The Gardiner family started 2009 off with a week’s holiday in Yamba, NSW. Narelle has family up there and it also happens to be a very picturesque and relaxing spot too.

While you could fly to Coolangatta or Coffs Harbour and then use a bus or rent a car, we opted to drive from Adelaide so we’d have the convenience of our own car to get around once we were there.

We took this route going up, staying overnight at Hay and Gunnedah.

View Larger Map

Coming back, we followed a similar route, however we came back via Glen Innes (slightly longer, but less windy). We also stopped over at Coolah and Moulamein. Both of these towns are slightly off the main highway, but the cost of a cabin was a lot cheaper.

View Larger Map

So how does a family with 3 kids (including a 7 month old baby) who only have a medium-sized sedan survive driving these kinds of distances? Things have improved a bit since me and my sister and Mum & Dad used to head off on family holidays many years ago. A critical innovation has revolutionised long-distance car travel – the portal DVD player!

Narelle wisely suggested we purchase one for our previous interstate trip, and it really did make the difference to the younger members of the family, who aren’t quite up to the stage of curling up with good book to while away the hours.

Not wanting to take all the original discs, I made copies of a few of the kids’ DVDs. In addition Narelle borrowed a few talking book CDs from our local library (more for the benefit of those in the front seats).

Copying DVDs isn’t always straight forward. I’ve got a copy of the final version of DVD Decrypter (no longer under development) which is pretty good, but I read just before we left that SlySoft (who also produce the very useful free ISO mounting utility Virtual CloneDrive) had a special on their AnyDVD HD tool. AnyDVD works at the driver level to transparently remove protection from DVDs (including HD and Blu-Ray). I could then use ImgBurn to copy and burn the “travel” copies. For any dual-layer discs, I made use of DVD Shrink 3.2 to squash everything down to fit on my single-layer blank discs.

I also copied a few of the kids’ favourite ABC Kids programmes that had been recorded using Media Center and burned a couple of discs with those. For some weird reason I couldn’t get Vista Movie Maker to work with the DVD drive, but I found a decent (and free) alternative – DVD Flick that did.

We did survive the trip there and back (also aided by Narelle’s folks who also drove up with us in their car), and had a nice time in Yamba too, managing to be in the pool or at the beach every day!

If you’re dining out, have coffee and cake at the Marina Cafe, and try some fish and chips or hamburger from the Fish Shop on Wooli St.