Australian road trips tips: Why families should hit the road

"Dad, he's on my side of the seat!" "Mum, she's on MY side!" Whack. "Waah!!!"

Sound familiar? Yep, you've got to love the great Aussie road trip. 

My sister and I had bruising encounters in the back seat of the family Ford, driving down the Pacific Highway.

One day we lost the brakes, careening down a mountain range; then we made multiple "sick stops", because of the cigarette smoke.

But, you know what? We had fun! Playing games and talking and singing. The stuff you don't have time for at home.

So it's a shame this is going the way of the dodo.

According to a survey by IGA, more than half of Australians haven't done a road trip in the past six months. Overall, 56 per cent say they prefer to fly when travelling interstate.

Sure, flying can be convenient: But, consider the comfort of your own car, with multiple entertainment options, and all the bags in the back.

Download a music app for a personalised soundtrack, pack lots of snacks in small containers, and take the time to talk.

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You can have life-changing conversations on long road trips – especially with teenagers. They tend to find direct eye contact threatening: like wild animals.

Which you'll see plenty of on the Nature's Way loop, a thee to five-day drive through Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu in the Northern Territory. (A map is on travelnt.com.)

Check out Crocosaurus Cove, the Termite Mounds, and Jim Jim Falls. You can even play 'NT Spotto', with points for brolgas and billabongs, or 'I'm going to the Outback', an alphabetical memory game.  

Another iconic Aussie trip is to the "Big" tourist attractions. The survey says the most popular is the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour.

Unfortunately, the last time we drove from Sydney to Brisbane, the kids were less than impressed. "Mum, that's so small, it looks like a lolly banana!" Taj says. (I redeem myself by buying BIG banana splits…)  

This is followed by the Big Pineapple and Big Merino, which pip the Big Avocado, in Duranbah, country NSW. 

Just one in 20 of us have visited the Big Orange in Berri, possibly because it's too confusing for the kids.

So, how do you stop the seat shenanigans? And the chorus of, "Are we there yet?"

Pick up a copy of the new book, Lonely Planet Kids: Boredom Buster, packed with word, counting and board games.

Or do what we do and threaten them. "If anyone asks 'Are we there yet?', they lose dessert.

Another trick is to wrap some small toys, and give one to the kids every hour. An endless array of entertainment!

Also, encourage them to look out the window. Once they get into the habit, they'll enjoy the stunning scenery. Our son finds it soporific, slumbering in the back seat.

Log on to www.IGA.com.au/DiscoverLocal​ to plan routes for future road-trips across Australia.

And bring along those noise-cancelling headphones, if all else fails.

Tracey Spicer is an ambassador for Discover Local, a campaign to bring back the great Aussie road trip. 

See also: Beauty and the Backpacker: An epic road trip to foodie heaven

See also: Australia now has a second great ocean road

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