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This post is sponsored by Nuffnang for Mercedes-Benz Valente.

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A mere two or three years ago, I couldn’t fathom embracing family vacation ideas centred on road trips. Now, with four kids five and under, I dare say, with a smile, bring it on…

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Don’t get me wrong, planes no doubt get you there faster; but then there’s all that luggage (along with kids!) to lug around. And once we’re at our destination, we have to figure out a way to get around anyway. I haven’t yet had the courage (and calm frame of mind) to investigate vehicle hiring options for a family with two kids who are still in child seats needing anchor points, and two others in booster seats.

So, while we save our pennies for that big plane trip, (arg… to pay for six seats on a plane?!), we have embraced road trips for our family vacations.

Recently, we drove into Mercedes Sydney Alexandria, and Mr 5 says, “Which car shall we choose?” Ha! Oh life is good at five, I tell you!

Well, thanks to Mercedes Sydney Alexandria, we had the pleasure of test driving a Mercedes-Benz Valente . It took Mr Ian Watts a good half an hour to go through all the features of the Valente. He was mighty patient and thorough and I am most thankful for it – there’s simply so much packed into the Valente.

The Valente is built for families, and hand to heart, my boys still ask why I had to give the Valente back. This Mama secretly asks that too boys.. (all that swish Mercedes styling; sat-nav, sunroof, alloy wheels, rear tinted windows and day-time running lights).

It also has a 5 star ANCAP safety rating, a must, in my mind, for any vehicle that I put my family in.

Now truth be told, the Valente is big. It has eight full size seats and a generous 730 litre luggage space.

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When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe that I was going to drive it. I am five foot nothing. The fact that I can drive this beast, (umm… and reach the pedals?!), is testament to how well they built it. 

I really like how high up the driving position is. I have excellent visibility of my outward surroundings at all times when driving. The front and rear parking sensors, and the optional sat nav and reverse camera made parking much easier. 

The turning circle on this vehicle has to be seen to be believed. It has a turning circle of just 11.8 metres. We were driving on a narrow stretch of road in Surry Hills when we had to do a 3 point turn. The Valente did it effortlessly – in only 3 points – much to my relief because there were other cars around.

There’s loads and loads of extra room. Enough room for four kids (plus two more extra guests in the rear passenger area), all the groceries I could possibly need in one week, (even if I stocked up on boxes of nappies because they were on sale), and still enough room for school bags, soccer gear, swimming tote bag, etc. This Valente is like Mary Poppin’s magical bag that fits everything, and can still be so easily be carried, like any ordinary bag.

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We took this Valente  out for a day trip to the Jenolan Caves.  Even with our whole family in the car, and an extra adult, the Valente remained strong and easily climbed it’s way through the Blue Mountains. It also easily gave extra oomph when overtaking on the motor ways.  

I was also super impressed (and still super impressed) by its’ fuel economy. It has an average fuel consumption figure between 7-10L/100km. We drove it around for a week and away on a six hour return trip on the weekend. When I topped up the (diesel) tank before returning the vehicle, the petrol bill came to under $80. This is much, much less than what we regularly pay for petrol for our 7 seater four-wheel drive.

We have had our share of road trips for our family vacations. Our longest being a road trip from Sydney to the Goldcoast, (860kms or about 11 hours). So, I wanted to share a few tricks we have learnt along the way, when travelling on the road with young children.

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{ONE} Start early or leave late.  Less traffic aside, if you start early (e,g, 3am) or leave late (e.g. 9pm), chances are the kids are still very sleepy and will sleep through a good chunk of your travelling time on the road. Just make sure the driver is well rested for the drive. 

{TWO} Organise your music playlists / podcasts / audio books.  Make sure there’s enough entertaining stuff to listen to, for everyone in the car. Don’t just have kids stuff ready to go – make sure there’s something in there for the adults too. Mix up songs with some funny podcasts and engaging audio books. I still remember listening to the Harry Potter audio books (once our then twin toddlers nodded off), when we drove to the snow.

{THREE} Nappy pants for any toilet training or freshly graduated toilet trained child. Even if your child only wears nappy pants when he or she sleeps, pop one on for the road trip. There’s nothing more stressful than being on a highway and a child breaking the news that he or she needs to go to the toilet… or worse – has already been. 

{FOUR} Stop and play at playgrounds along the way. Kids need to play, and adults need to stretch. Regular stops to stretch and play makes everyone happy.

{FIVE} Snacks. Stuff to crunch and sip on. Be mindful of the type of drinks to give to kids. So far, we’ve stuck with water in their usual water bottles for drinks. We’ve avoided sticky lolly pops and crumbly snacks. Grapes are wonderful, so are apples… (and some snakes).

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{SIX}  Be prepared for emergency clean ups. We’re lucky to not have kids who suffer from travel sickness. However, we have been away on trips where they have caught a bug and “messiness” happened while we were driving. Plastic bags and wet wipes. Always have them, because you never, ever, know.

{SEVEN} Toys & games. Make sure you have a bag, even a small one, of stuff kids can fidget and play with. E.g. crayons and paper pads, small action heroes, sunnies they can put on, stickers, stamps, etc.

{EIGHT} Be realistic about the time it will take to get there. No matter how long I think it will take to get out the door, it always takes longer with kids. Now for road trips, augment that delay a few times over, because road trips are a much more complicated logistic manoeuvre than getting out the door.

{NINE} iPads / DVDs / movies of any kind. I consider this the “when all else has been exhausted” and they are still awake and on the brink of an uprising, option. I won’t deny it, because I wouldn’t leave for a road trip without it.

{TEN} Remember, what holidays with young kids are really about. Expectations set the tone and can make or break holidays. I found it so helpful to be reminded that holidays with young kids, isn’t about the holiday, (because let’s face it, it’s beyond exhausting), it’s about making memories.

Family Vacation Ideas Road Trips via Lessons Learnt Journal

Our boys have been fascinated with rocks and bones and fossils for awhile now. This road trip to the Jenolan Caves has just fed their curiosity and wonder about the world around them.

This particular road trip was extra special, because thanks to the eight full sized adult seats, we could comfortably bring Grandpa along on the road trip. Here’s my favourite photo from our family trip to the Jenolan Caves.

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It was a candid shot, but captures such a precious memory. That’s Mr 3′s hand in Grandpa’s hand, (while one of the twin 5′s tried to “have a look” too). How lovely that Grandpa could be there with his grandsons when they were lucky enough to score a limestone crystal from our tour guide during our tour of the Imperial caves.

K: 2 years, 3 months
E: 3 years 8 months
N&M: 5 years 9 months
February 2014
Activities for Children Life With Kids Lessons Learnt Journal

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About the author

Pauline Pauline & Lessons Learnt Journal is all about life with kids. Pauline is an Aussie mum and teacher who shares her love for play, math games, writing and reading activities. She believes that #playmatters, values curiosity & wonder, wisdom, obedience and respect. She also needs naps. When not blogging, she may be found virtually hoarding on Pinterest, trying to decide which Instagram filter to apply, or compulsively refreshing her Facebook feed.