New Zealand has been on our ‘to do’ list for a long time, and what better way to explore such a wonderfully scenic country than in a motorhome? Travelling in a motorhome with kids is great fun, and despite their size, motorhomes are much easier to drive than you would think.
We’ve just returned home after covering over 3000kms in almost three weeks with young four kids. Here are some of the things we learned along the way.
Tips for travelling in a motorhome with kids
Pack motion sickness pills
There are lots of windy roads in New Zealand, so it didn’t take long for the kids to start complaining of car sickness. Even if the roads you plan on driving are fairly straight, if you have more than two kids chances are someone will be driving backward which is never good for your tummy. You can pick up chewable travel sickness pills for kids at any chemist or pharmacy. A very wise investment!
This is the top tip for any kind of travel, but more so for travelling in a motorhome with kids. While motorhomes are built with lots of clever little storage compartments, the emphasis here is on ‘little’. We limited ourselves to a weekender bag each, which held everything from swimmers to ski jackets, books to board games. Everyone had their own cupboard for clothes and we unpacked everything straight away and stowed the bags in the storage space underneath. I also had a dedicated cupboard for things like hats, water bottles and sunglasses that we would be reaching for throughout the day, plus a cupboard for dirty clothes. You don’t want to take more than you absolutely need otherwise it will drive you crazy trying to get to things and having things fall out every time you open a door! If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll have the same favourite outfit they’ll want to wear over and over again anyway. Now’s the time to take advantage of that.
Leave the suitcases at home
There really isn’t home to store large suitcases in a motorhome. We only packed soft bags that could be squished up in the storage space below the motorhome. If you have the same pickup and drop off location, you could always check with the depot as they may offer to store luggage for you while you head off on your adventures.
Plan your grocery shopping wisely
Not only do you have to store everything you buy, it’s a balancing act to buy everything you need, but not too much so you avoid ending up with excess food at the end of your trip. However, there are a lot of camp kitchens where you can contribute to the ‘free shelf’ at the end of your trip. My shopping list was built around a basic meal plan and included lots of road trip snacks (and noodles!) to keep my tribe happy. Most motorhomes come with a microwave, cooktop and bar fridge, but plan simple meals as there is not a lot of room to work with. Grab some small space air freshener too if you plan on using the toilet – the bathroom can get a little smelly.
Pack dressing gowns
Yes, they’re bulky, but I think the smartest thing we packed was our dressing gowns. The evenings were cool and they made our trips to and from the communal bathrooms much easier. Wearing dressing gowns means we could cover up but didn’t need to cart our clothes and PJs to and from the shower rooms with us. Dressing gowns are also great for those late night trips to the loo!
One thing I did wish I had packed was a thermos so I could boil water in the morning for a cup of tea later in the day, without having to connect the gas. Next time!
Take the two driver option
In New Zealand, we paid an extra $1 per day for an extra driver to be added to our rental. If you are doing lots of driving it makes sense. We also took turns sitting in the back with the kids which made for some nice family bonding moments.
Stay in holiday parks
Our motorhome was ‘self-contained’ which gave us the ability to free camp as we had our own toilet and shower. The idea of camping in open areas made me feel a bit vulnerable, so we always stayed in holiday parks. We’d just park up, plug in and we were set. I like staying in campsites as it meant there was safe space for the kids to run about.
The holiday parks we picked had playgrounds, jumping pillows and usually a pool and TV or games room. The kids could burn off their energy and make new friends while we could have some downtime or get dinner ready in peace.
Holiday parks also come with a kitchen, laundry and dumping stations which all come in handy, not to mention free WiFi – we kept screen time to a minimum but sometimes you need to get the kids out of your hair to save your sanity.
We never actually used the shower in our motorhome – the space is tiny and the whole bathroom would become wet. We also only used the toilet for ’emergencies’ and our three-year-old. The toilet can get stinky, and cleaning out a toilet ‘cassette’ isn’t for the faint-hearted…
Have a routine
Once we reached our final destination for the day my husband and I would quickly set up for our stay. Key tasks included:
- Plugging into the camp powerpoint
- Moving the infant and booster seats to the front cab
- Bringing out the dining table
- Laying out the kids’ PJs
- One of us exploring the camp with the kids while the other would start getting dinner ready
In the evening I’d also get the kids’ clothes ready for the next day to save time and reduce chaos in the morning.
Everything needs to be packed away again before you start driving, so we would only get out what we needed. Life in a motorhome with kids can be crazy enough without unnecessary clutter!
Buy the extra insurance
Just before we left a friend of mine said that the extra insurance on a motorhome was a waste of money. I had already taken out and lucky I did: Towards the end of our trip, a large goose very sadly collided with our windscreen, shattering the glass. All we had to do was fill in a few details on an accident form, hand in at the motorhome depot and we were sorted. You just don’t know what might happen on the road.
Don’t pay extra for picnic chairs and tables
We drove two different types of motorhomes in New Zealand – Britz and Maui – and both had picnic chairs and tables listed as optional extras. However, both had the chairs and tables already loaded on board despite us not paying for them… I am not sure if this was meant to happen, but either way, we only used them once or twice. Most of our campsites had picnic tables on or nearby, and we also could eat inside the motorhome or in the camp kitchens.
Choose your own adventure
I had booked in a few powered sites before we left for New Zealand as we were travelling during the school holiday period and I was worried about places booking out. However, I discovered there were always places to stay and I was glad that we had left some flexibility in our itinerary. Somedays the kids fell asleep so we could drive longer, or we wanted to stay someplace a bit longer, or shorter, than we had intended. With a home on wheels you are totally flexible, so take advantage of that.
Enjoy the ride
Living in a motorhome was just as exciting for our kids as being on holiday in a different country. With a good sense of humor and a little extra patience, travelling in a motorhome with kids will be a wonderful family experience, wherever you go.