Travelling With Four Kids … under 10?

We weren’t planning on heading out when we did. We were going to wait. We were going to wait for the youngest to be about 4 or 5 years old. Then all of the kids would have some memories of it. No one would crawl around the campground. Everyone would be sleeping through the night. Everyone would be toilet trained. It would be easy.

The campervan was being built for that elusive day when we could finally head out. Then the financial slowdown happened in 2009 and Jarrad’s work slowed. He tends to be very loyal to an employer, and no matter what I don’t know if I could convince him to resign and and follow my crazy ideas. We figured it was now or never. The baby still wasn’t one yet, and the older kids were only 4, 6, and 8 when we were talking about this. That was not how it was meant to be. The younger two were still waking up each night.


Food is expensive. It’s our biggest expense. My kids have big appentites. OK, huge. Especially Peter. A one year old doesn’t eat much. A nearly 10 year old wants to have an adult meal when we go out.

On the other hand, Peter and Susan love to cook. I hate cooking, Jarrad enjoys it. Peter and Susan help with cooking dinner, preparing snacks and meals. Peter, Susan, and Lucy all take turns cooking the porridge for breakfast. Edmund contributes to most of the food mess.


Contrary to popular belief, a toddler takes up far more room than anyone else. As I write, Peter and Susan are lying on their beds reading. Lucy and Edmund have duplo (one of their only toys) spread from one end of the main room to the other – the entire two square meters of floor space has duplo on it. Even worse – they both wanted the same block so now they are both lying, spread eagled on the floor in silent tantrum over the block. So the 8 and 9 year old take up very little space. The 2 and 5 year olds will spread out to fill up the room they can.

In the car it is a similar story. Peter and Susan no longer use car seats. This means they take up just enough room to fit their narrow, little bodies. Lucy and Edmund are both in car seats. These are bulky. These need to be inspected regularly for food scraps. Peter and Susan only need a kindle and an ipod to entertain them. Susan does appreciate her sewing, but the 2 and 5 year old need ample quantities of colouring books and pencils. 8 and 9 year old with bigger bodies – very little space. 2 and 5 year old year old – lots of space.


It’s hard to say who is the biggest culprit here. Peter and Susan make the most mess on their own beds. Their mess is limited to their beds. They also clean up when they are told to. At 8 and 9, they aer expected to clean up after themselves, and they do. Edmund and Lucy are like a tornado going through leaving a stream of mess behind them. They are next to useless at cleaning up, although we use a lot of energy insisting that they do. No reason not to travel though, unless I can drop them off with an unsuspecting relative, this is going to be the same living in a house or or the road.

Learning and Knowledge

Edmund has learnt that bitumen roads are scary because cars go really fast on them. If it’s a gravel road, he’ll quite happily sit in the middle. This kid is a typical toddler, and if you were travelling to expect learning from a 2 year old; well, let’s say it’s not going to happen for us.

Lucy has learnt a lot from being on the road, but five just isn’t an ideal age. She doesn’t remember as much. At five she understands what we are seeing and doing, but not a lot of depth to it. She is building an awareness of Australia as a whole, and places that she likes. She has developed an appreciation of things outside of the city that my older kids just didn’t have at the same age. She has experienced long hikes around amazing places, she has fossicked for precious stones, woken up with kangaroos surrounding the campervan, floated down gorges, and played on isolated beaches. But can she describe the process of erosion that resulted in the Twelve Apostles? Nope, not a chance. Can she remember the symbology built into Parliament House? No way.

Peter and Susan can be treated as a pair again for this one. Susan and Peter read every sign, insist on stopping at every little museum, and generally soak up knowledge. They retain it, they start discussing and debating things that we’ve seen with little memory.

One of Peter’s funniest quotes was one morning at Cobungra (20km from Mt Hotham ski slopes) and found that it was snowing. He looked out the window excitedly and said, “I bet if there is precipitation at Hotham today, it is snow!” Yes, they are definately learning and retaining the information.

On top of this, the hardest part of teaching is teaching them how to love learning and how to read and write well. Peter and Susan have a strong desire and thirst to learn. They value knowledge and education. They read and write well. The school part of travelling is easy with them. Lucy is learning how to read and write. That is hard work. Edmund is learning how to talk. That is hard work.


Peter has the memory of an elephant. He can remember the tiniest little details of our trip. Susan can remember a lot of it, but a few weeks ago responded to something Peter said with, “We’ve been to so many places. I can’t possibly be expected to remember everywhere we’ve been.” So, here the older the child is the better.

Lucy, well, she can remember places and things we’ve done. She can’t give most places names though, and rather she will describe a place or an activity. She can’t remember the house we used to live in, to her this is life and as such is normal.

Edmund can remember as much as your average two year old. He has lived in the campervan more than half of his life. As to Lucy, this is a perfectly normal life to him.


It is easier having children who are toilet trained. The ability to go to the toilet, or hold on for more than 5 minutes after announcing that “I’m busting’ is a big plus when cruising down the highway at 80, or maybe 70km/hour.

Having kids who shower and bathe themselves is a plus. However, we have to drag the older children there kicking and screaming. This is useful those weeks that we have ‘gone bush’ and have to make 300L of water (plus our 95L drinking water) last. 300L would not last long if they wanted to shower daily. However, when we are plugged in to water it would be lovely getting them in there without a fire.

Having a toddler or a preschooler (OK, I’m in denial 4 or 5 year old) is easier in the bathing stakes. We run the water for a bath (a washing tub that I put an inch of water in the bottom of) and they sit in there and splash around happily outside for ages. There’s no fighting, no arguing, and as it’s outside it doesn’t matter when they splash.

This one depends on what you prefer.


This one has got to rely more on personality I think than age. Peter thinks it is very special and a great adventure. Susan, Lucy and Edmund think this is just ordinary day-to-day life. Susan is aware that she is getting to do something special, but just thinks it is not much of an adventure. She wouldn’t classify it as an adventure unless they really did find Narnia through the wardrobe.

If I had to choose one child that it is hardest to travel with it would be … um … I’m not sure. I think this changes minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

If I had to choose one child that it is easiest to travel with it would be … um … I’m not sure. I think this changes minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day. I would probably choose someone over 7. But then again, I love the joy that the younger set bring, and their joy de vivre. What a great reminder they give to gush over mud or stones, the simple things in life.

But that would mean we wouldn’t travel now. And we probably never would travel if we waited for the ‘right time’.

We are not the only ones travelling with children. These other families are, too. Read their experiences of travelling with children of various ages.

Travelling Australia in a campervan since 2009 with our four children aged 4, 7, 10, and 11. We are a family living on the road. Stopping to work in rural and remote towns as we need more money, we love this lifestyle. The four kids are homeschooled as we work our way slowly around Australia.

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About Amy and Jarrad

Travelling Australia in a campervan since 2009 with our four children aged 4, 7, 10, and 11. We are a family living on the road.
Stopping to work in rural and remote towns as we need more money, we love this lifestyle. The four kids are homeschooled as we work our way slowly around Australia.


  1. so fascinating. I have to be honest, I don’t think I could do it in a campervan, with 4 kids. amazing!
    Wandering Educators recently posted..The Many Benefits of Leisure TravelMy Profile

  2. Ahh you really do have the full spectrum of ages there don’t you (well perhaps apart from the sullen teen… which I am sure will come with time). I really enjoyed reading about the differences between your children, their attitudes and experiences. I think you’ve made a really great distinction between a 5 year old and 8 year old in terms of their understanding of the depth of things.
    Tracy recently posted..Cooking Butter Chicken with Pearly KeeMy Profile

  3. Very interesting how the costs differ. For us food is quite a small part of the budget, while in Australia it would be a main chunk of it.
    It was also interesting to read your view of the different ages. Very similar findings to my own.

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