FEATURE SOURCE Children’s initial excitement over family vacations can quickly turn to restlessness once the car ride begins. Vicki Lansky, author of “Practical Parenting Tips” (Meadowbrook Press, $9.00; Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.), advises careful packing and creative planning to make traveling more fun and less stressful for both you and your kids.
“Traveling with kids just takes longer, so incorporate that into your travel schedule,” Lansky says. Try these 15 helpful hints from the revised and updated edition of “Practical Parenting Tips” to keep kids entertained and well behaved on the road.
Change seating arrangements occasionally. One adult in the back seat for all of half of a trip usually makes for a pleasant journey.
Stop periodically to run and play with your kids. The break will be good for everybody. Pack a bottle of bubbles or a package of balloons in the glove compartment. Stash a Frisbee, ball, or jump rope under a seat.
Announce a treat for the end of the day so everybody will have something to look forward to (a swim in the pool, dinner at a favorite restaurant, and so on).
Back Seat Bickering
Stop the car and pull over when fighting begins and don’t go again until it ends. Get out of the car, if necessary, until your kids have quieted down.
Let kids know that fighting endangers everyone in the car. Consider deducting something from their allowance or withholding privileges.
Use money as an incentive for kids old enough to be swayed by cash. Add an amount (a quarter or whatever) to each child’s spending account for each hour without an incident; deduct the same amount for bickering. Settle up each day.
Carry a supply of small paper plates or coffee filters with little slits in the center. Put the sticks of Popsicles or ice cream bars through the slits, and there will be less mess on car seats and fingers.
Cut sandwiches in different shapes for easy identification: triangles for those with mustard, rectangles for those with mayonnaise, and so on.
Avoid taking very salty foods in the car; they inspire lots of drinking—and lots of rest stops.
Put liquids in well-washed plastic lemon or lime juice dispensers. (Remove the inserts with a sharp pointed object, replace after filling, and screw the caps back on.) If you freeze them before you leave, the drinks will stay cool as they melt.
Satisfy both hunger and thirst with grapes. Older kids may prefer frozen grapes. (Always cut them in half for toddlers.) Oranges serve the same purpose, but they’re messier.
Keep flexible straws in your purse. They make it easier for children to drink from cups in a restaurant or car seat.
Draw faces on your child’s fingers or hands (or your own) with washable markers. Enjoy puppet “conversations” or stories!
Store colored pencils, markers and coloring books in a metal cake pan with a sliding cover. (Crayons melt in the summer heat.) The closed top provides a work surface.
Buy postcards at your favorite places while traveling. Write down the day’s activities on the back of the cards. Put them in a scrapbook you’ve brought along, or mail them to your home address.
Vicki Lansky’s “Practical Parenting Tips” (Meadowbrook Press, $9.00; Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. has sold over 700,000 copies. The recently revised and updated edition contains more than 1,500 helpful hints to save parents time, trouble and money.