Jacqui Felgate: ‘Maybe the journey is half the fun’

With many of us planning road trips this summer, Jacqui Felgate recalls the ups and downs of road trips past – and has an important piece of safety advice.

As a child of the ’80s, the Christmas road trip was a rite of passage.

Bundled up in the old Mitsubishi Magna, the boot full of luggage, push bikes on the back and the dog on the parcel shelf, panting down our sweaty necks in 35C heat, it certainly wasn’t the most glamorous form of transport.

Without fail, every December our family would make its annual pilgrimage down the coast along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

My husband tells a similar story of his yearly holiday to Queensland, where he spent more time in the car driving to the Sunshine State than he spent at the destination.

Why do we take road trips?

I often wonder what possessed our parents to spend so much time on the road.

We would often just ‘go for a drive’ on the weekend to pass the time.

Maybe we would go to the Dandenongs on Melbourne’s fringe, or to Phillip Island to visit family.

One weekend we just drove to Bathurst, in NSW.

I can’t actually remember why we went to Bathurst, but I do remember the excitement of driving around the raceway there as a young kid.

What’s happened to the family road trip?

Fast forward close to four decades and I can’t think of a time where I’ve taken my kids ‘for a drive’.

We are always going somewhere. For something.

Weekends are filled with work, school sports and kids’ birthday parties.

In a way, perhaps this generation is missing out.

I also wonder what possessed our parents to put two squirming, fighting kids in the car without today’s comforts of good airconditioning, a Nintendo Switch or an iPad.

I recall the tension boiling over on those hot December days where we would all need to get out of the car and ‘go for a walk’.

But there is a nostalgic feeling thinking back to those times.

When days were just simpler and we weren’t in so much of a rush to get where we were going.

Perhaps, in many ways, it’s not the destination – maybe, just maybe, the journey is half the fun.

Every parent’s car-trip quandary

But how do we make travel fun for kids?

This generation has such short attention spans, and I know as a parent I give in to pester power when the calls of ‘I’m bored’ come from the back seat.

My mother would play ‘I spy’ and a whole bunch of interesting word games she just seemed to have in her head.

But I hand over the devices so we can all just get on our way in peace.

A reminder to take care on the road

The holiday season is a time when so many of us are out on the road – rushing to get to where we are going, distracted by the stresses of Christmas and tired from a busy year.

Add in unfamiliar roads, the kids, the dogs and a car full of luggage and the danger is increased.

Government figures show there were 104 road deaths in Australia in December 2022, including 30 in New South Wales, 26 in Queensland and 24 in Western Australia.

These statistics may appear as numbers on a page but they are sobering reading. Every single one of those numbers was a person.

A person with a family, friends and colleagues who loved and cared for them.

And miss them.

As always, the advice from road safety experts is to plan ahead and not to rush. Take regular breaks and take advantage of driver reviver stops across the country.

The holiday season is a time for coming together with family and friends.

There is no more precious cargo than your family.

For those who are alone this Christmas, my thoughts are with you.

I wish all our readers a safe and happy holiday season.

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