Car Travel Tips
There’s a certain romance to the open highway — until you take the kids along for the ride. What kind of vacation is it if you’re driving to the accompaniment of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and the Barney song, punctuated by choruses of “When are we going to get there?” But a car trip can still be the way to go if you follow these simple road rules:
Before You Go
Make sure each child has a car seat and double-check the installation instructions to be sure you buckle them in properly. Pack a first-aid kit so you can deal with minor illnesses and injuries along the way, and call your pediatrician to ask about over-the-counter motion sickness medication if you’ll be on a lot of winding roads. (It’s a good idea to try a dose of these medications a few days before the trip to watch for possible side effects such as hyperactivity or other behavior changes.)
On the Road
Time your departure carefully. Are you a morning person? If so, you might want to leave before dawn, while the kids are still asleep. Prefer to drive at night? Just be prepared that when you arrive, your kids will likely be wide-awake while you’ll be ready for bed. Whenever you choose to set off, avoid commute hours (adults get cranky when they spend too much time going nowhere).
Be flexible about how far you drive each day. Stop often for bathroom breaks, meals, and just-plain-fun time. Schedule time for play stops, and bring along toys such as balls and jump ropes so the kids can burn off some energy. If your child tends to get carsick, put her in the middle of the back seat, where she can look forward, toward the horizon. If you have a damp cloth, put it on her forehead, and open the windows to let fresh air flow through the car.
Tote juice and water in a cooler and take plenty of snacks, such as pretzels, bagels, animal crackers, and fruit to keep the kids happy when you’re miles from the next rest stop and hunger strikes. For easy cleanups, stow a few resealable plastic bags and moistened wipes.
Keep a bag of diversions close at hand. Good bets are song tapes or CDs, coloring books, and small toys. Other entertainment possibilities are the songs and car games of your youth. Remember I Spy and Twenty Questions? If not, pick up a kids’ travel guide or 52 Fun Things to Do in the Car, a deck of cards with ideas (and directions) for games and other activities.