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.

  • Pack lots of snacks! Hungry children will make you miserable every time you pass the recognizable landmarks of a fast food restaurant. Single serving snack packages -- either of your own making or store bought -- provide easy to serve snacks. Along with the snacks, make sure that you bring plenty of water. If you choose salty snacks such as peanuts or pretzels, you may need even more water than usual (and more patience for potty breaks!).

  • Be prepared with some easy to play games. Find the letters of the alphabet in order on the road. For older kids, try it backwards. Play "I Spy." Play twenty questions. Locate Presidents' names on road signs. Find names with a foreign origin. (note: for a new twist on travel games, see Kris's offer below)

  • Create a summer-long license plate search. Keep a small map of the United States and sticky dots in the car (a plastic page protector will help). Each time your kids spot a license plate from another state, have them cover the state on their map. Discuss the challenge; what state will be spotted first? How long will it take to complete the entire nation? Is Hawaii even a remote possibility?

By creating a fun traveling atmosphere, your family will be less focused on who crossed the invisible backseat line first, and more intent on enjoying each others company, even if it is in cramped quarters.

Kris Bordessa is the author of several books, including Team Challenges: Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication and Creativity. Her e-book, Travel Talk -- Simple Games for on the Road Fun features verbal games that go beyond the traditional 20 Questions. Request a your free copy simply by sending an email with "Travel Talk" in the subject line to: Travel Talk or visit Kris online at KrisBordessa.com.

Copyright © Kris Bordessa. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.