How to have stress-free day trips with kids

Posted 08/01/2017 in Toddler Fun
The idea of making an all-day trip to explore the great outdoors with kids may seem daunting and stressful, but it certainly doesn't have to be. With some careful planning and organization, you can make day trips with your children relaxing and stress-free.

The other day, six of us (myself, my fiance, his two older kids (ages 11 and 5) and our two younger kids (ages 4 and 2)) went for an all-day trip to Milanesia Beach in the Great Otway National Park, three hours away.

We had chosen this beach because it is very isolated and we wanted to avoid the holiday rush. It required a 1.7 km walk through some beautiful rainforest and then down a steep track to the shore. We were going to be leaving as soon as the kids woke up, we wouldn't get home until after dinner, and we didn't want to spend any money on takeaway food or drinks.

Yep, this was going to take some planning!

We had some amazing views walking down to the shore of Milanesia Beach!


The most important thing I did to make sure the whole morning went smoothly was to made sure I had absolutely everything ready the night before so that I could just wake the kids up, have them get dressed, go to the loo, and put them straight in the car to leave at 7am. I woke up about an hour before the kids, got myself ready, filled the eskis with ice, food and drinks (which were already prepared the night before and and waiting in the fridge/freezer), then woke my fiance and the kids to go. Their clothes and shoes were all laid out the night before, so getting ready was a breeze. I even had time for a quiet cuppa before everyone woke up.


I prepared a simple breakfast the night before of raisin bread/butter (yum, non-toasted raisin bread smells just like hot cross buns) and bananas and had them waiting in the car in a bag which contained all the non-perishable car snacks for the drive. I made sure that ALL the snacks could be stored at room temperature to avoid stopping and fishing snacks out of the eski, and so that they could be packed in the car overnight. These snacks included things like apples, rice cakes, crackers, vegie chips, muesli bars, etc.

Having breakfast waiting in the car for everyone made the morning so much easier, and this separate bag of snacks just for the car trip was great.

We also had two separate coolers/eskis. one was a small one containing cold drinks that we kept in the car beneath Mr. 2's feet for easy access, and the other was a bigger one containing all our lunch/dinner in the very back of the car.


We would be arriving at the beach at about 10am and leaving there at about 4pm, which meant lunch time was at the beach. However, I didn't want to have to carry lunch on the 1.7km walk down to the shore (or carry the cooler back up again) so I decided we would have two lunches! One in the car just before we arrived, and another one when we got back up from the beach.

I made 12 ham and salad rolls to cover us all for both lunches. It worked out great, and no one got hungry in between as we brought plenty of snacks with us in the "beach backpack".


The beach backpack was packed and in the car the night before. It was just a twenty dollar cheapy from Kmart and it contained absolutely everything we were going to need down at the beach. I packed this separate backpack so that when we arrived at the trail leading down to Milanesia Beach we just had to apply sunscreen, put on hats, grab this backpack and head down.

The beach backpack contained:
  • Water (3 liters)
  • Snacks (applesauce, doritos, muesli bars, biscuits
  • Bandaids
  • Sunscreen (I packed two sunscreens, one to bring to the beach and one that was just sitting in the car so we could apply sunscreen before we walked down to the beach without unpacking anything from the beach backpack)
  • Small digging scoops for the kids to play with
  • Spare socks in case any got wet (walking all that way back up from the beach with wet socks wouldn't be much fun)
  • Plastic bags for rubbish
  • Ziplock bags to fill with interesting rocks and sea shells
  • Nappies and wipes (for little mister 2)
The kids also had their own separate water bottles to carry down to the beach.


We arrived at the trail head at about 10.20am, and we all got out and put on sunscreen and hats (this seemed to take a hundred years, haha!). We grabbed the beach backpack, put our littlest boy in his (extremely) lightweight pram, grabbed our phones/wallets, locked up the car and headed down.

The first part of the walk was through beautiful, dense forest. The track wound its way down the side of the mountain beside some gorgeous and scenic drops, before finally opening up to some amazing views of the coast.

The walk down was easy, but got extremely steep at the last part. We left the stroller at the top of the last slope and carried little man down the rest of the way. 

The beach was just perfect! There was only one other person there when we arrived, and they left soon afterwards. We had the whole place to ourselves! There were rock pools to explore, breathtaking views of the cliffs surrounding the beach, amazing rock formations, and tiny fish darting around in Milanesia Creek - which was more like a tiny stream to paddle in as it gently wound its way around down to the sea.

Milanesia Creek trickling its way down to the sea. This was a perfect shallow spot for the kids to paddle, which was fantastic because the sea itself was very rough and rocky.


Not gonna lie, the walk back up was awful, haha! The kids had no trouble at all, but pushing a stroller and carrying the beach backpack back up those steep parts leading up from the coast was pretty hard for my fiance and I. Our little guy slept in the stroller the whole way, lucky lad! Once we got past these steep parts and back to more level ground, it was a nice walk again. I still say the walk back up is definitely worth it to see this incredible hidden beach.

Just gorgeous! I couldn't believe such a scenic beach was empty in the middle of the school holidays.


When we got back to the car we all grabbed a cold drink and brushed off the sand with a couple of towels that I'd packed in another bag, which also contained spare clothes in case we needed them (we didn't, it was almost 40 degrees Celsius and we were definitely dry by the time we got back to the car). We had "second lunch" here at the trail head, then we all got in the car and started driving home at about 4.00 pm.


Unsurprisingly, the kids fell asleep almost instantly in the car. They woke up again at about 5.30 so we stopped to get dinner out of the cooler in the back of the car.

Dinner was simple - Coles sell these tasty huge pizza-like rolls, and I turned them into these massive sandwich thingies. I cut them in half and filled them with ham, salami, cheese, cucumber, spinach, mushroom and gravy. Delicious and simple!


Once we got home, the kids all had baths/showers then went to bed. We waited until they were all in bed then went out and unpacked/vacuumed most of the car out.


There are definitely some crucial things that you can do to make your day trips SO much easier.
  • Pack and prepare everything you can the night before you leave.
  • Pack everything in separate bags for different parts of your trip, so you don't have to worry about gathering everything up when you get where you are going.
  • Pack non-perishable snacks for your car trip so that you don't need to store them in a cooler AND so you can pack them into the car the night before.
  • Have everything ready to pack in your cooler, buy ice the day before and store it in your freezer so you don't have to make a special stop.
  • Lay out your clothes and your children's clothes and shoes so that getting everyone ready in the morning is a breeze.
  • Have breakfast ready and waiting for when everyone gets into the car.
  • Pack drinks in a separate smaller cooler to your lunch, so that you can fit it in the main part of the car and get them out as you need them without making any stops.
  • Have your children carry their own drink bottles on walks. It lightens the load immensely for the person carrying the bag, and shows them that they are responsible for their own things (even when the going gets tough).
  • If your car trip is a long one, bring small toys/books to entertain the kids on the way.
  • Fill the car with fuel the day before so you don't need to stop in the morning.

I hope these tips have been helpful and will give you some ideas for planning your own day trip with kids! We had a fun, stress-free day, and it was largely because everything was already organized and ready to go every step of the way.

If you find yourself in Victoria, Australia then consider going down to the Great Otway National Park and checking out Milanesia Beach. It's definitely worth a look!

Do you have any other great organization/planning tips for going on day trips with children? We'd love to hear them! Let us know in the comments below.




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