Ten Travel Tips for Easing Vacation Frustration

by Kris Bordessa

Whether your summertime plans include a week long vacation, or just a succession of day trips, it is likely that your family will be spending many hours car-bound this season. Buckled into an uncomfortable car seat in hot weather may seem like cruel and unusual punishment to kids; their cries of "when will we get there?" can seem unreasonable to even the most patient adult. Regardless of the distance you travel, being prepared is the key.

Everyone will be happier if you can avoid the trap of hurrying to get to your destination. Consider the driving time itself as an opportunity to explore and discover. Stop at scenic overlooks. Visit an interesting looking store. Treat your kids to something special on the road -- an ice cream will do wonders to improve their outlook.

During the drive find out what your children expect from the outing. What is the exhibit they most want to see at the museum? What ride at the amusement park is the most enticing? Would they rather go fishing or sailing? Knowing what each family member sees as a priority will make it easier to accommodate everyone's desires and avoid disappointment.

Packing enough entertainment into a car already overloaded with family members and luggage can be a tricky, but necessary endeavor. Plastic containers come in all shapes and sizes; try to find one that will slide under each person's seat. These containers can double as a writing surface if you attach a pen or pencil with a bit of Velcro. Another alternative is a metal lunch box, which will help keep travel items contained, and allow kids to use magnetized words or letters during the ride.

Try incorporating some of these travel diversions into your next family outing, and you may be surprised to find that the dreaded travel time has turned into unexpected quality time!

  • Bring along colored pencils for artwork on the road, for travel journals and for use at your destination. The beauty of using colored pencils as opposed to crayons or markers? No chance of crayons melting in a hot car or uncapped markers bleeding into the seat. Don't forget to bring along a pencil sharpener!

  • Pick up brochures for local attractions at rest stops or restaurants. Even if you're just passing through, these little advertisements are the basis for a great backseat game. Simply pass a few brochures to each person and challenge them to find something that relates to the ads they hold. A billboard, bumper sticker or logo would count, and so would a surfboard strapped to the top of a car, for instance, if a brochure was touting local beach resorts. Rather than compete against each other for a high score, work cooperatively to spot ten items before the next pit stop. Try to beat the group's high score on each consecutive leg of the trip.

  • Sticky-notes are a useful diversion; they can stick to both windows and seats, not to mention books and paper.

  • Bring along a ball of some sort. When you stop for a break, the kids will have an activity to burn some of their pent-up energy.

  • Create your own scavenger hunt for the ride. Using index cards, write one item or challenge on each card. For instance, "spot a telephone booth" or "get a pedestrian to wave at you." Give out a few cards at a time and replenish as each card is completed.

  • Try a long-term scavenger hunt using a list of items, with assigned points. One point for a word with the letter "X" in it, 5 points for a yellow VW bug or 10 points for a dog riding on a motorcycle. Give the kids a goal of totaling 25 points by the time you leave town or 50 points as you cross the state line. Working toward a common goal, rather than competing to win may encourage backseat harmony.

  • Traveling with children is easier with books on tape. Either used in the car's tape deck so everyone can listen, or in an individual tape player, the tapes offer a focus during the ride. Even constantly moving fidget-ers will be happy to sit quietly and listen.