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Car Travel Tips

- for Surviving Road Trips With Little Kids

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Photo of child behind the wheel of car - Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.

Head out on the Highway...

Photo © Teresa Plowright.

Are your family road trips relaxed rides with plenty of breaks? Or do you do car travel like a space capsule, hurtling through vast distances without a stop?

Most of us muddle through, somewhere in between. Below are tips for surviving car travel with kids.

Pace: try to allow enough time for rest stops. Two hours of driving time, then a break, makes a good pattern for car travel with young children. "Rush"is a four-letter word!

Pack: a special backpack or bag for each child, with crayons, books, toys, activity sets, stickers -- including some new wrapped surprises for little kids. (But don't give out all the loot at once!)

Print out some simple games to play in the car.

Pint-sized board-games: can be fun. Clue, Sorry, and Trouble are oldies but goodies. And a tray-- or "travel desk" suspended from the back of the front seat-- is handy, for any activity.

Pack: lots of snacks, such as fruit leathers, crackers, juice packs, treats... Also pack: a small cooler, or insulated bag, for cold drinks; plastic cups; bandaids, a dishtowel; frisbee and ball for rest-stops; and baby-wipes no matter how old your kids are.

Play: stories on audiobooks: they make the miles fly by. Yes, kids can watch movies on various devices but there's something very different about playing a story for the whole family on the car stereo system. Visit a library to get stories on CD's or use a download service like Audible.com.

Playrooms: Burger King and MacDonalds have great playrooms on major highways-- a great boon for family car travel. Let the kids burn off energy while you order their food "to go", to eat later in the backseat.

Playgrounds: every school and most parks have them! Little limbs need to shake, rattle, and roll.

Picnics: they're fun; the kids can run around; and you save money, too. Pack your own picnic from home, or buy the fixins' at a deli or grocery store. A big part of happy car travel is getting out of the vehicle.

Potties: it's worth bringing a training pottie, if your child has need-to-go-NOW emergencies.

Pedal-to-the-metal: if you really need to hurtle from point A to B, pull out the electronics: a laptops, iPads, DVD players, hand-held games...

Sleepy Time: kids fall asleep easily in the car, and a snooze can be a great way to let the miles fly by. Just be sure to allow lots of wakie-wakie time. Rousing a child from deep sleep because "we're there now" is tough.

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