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Ease the strain of traveling with kids
Posted: May 27, 2009
Last Updated: May 27, 2009

Loading the kids up for the fabled family vacation can be the start of a great summer experience or the beginning of endless headaches and squabbles depending on how you plan for the adventure. Family travel is filled with unexpected experience, both good and bad, but planning ahead can help make the vacation a success, especially when you have a carload of kids to deal with on the trip.


Here are some tips to help make hitting the open road a little less stressful for the whole family this summer.


Pre-plan the route


This is the first step to any trip, but with kids you need to make an extra effort to include stops. Younger children shouldn’t be in a car for more than six hours a day and no more than three-hour stretches. Many counselors recommend a break more often, every two hours, for youngsters under 10. Try scheduling a fun adventure at a local attraction or historic site you will be passing to allow kids time to stretch and explore and hopefully, learn. Check with the local Chamber of Commerce along your route or visitor centers as you enter a state for attractions that might offer a chance to get out of the car for kids.


You can also send to state visitor centers to mail you a slue of brochures and information on your planned route. This way you can include the kids in making pre-arranged travel breaks by going over the materials. Kids might have a whole new take on where to stop that might lead to unexpected fun.


Are we there yet?


Once the plans are set, give the kids ownership of the trip by giving them a road map to trace the route on. This can halt the inevitable “Are we there yet?” question. Kids can see where they are and how far to the next adventure. They can see where they have been and where they are going—a mini-geography lesson in their hands… and maybe this time the adults can ask the kids, “Are we there yet?”


Pack for fun


Since you stowed the emergency first aid kit and water, why not pack some fun activities for the kids? Pack that beach kit with a shovel and bucket, it can dig dirt at a park as well as sand at the beach. Also don’t forget activity books and crayons to keep little hands busy during the trip.  There are tons of fun games that have been miniaturized to play in cars. Bookstores also carry books on fun games to play while driving down the road.


Double all snacks you are planning on bringing and toss out the junk food. Being confined in a vehicle makes high calorie food even worse for kids, because it is sugar without nutritional value. Plus it wards off the dreaded sugar-rush that comes after eating these high calorie foods.


Plus keep kids sipping on water—dehydration can happen easily in a car with the sun streaming into windows and the heat it causes.


Remember to pack some CDs, blankets, pillows and favorite small toys. Pack some wipes or towelettes to deal with any spills or accidents that might occur in the car.



Keep the Peace


Take advantage of the sights along the way to offer a break from the tedium of car travel. It might make add some time to your travel plans, but it will be worth it. Sometimes a quick stop for a snow cone or a roadside attraction can be the stuff of sweet memories and all that you need to turn the family’s frowns upside down.


Also think about mandatory naps for the family—no matter what their age. Older kids might protest this but remember vacation is all about relaxing, and you’d be surprised how much energy you expend on your vacation, be sure to recharge your family with downtimes and relaxing activities that won’t leave them harried and stressed.

 To learn more about keeping peace on your family vacation
call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.




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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.