Road tripping with kids can be tricky to navigate, but it’s an iconic Aussie experience that families will treasure. A NSW national parks road trip adventure with plenty of fantastic walks and views, makes impressive holiday memories with the kids, without killing the budget, and all that fresh air means they’ll sleep well too!

While choosing park destinations may come easy, families often struggle with how to survive and thrive on the road together. The secret? Planning ahead and leaving room for spontaneity too.

Find that sweet spot while road tripping, plus NSW national parks that tick the family bucket list with these tips.

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    Recruit the action heroes

    Children crossing the wobbly bridge at Treetops Newcastle. Photo: Michelle Baker
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    Crossing the wobbly bridge

    TreeTops Newcastle

    Michelle Baker

    It’s easier to get kids excited about road tripping if there are tailored adventures to look forward to. Create a bucket list of exciting national park activities and experiences before you depart. From adrenalin-pumping canyoning or caving in the Blue Mountains national park to exploring the natural limestone gorges in Bungonia National Park, mountain biking in Kosciuszko National Park, zip-lining over forest canopies at Tree Tops Newcastle in Blue Gum Hills Regional Park, or waterfall watching on waterfall way – there’s some serious adventuring to be had. 

    Waterfalls are the ultimate photo background for the family album, and NSW parks have plenty of impressive lookouts to pose from. Always check safety signs and stick to barriers while capturing a picture worth framing.

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    Game on and pull out the props

    What’s a road trip without the cheesy games? They help pass the time, and add to the boredom busting. Games also help with turn taking, observation and self-expression, so while the kids are having fun, parents tick off some life-learning skills too. 

    As traditional as some of the classic games like Spotto, Numberplate Bingo and I Spy might be, having cards or question prompts in easy reach will kickstart some impromptu fun and keep the ‘Are we there yet?’ questions to a minimum. 

    Whether you’re stopping for a leg stretch, or killing time waiting for tours and talks, games and activities never go out of fashion.

    There are free printables available online with a simple “Road trip games for Kids” search.

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    Feed. The. Tribe

    Family cooking sausages on portable gas burner, Mungo Brush Campground, Myall Lakes National Park. Photo: John Spencer / DPE

    Kids and food make great travel companions. So why not put them in charge of the catering? You could task them with organising the day’s road trip snacks, doing the coffee run, or firing up the BBQ for lunch; they could even create the shopping list and research recipes for self-catering meals.

    If you’re taking a driving break to cook in the outdoors, keep an eye on bushfire alerts and only cook in dedicated fire pits and BBQ’s. Not all national parks have BBQs, fire pits or provide firewood, so it’s better if you’re self-sufficient and BYO gas burner.

    Seasoned families on the road know that road trips snacks aren’t just fuel for the body, they’re also part of the entertainment. Preparing ‘lap snacks’ before departure is an easy win. Avoiding roadside snack shopping while hungry saves you a small fortune too, and leaves you extra budget to be spent on experiences instead.

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    Eyes off the screen, and on the scene

    via GIPHY

    Endless screen time on the road is one topic that many families struggle with. But music seems to be a happy tech medium for most families in the car. Build a road trip song list together for a car karaoke sing-along; who can resist belting out a tune while the world rushes by out the window?

    via GIPHY

    It’s always a good idea to set healthy tech habits from the get-go, try a ‘screens down’ rule as you reach a scenic destination – that way the kids won’t miss the sights, and you’ll feel like you’ve offered a fair compromise. If they’re grumbling as they switch off, use motivating requests like “I need someone to look out for our campsite,” or, “Can anyone guess what sort of trees we are driving under?” leading into conversations about the landscape.

    Rainforest road trips are excellent options and Instagram-worthy drives will encourage kids with their own devices to capture and share them with friends back home. Get started with these top photo pit-stops.

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    Wildlife wandering

    Planning a trip around wildlife watching and citizen science experiences can certainly get kids excited about your trip. It also builds up an appreciation for the places that our wildlife call home. Many NSW national parks host nature talks and experiences. Or explore in your own time and head out with your binoculars to go birdwatching.

    Wild animals deserve our respect when we visit their wild homes. This helps them survive and thrive. Help keep our wildlife wild with these tips.

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    Mapping the journey

    Australia map with pins. Photo: via Pexels Catarina Sousa
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    Never gets old, pinning stops on a map

    via Pexels Catarina Sousa

    There’s something a little nostalgic about drawing a line along a route and circling destinations on maps. Mapping a journey is to a travelling teen’s advantage too. They become more invested in the planning, while navigating and offering useful driver instructions as well! One terrific road trip planning tool is My Places on Google Maps. Or, go old school, throw them a marker and gather around the map after dinner to document the day. Maps spark curiosity and conversations and are a cool keepsake when you’re back home.  

    Photo: via Pexels by Catarina Sousa