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Ten quick tips for family road trips

I don't have kids, but I remember the days my sisters and I had to load up our things and try to have fun without invoking the quick temper of a focused parental driver. In fact, we still repeat this road trip regime every now and then, although now we aren't afraid to make a little noise when warranted.

For those of you with little kids, I'm sure you've felt similar to my parents; and I bet you remember those days when your parents had little patience in close quarters.

Here are ten quick tips to avoid familial fracas and get you to your final destination, soul intact:

  • Mood music--a little bit for everyone's taste, and something to set the tone for the scenery you are driving through. Soothing music in heavy traffic can often ease rising tensions, and exciting music on long stretches can get your little passengers excited instead of nagging.
  • Water--not too much, but just enough to refresh weary travelers. Most parents are aware that water should be strategically administered in perfect timing for planned rest stops. Sugary drinks are not a good idea with children because it can send them soaring and crashing within minutes, destroying the car's equilibrium.
  • Snacks--crunchy ones are best for the drivers to keep them awake, and fruit and nuts for the kids. Avoid sugary snacks except as tantalizing rewards for good behavior at the end of the trip. As I said above, sugar (especially the kind kids clamor for) will only send children into a frightfully annoying tizzy and down into whiny dumps. Fruit and nuts contain energy that slowly releases into the bloodstream for a steady flow of energy.
  • Good navigating--either marry someone who can read a map, or buy a GPS. Knowing where you are going will greatly reduce tension, as I recall from a few sharp words before the days of satellite technology.
  • Plan your rest stops--as mentioned above, knowing when you are going to stop can help you plan when to administer liquids. If passengers are not properly hydrated or fed, they can lose energy and become a distraction.
  • Books on tape--I once traveled with a family with five children under age 6, and they listened to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia the entire six hours. The stories not only kept the children in a distracted, silent rapture, but entertained the adults as well. Changing the rhythm between music and books on tape can help keep kids' minds occupied.
  • Games and activities--those infamous car games keep things lively when you tire of music and stories. Mom's Minivan.com has a list of great car games for all ages. Also, crossword puzzle and game books keep the strong stomach occupied, while the carsick-prone passengers can play the games.
  • Pillows and blankets--to aid in sleeping and promoting comfort on longer trips.
  • Medicine/first aid kit--mainly the point is to remember anti-car sickness pills, like dramamine. As far as first-aid kits go, my dad always has one in his car; you never know when a hang nail will rip open! (Just kidding--you may need to help people on the side of the road, etc.)
  • Good attitude--bring a good attitude. Every member of the family can use this. I find that praying before pulling out of the driveway eases anxiety and helps promote a sense of goodwill.

I hope these tips help in summer trip planning! Bon voyage.

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