Overlanding with kids and their toys

My son Jesse has two passions which come with us everywhere.  First is the infamous DoggyDogg.  He has had it since birth and if you picture Calvin&Hobbes…that is Jesse and DoggyDogg!  We have had near bloodshed in our house when my husband and Jess went for a walk and came back without DoggyDogg (he was found a day later sleeping with a homeless couple)!  And do you think we can find a second one as backup?  The internet has been searched high and low across continents.  Come hell or high water, he will not be left behind either.  This is because he needs to come along on adventures, according to my son, much to the chagrin and trepidation from my husband and I.IMG_8288

Secondly are his dinosaurs.  We have lost many a dinosaur which has been left hunting in a sand dune or digging in a desert.  Last weekend we had to kayak back to shore from our sail boat as Jess had suddenly realized that he had left his prize dinosaur along with 5 others on shore, even though we had told him repeatedly to pack up (or rather not take them at all).

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A dinosaur crosses the Gamkab Canyon in Namibia

I am a big one for taking responsibility for your actions and learning from the consequences, but when your child is literally ugly crying from the loss and you are able to maybe send out a rescue and retrieval then I am sure I am not alone in attempting a harmonious reconciliation.  Obviously only if it is within my capabilities, hoping that he (or rather us) will learn from this and not do it again….till the next time.

So it is all very good and well to go search for the toys down the road from our house or at a friends place, but when you are moving everyday on your holiday covering vast distances the options of going back aren’t really possible.  So we have tried to make our lives easier by doing the following:

Tammy’s Top Tips for Toys:

  • Each child has a small bag that all their toys for the holiday have to fit into.  They have to be able to carry this easily.  Those fancy caricature wheelie bags are all very good and well in airports and hotels but not in sand and bush.  They also aren’t easy to open and close in the car and store at their feet.  Our kids have a small shoulder bag each which is light and soft and zips closed.
  • When playing, the bag goes along to the spot so that everything can be quickly put back into it when done.  No carrying individual toys from A to B!
  • Only take a few items of one sort  Ie: we limit Jesse’s dinosaurs to around 5 as he can count them and keep track.
  • Try to not have toys which have 5million gazillion pieces…..they will get lost.  They also take forever to pack up when tipped out of the bag.
  • Beloved sleep toys remain in the trailer/tent/boat and don’t get moved from car to sleep place and back daily as it will invariably get left somewhere en route
  • Also, nothing that can get sand in it!  This is because the kids will take them out in the car after playing, and it is really hard to valet your car in the middle of nowhere!
  • NO LEGO!!!!!!

Kids do not need to take a lot.  I find it amazing how many times we have taken things along but only a few ever really got played with.  They will make do with what they have where they are and imagination is a wonderful thing when left to bloom.

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you Everywhere

—Albert Einstein

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Overlanding as a Family

We are by no means the hardcore full time overlanding family.  We live and work in Cape Town and have our own business.  So our holidays have been windows into this amazing continent we live in.   We decided when the kids were little that overseas holidays were just too costly from South Africa and to rather explore what is literally on our back doorstep.  In order to do so, vast distances have to be covered.  We took some French students to Namibia with us two years ago and they could not get over the huge distances we needed to drive.

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I used to hate car trips!  The quicker we got somewhere the better and heaven forbid we had to stop.  My husband and I used to see how quickly we could do these stops but that had to change when we had kids.  Doesn’t matter how you prepare, a trip always takes a million times longer with children.  The one needs to wee, you stop to do so and then just as you get going typically the next one suddenly needs to wee.  Doesn’t matter that you specifically asked them and they categorically said they didn’t need to!  So when we invested into our overland trailer with these long trips in mind as a family, I had to change my mindset.  The journey had to become part of the holiday.  Stopping for tea alongside the road or a wee break with a 20minute play all became a part of the holiday.   So when heading off on those road journeys with children, give yourself extra time on the trip.  Reduce the distance and if necessary make it in stages instead of pushing it.  Suddenly it won’t be so stressful anymore as you are not chasing such a tight deadline.  When you are relaxed, your kids are relaxed which makes for a much more pleasant time.

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On these trips we go with our Toyota Fortuner D4D 4×4 and our Mission Trailer.  The trailer makes travelling with kids so easy, as we can pull over anywhere for lunch and not have to unpack half the car to access the kettle.  There have been many late campsite arrivals where I have been able to immediately start cooking and am done by the time everyone else has just finished setting up as our kitchen is immediately available off the side of the trailer.  Also, when we are in spot, we can setup and then go off with the car to game watch and not have to pack everything up.  The draw back with the trailer in very remote places on bad roads is that unless you are a champion reverser (like my husband), you can get into some very tight and hairy situations.  It is also heavy and hard work on those very sandy roads, like in Botswana, and travelling with a second vehicle and a snatch strap is a necessity.

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My husband, Simon, has threatened often to sell it but I refuse.  As a mum, it makes my life so easy.  Also, we are invited along on many trips because of our useful kitchen accessibility and the extra storage which means we can carry that extra drink to watch the African sun go down.  Cheers!

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