Having a baby ends your touring and overlanding right? Or at the very least curtails it for a few years, you and your partner are stuffed, locked in to some serious home time. Or does it? Daniel and Chloe from Overland NZ have returned from a South Island roadie with their two month old! Crazy? ambitious? Reckless parenting? The couple explain…
Being stuck at home makes you do strange things. After almost three months of sitting around home and being stuck in Wellington, especially in summer, we were both going slightly crazy – and knew we needed to do something. We were determined not to let having a kid stop us from getting out there and doing what we love. One night in the shower (that’s where the best thoughts come from, right?) I realised there wasn’t actually anything stopping us from hitting the road for an adventure and that, worst comes to worst, you can always turn around and head home. And where’s the fun of not jumping into the deep end?
I’m sure most sane people would’ve done a short, close to home trip first, just in case. Within an hour of deciding we were going, we had a ferry booked and were leaving home in under a week! We knew we wouldn’t be able to do 8-10 hour days on the road like normal. We had to break the trip up into smaller chunks to make sure Theo (and the dog, to be fair) had breaks and weren’t in the car for too long each day.
We jumped on an early morning ferry out of Wellington before hitting the road to Christchurch for a night with family, visiting all the picnic spots and pull over areas along the way.
We then pushed down to Twizel for four nights. What an amazing place! We haven’t spent a lot of time there before and I was blown away by the area – we were spoilt by amazing weather every day.
Having a few nights there meant we could explore a bit too which was awesome. We managed to sneak in an afternoon of filming and off-roading which was pretty amazing! Getting up to the Mt Cook/Aoraki National Park in the sun was something special – we’ve visited before in the rain, but this time was something else. Mid afternoon up in the valley was pretty special.
After four nights in Twizel we wound our way south to Queenstown for another four nights. I forgot how busy Queenstown is over any holiday weekend, and Easter wasn’t an ideal time to be there, but never mind! This part of the trip was much more of a holiday. Apparently most people don’t take 1000s of photos and hours of video on every trip they go away on. It was cool to hang with the family! Though, once again, Chloe gave me the chance to sneak away for a solo day trip through my favourite place in New Zealand – Nevis Valley. I desperately wanted to bring everyone but we decided to wait till Theo has a tad more neck strength before heading properly off-road.
Theo was a trooper – mostly. He was happy chilling in the back of the truck with his teddy humming along to music and snoozing for the most part. We figured out we could do around 2 hours tops at a time which worked out pretty well for the most part.
There were very few “oh man” moments. We went into it pretty open minded and realising that whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. Why stress about what you can’t control?
In saying that, it did take us two hours to get from one end of Ashburton to the other as someone decided screaming was better than sleeping. We learned very quickly that traveling in the late afternoon didn’t work for him and generally tried to avoid it, normally unsuccessfully.
And sometimes the constant stopping to change nappies and feed him got a tad tiring when you just want to get somewhere. But that’s all part of having a newborn!
So for anyone that doesn’t know our ute, we pulled the rear seats out not too long after we bought it. We built a false floor with a few different levels to give us a heap more storage and a spot for the fridge. This setup worked perfectly for almost three years and, I’ve gotta admit, it sucked to lose it.
With the arrival of Theo I put the rear seats back in, installed his carseat and sat there staring at the ute wondering how it was going to work long term. Obviously not having a canopy limits your dry cargo space pretty severely – the tub is purely for outside things that can get dirty/wet. We tend to carry a lot of gear when on the road, especially when filming is involved. A lot of that gear needs to be inside the vehicle, leaving very little space for clothing, snacks, baby stuff, or as Chloe put it, “the things we actually need.” We ended up using a roof bag for this trip to carry things like clothes, pillows and all the things babies come with. It worked pretty well as we could remove it at each destination.
Having the tailgate proved super useful for nappy changes when the weather allowed. Didn’t have to worry so much about getting poop in the cabin of the truck. Being able to store the used nappies outside in the tub was kind of nice. It’s never nice getting back to a warm car and discovering one is in there.
Being our first time away with him and the fact the weather was cooling down we decided not to camp on this trip, as gutting as that was! We ended up staying in Air b’n’bs, which worked out for the best as we had some very cold nights and a newborn in a tent wouldn’t be ideal. It’s definitely not quite the same when you can’t enjoy some of the epic campsites around the area, but we have that to look forward to next summer! At this stage the goal is to get him up in the Roof tent with us which I’m super excited for.
Dan and Chloe’s Takeaways
• Don’t plan your days too much – newborns don’t operate on a schedule (or at least, ours doesn’t). Keeping an open mind and just going with the flow makes life way easier. The second you try plan too much or push too hard, everything gets harder and takes far longer. We tried to plan a morning activity and then see how our afternoons were going. Sometimes we got to keep exploring, other times we had to make a move home.
• Having the right baby gear can help save space – Chloe found an awesome pram that can be a seat or a proper “safe sleep” bed and all packs into a travel bag which we kept in the tub. Having a pram that can be more than one thing saved us needing to carry a specific bed for him.
• Have a chill day after a long day in the car. We planned around four hours of “normal” driving a day which typically ballooned out to six or seven hours depending on the number of poop stops. We tried our best to have a break day after longer days to let him reset slightly. Worked really well on the way down. On the way up we had less time, two and a half days from Queenstown to Picton. By the time we got to Picton he was done. The trip from the ferry home was very loud.
• You’ll do more walking, and it’s awesome! I’m the first to admit that we’re not super into walking. Being more limited in the roughness of places we could go, we got out of the truck way more often and did some of the shorter walks. Such a different way to see stuff which I really enjoyed.
• Utes suck as family cars, especially when set up like ours. The complete lack of interior space makes things tricky. The small rear doors make it harder to lift a kid into their seat. Along with all my other complaints about what is really a work truck. Just this week though we made the call on what we’re doing to make sure we’re ready to roll as a family next summer!
• More importantly, we learned that traveling with a newborn isn’t actually all that hard. There are things you need to do differently than traveling as a couple but it’s still great fun! And being able to get away with a two month old and create some memories (well, for us) with him was awesome! The hardest bit of the whole journey was realising that we could just go and do it.