Old School Road Trips

Who remembers summer holidays in the 70s in the days before affordable airfares? They began with sleepy kids in pyjamas being bundled into family wagons in the pre-dawn hours, for an inevitable road trip. And there were rules of the road in our family, that I’m guessing weren’t unique.

All about the destination

If you believe the tourist brochures, a successful road trip equals the sum of its various parts, and by parts, I mean both planned and impromptu stopovers. That wasn’t the case in our family. It was all about making good time and getting to our destination. So the Big Pineapple, the Big Prawn and the Big Banana were all oversized blurs on the horizon, as was any half-interesting tourist attraction.

We weren’t allowed to stop, but woe betide the child who was lulled off to sleep by the hum of the road. “Sit up and look out the window, or you’ll miss something,” said my Dad, who wanted me to appreciate the land of my birth.  It made no difference that I might have seen the same view of outback nothingness for the previous three hours!

Packed lunch

McDonald’s and Hungry Jacks existed in Australia in the early seventies, although they were much fewer and farther between … oh and drive-thru wasn’t a thing yet.

Even if we’d had the time to wait in line, why would we waste 50 cents on a burger and 35 cents on a shake when we had an endless supply of corned beef and pickle sandwiches and “there’s nothing wrong with water”. Coffee addition was yet to be a way of life for grownups, so a thermos of tea would keep them going all day. Of course, you’d be monitoring your liquid intake to avoid comfort stops.

Who’s got the ice-cream container?

While Dad (and it was always Dad) was driving, Mum’s job was chief of catering. She was also the entertainment director who changed sides on the Neil Sedaka All-Time Greatest Hits cassette … and she played referee, when either boredom or a sibling straying over an invisible line, lead to fights breaking out in the back seat. But perhaps her most important role was the keeper of the ice cream container, and heaven help her if motion sickness gripped more than one child at a time.


Yes, kids, there was an era before tablets, mobile phones, and even portable DVD players, when we had to rely on our wits to pass the time. Someone always wanted to play “I Spy” and when that became really annoying (or if they were alphabetically challenged) you could pull out the big guns and insist on a two-word answer. Spoiler alert that in the outback “something beginning with T” was usually tree … because there weren’t too many other landmarks to spy. Sports mad kids (or those with a decent grasp of mathematics) would play a few innings of number plate cricket. It, though, could be problematic if too many vehicles passed by too quickly, or if there were no other cars in sight.

Are we there yet?

If it was a coastal holiday, then the first person to spot the ocean was always the ‘winner’. If we were heading bush then there was no such prize. At last, we’d arrive, and holidays could officially begin. For the next six weeks, we’d itch our mozzie bites, peel away our sunburnt skin, and toughen the soles of our bare feet on hot earth or searing bitumen… and we’d love every minute of it.

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