Tips for Long Road Trips from Dr. Mom

Sometimes time spent in the car with children can be stressful. In her February 2010 "Dr. Mom" article, Dr. Marianne Neifert gives parents practical tips for making time spent in the car less stressful. But what about those long road trips? Is there a way to minimize stress and make the trip enjoyable for the whole family? Try these extra tips from Dr. Mom!

  • 116_car_trip.jpgPlan ahead. Figure how far you realistically can travel in one day, based on your children’s ages. Schedule regular bathroom and meal breaks, excursions at a park, or fun sightseeing activities.
  • Promote comfortable sleep. Purchase a car seat travel pillow, child travel neck pillow, and/or car nap pillow. Bring a cozy blanket for each child too.
  • Be prepared. In addition to your staple supplies of juice, snacks, extra clothing, and moist wipes, consider bringing convenience items, such as a portable cooler or a portable potty. A first-aid kit is also a good idea.
  • Keep your children entertained. Pack a fun and interesting travel kit (a backpack on wheels or a plastic box with a lid) for each child. Along the trip, bring out small surprises for each child: new small toys, books, crayons, coloring books, stickers, or games. Consider purchasing a car seat travel tray or lap desk to give your child a handy place to hold his drink cup, snacks, small toys, or books.
  • Invest in “sanity savers.” Countless parents will attest that a portable DVD player can make a long road trip go far more smoothly.
  • Divide your parental responsibilities. If at all possible, the driver should not attempt to console, discipline, or entertain the children. An adult passenger, if available, should assume responsibility for the children’s needs. Alternate your roles, if desired.
  • Create a children’s road map. Show your home, your final destination, and key land marks on your journey to help your children gain a sense of how their trip is progressing.
  • Periodically reward your children for behaving well. Surprise them with a special treat or activity, such as a picnic at a scenic spot or swimming in a hotel pool.

Do you have more ideas for making long trips in the car fun? Share them with us and other ParentLife readers by leaving a comment!

Travel Tips for Families

REI_logo.gifThanks to REI for this great travel advice for families. Use these tips for any last minute travels between now and the start of the school year!

  1. Plan Together — Encourage your children to be a part of the planning/selection process. Select a few trips that meet your family’s requirements, engage children in learning about each trip, then let them choose the family vacation this year.
  2. Ask Questions — Once your vacation is selected, ask your children what questions they have about the trip or location.
  3. Geography Lesson — Use a map/globe to help children learn how far they are going and what the flight route will be, etc. This helps establish an early connection to the destination.
  4. Research Locations — Search online for small towns your itinerary will pass through – learn about the history, animals plants and people that live in these places. Find something your family wants to learn more about or see while you visit.
  5. Pack It Up — Pack with your child – use the gear list and have them think about what they already have that fits the need and what they will need to get.
  6. Keep a Travel Journal — Get your child a journal and help them write in it each day about what happened on their trip – encourage them to draw pictures. Be sure to record the senses you used along the way to hear different sounds, smells, tastes, and sights you experienced in each place.
  7. Make a Lasting Memory — Make sure your children get to use your camera, or have their own so they can take photos. An instant camera is a fun thing to take along when visiting developing countries. It’s a great gift to share on the spot with new friends you make along the way and a quick way to add photos to the journal when the children recaps their day.
  8. Send a Postcard Home — Look for postcards to send to family, friends, and even to your own home so your children have a memento from their trip awaiting them upon your return home. Make sure you use colorful local stamps – great keepsakes and addition to journals.
  9. The More the Merrier — Travel with other families with children. Both families will appreciate the company of other playmates, and adults.
  10. Present — If your child is in school, have him create a presentation for the class to "show and tell" about his trip.

Do you have any other great tips you would offer based on your vacation experience?