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Stress-Free Travel with Your Kids
by Mia Cronin

If you can take a little time for preparation and put some ideas together, you can fend off most of the boredom and restlessness before even getting in the car. It just takes some pre-planning. And really, we're experts at that by simple virtue of the fact that we're moms, right?
Picture s time to head to Grandma's for the weekend, and you can just see it now. You have screaming kids in the backseat, carsickness, boredom, Goldfish crackers flying everywhere inside your mini-van, and you and your hubby are praying that some auto manufacturer will design an optional sound-barrier button in future models of their cars that will go up and down between the front and back seats. Or don t you wish it was just like on Star Trek? You need to travel long distance with your kids, and all you have to do is say, "Grandma, beam us up!" Then you and your tots disintegrate into nuclear particles and reassemble yourselves at Grandma s dinner table, which is covered with home cooking that you didn't have to prepare! We really should have that kind of technology. Be that as it may, we don't. So, we grit our teeth as we buckle our smiling tots into their car seats while they kick their little feet in joyful anticipation of the trip. And we hope f! or the best. We also hope we've gotten their car seats spaced far enough apart so that they are not within each other s tantalizing reach. That could prove more nightmarish than running out of gas on a tumbleweed-laden, deserted highway!

If you can take a little time for preparation and put some ideas together, you can fend off most of the boredom and restlessness before even getting in the car. It just takes some pre-planning. And really, we're experts at that by simple virtue of the fact that we re moms, right? Don t we spend a lot of time pre-planning, learning from prior events with our children, and swearing we'll be ready next time? Well, here you'll find some ideas to get your creative thoughts flowing so that your next car trip can be a happy occasion for everyone involved.

What To Pack

It goes without saying that you'll want to be technically prepared, first. In other words,

Have extra diapers, wipes, and first aid items in the glove compartment at all times.

Get yourself a fanny pack so your hands are always available for your children when you've stepped out of the car for any period of time. Pack your monitor so that, while in a different home or location, you can keep tabs on your kids while they sleep.

Try to use transparent bags for packing small items for your kids. This makes them much easier to find when living out of a suitcase for a few days.

Be sure to bring along comfort items for each child with which they are familiar - a blanket, a pillow, a stuffed friend.

Always have at least one change of clothes available in the car so that spills and accidents don t have to create a panic situation for you. With that, make sure you always have plenty of plastic grocery bags packed in which you can store such messes until you can launder them.

It's always a good idea to have a travel bag just for them, too, but don t let them see it, otherwise they'll want everything in it all at once. (Can you tell I've been down this road before? Pardon the pun.) In the bag, you can have stocked a plethora of silly things that will keep them occupied.

If they are old enough to look at a map, and they recognize letters or numbers, try highlighting some cities through which you'll be traveling, asking them to find them on the map as you go through them, then have a brown lunch bag with the city s name on it with some kind of little treat inside. Then they get the bag when they get to the city! In the bag can be a small toy or a little snack. This will teach them a little about map-reading, keep them occupied, and also give them something fun to anticipate.

If your children are not quite to that age yet, there are plenty of other things to bring. Try a roll of duct tape. No, not for putting over their mouths! Shame on those of you who thought that's where I was going with this. I mean for some fun time. Cut pieces of it for them. I don t know what it is about tape, but kids love to play with it. And hey, if it lands over their mouths, so be it. (Just kidding!)

Another good thing to pack is a small hand mirror with a protective covering or case. Mirrors are great fun for kids. You might consider a hand-held calculator, too. Kids seem to love pushing buttons, don't they?

Bring along a few tapes with kids songs that you know they enjoy. Singing is always a fun way to pass the time during a long trip.

Place a box between or next to their seats that contains some little gadgets for play. If your children are prone to carsickness, books might not be the best idea. But little toys and fun things can be shared and passed back and forth. You might try making some kind of compartmentalized bag that you can hook over the backs of your seats so they can reach in and grab their little possessions, too.

For potty breaks (which should be accommodated often when traveling with kids) have a bottle of bubbles or a Frisbee packed for some outdoor fun. Kids have so much energy, and it s important that they expend some of it during these breaks.

If possible, change seating a bit periodically, if there s room. Mom can sit in the back for just a bit and the kids will love it! Or, if Mom drives for a while, Dad can join in the fun and help pass the time in the back of the car or van.

Dining Out With The Kids

Once you're there, when eating out with kids, call ahead and ask if the restaurant has equipment such as highchairs, booster seats, etc. You will want to ask about a kids menu as well. When stopping along the travel route, try to stop at restaurants that have a play area where children can expend some of their energy.

Take along toys or books to the restaurant for a diversion if there is a long wait. Realize that you or your spouse may have to take the child out during dinner a few times; sitting still is difficult for young children.

More ideas concerning your accommodations:

When taking children camping, be sure to take a first-aid kit. Include bug repellent and anti-itch ointment for poison ivy or bug bites. Make sure that you have an alternate plan, a hotel nearby may be necessary if the weather turns ugly or your child just has enough of the great outdoors.

When staying in a hotel or motel, you will want to call ahead to see if they have necessary equipment for rent - cribs, roll-away beds, play pens, etc. Upon arrival, check with the concierge s desk about children s activities and possibly baby-sitting. Make sure that your room is safe for your children. Check balcony doors and make sure that they are locked. Check the windows to be sure they cannot be easily opened or there are no dangling cords from blinds or draperies. Check all of the outlets, you may want to bring some outlet covers with you to use during your stay. Staying at a family-friendly resort is a wonderful option. Everything there is geared toward families with children. Activities are planned for the children usually allowing Mom and Dad some quiet time.

When staying with family or friends in their home, be sure that any baby equipment that they may have on hand for your child to use is up to current safety standards. The bars on a crib should be no more that 2 3/8 in. apart. Call ahead and ask them to please place any breakable items in a high place. Again check outlets and any windows or doors that may be accessible to your child.

Be realistic about your itinerary. If you plan too many activities in a short period of time, your child is likely to make you pay for it. Becoming over tired makes children irritable and even more likely to have tantrums. Everyone will have a better time if you take it slow and have plenty of time for relaxation and rest.

Most of all, offer praise for good behavior, and let them know that you know it s tough to be away from home, in a car, or in someone else s home for long time. They'll appreciate your positive reinforcement, and they'll want to show you continued good behavior if you recognize it.

Mia Cronan is a married full-time mother of three girls, ages 5, 3, and 1, living in Pennsylvania.
She owns and edits, the magazine for modern mothers with traditional values. Mia can be reached at Subscribe to Main Street Mom Weekly by sending any message to


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