hitting the tourist trail again.

Keep things exciting by including a range of different activities in your schedule. Cities and regional towns have kid-friendly museums perfect for stimulating your child’s imagination, many with interactive exhibits designed for specific age groups. Outdoor experiences also abound, with everything from amusement parks to beaches where adventurous kids can learn a range of watersports. There are also incredible Aboriginal-run tours targeted to children, teaching them about Australia’s unique Indigenous cultures, bush tucker and fun skills like throwing spears and boomerangs.

Blue Mountains Drive, Wentworth Falls, NSW © Destination NSW

Blue Mountains Drive, Wentworth Falls, New South Wales © Destination NSW

Not only are frequent stops essential for road safety, but they are also a great chance for your kids to have a comfort break, stretch and release some energy. If you’re on a family road trip, you’ll find rest stops and service stations at regular intervals, but consider mapping out a few minor detours to combine your break with a kid-friendly attraction. Stop at one of the country’s famous “Big Things”, or take a Tourist Drive detour (you’ll spot brown road signs indicating where to turn off) to find historic towns, scenic lookouts, caves, waterfalls and other attractions. 

Take the pressure off travelling around the city by utilising public transport and hop-on hop-off tourist buses. Services are inexpensive (children generally pay a concession fee) and will take you to all the major attractions without the hassle of finding parking. Some services, such as Melbourne’s City Circle Tram, are completely free! In Sydney, there are caps to weekly transport rates, so you will never pay more than the maximum weekly fare, regardless of how often you use the transport network. Most buses, metros, trains and trams can accommodate prams and other access requirements, making them a great option for getting around.

Having a few games on hand is a great way to keep kids engaged while travelling. They can be used to pass time while driving, to discover secrets of the city you’re exploring or to keep them entertained while dining out – all while reducing screen time. Colouring pages are a great option, as are bingo cards featuring Australian icons and wildlife. Discover some great, downloadable ideas here. There are also some great apps you can download for city-based scavenger hunts that will introduce your family to a secret side of the city.

Kids Hiking the Grampians, VIC © Visit Victoria

Kids Hiking the Grampians, Victoria © Visit Victoria

Ensure your holiday is memorable for all the right reasons by following some simple guidelines that will help keep you and your family safe and healthy. Always look carefully both ways before you cross roads and use marked crossings wherever available. If embarking on a bushwalk or visiting a wilderness area, make sure you do your research beforehand, pack sufficient water and food, stick to clearly marked trails, and always inform others of your whereabouts and plans. Visit our health and safety FAQ page for tips on water safety, road safety, bushfire safety and more.

If you are spending time outdoors it’s important to practice sun safety. Apply sunscreen regularly, wear a hat and sunglasses, and stay well hydrated. If swimming in the ocean, consider choosing a reef-safe sunscreen to help protect marine life and coral.

Visitor Information Centre, Julia Creek, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

 Visitor Information Centre, Julia Creek, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland

For help with booking, unbiased local recommendations and great deals and offers, your first stop in any destination should be the Accredited Visitor Information Centre. The friendly faces here can help you find everything from great tours and experiences to family-friendly restaurants and even discounts to help you get the most out of your visit. Some centres even have historical and cultural exhibitions right on site for kids to discover.

With so many kid-friendly activities on offer, it can be easy to forget to set aside some time for yourselves. Thankfully, there are some great experiences that are designed for mum and dad to enjoy while the kids are kept equally entertained. There are many themed museums that young and old will love, such as transport and military museums. If you’re a history buff with a brave brood, try a ghost tour at one of the country’s World-Heritage listed historical sights like Tasmania's Port Arthur. 

Finally, if a little down time is what you’re after, there are a number of wineries and breweries around the country with playgrounds, and even farm animals, to keep the kids busy while parents relax with some of the world’s finest craft beer and wine.