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Road Trips: Are We There Yet? Survival Tips for Parents

Roads trips can tax everyone’s nerves, especially when a fight breaks out in the backseat just as the driver is hunting for the exit ramp on a busy highway. Here’s how to keep everyone happy and the backseat battles at bay.

1. Toys. Bring along a mix of old and new toys, including those your kids haven’t played with in a while. Dolls and action figures are good, as are finger puppets for impromptu plays. Don’t forget the play value of such office supplies as stick-on notes, markers and scrap paper. You might want to fill small plastic containers with different items, one for art materials, one for science standbys such as magnifying glasses and magnets and one for pocket games or puzzles, for example. Switch the containers at the end of a specified period of time.

2. Take plenty of breaks. Both driver and passengers need to stretch their legs and get out of the car. Bring along a soccer ball or catcher’s glove for a sports break in a local park, or plan a picnic lunch by a lake where the kids can have a swim. Frisbees are good because they’re flat and don’t take up much room.

3. Plan some surprises. Gift wrap a couple of toys, games or books and reward your children with a surprise if they’ve been patient or helpful. Small bags filled with a treat to eat, some stickers and a toy can go a long way toward passing extra miles.

4. Don’t forget the snacks. Pack an assortment of snacks to keep the kids from getting hungry or thirsty between meals. Think about edible crafts such as stringing ring-shaped cereal or small pretzels onto a licorice strand. They’re fun to make and eat.

5. Give your children a reason to be cooperative. At the beginning of an hour, hand each child four quarters and announce that anyone who starts a fuss will forfeit a quarter. Some parents are amazed a how polite their kids become when case is involved.

6. Electronics. Teens and preteens need music to travel by, do don’t forget the personal music players with headsets. Bring along a tape recorder so kids can play disc jockey and make their own recordings of music or game shows. Younger children love to hear recorded story tapes. Family favourites are the Canadian Classical Kids tapes, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

7. Have your children keep a record of the trip. It keeps them busy and can be a wonderful personal souvenir. They can do it in words, drawings or photos.

8. Have a supply of postcards and stamps handy. Put the kids in charge of writing postcards to friends and relatives, and let them tell it their way.

9. Road games. Resurrect some old standbys such as 20 Questions (“Is it bigger than a bread box?”) or License Plate Bingo. The first to collect 20 or 25 different state or provincial license plates is the winner. Younger children can pick a colour and shout out everything they see along the road in that colour. Try Travel Alphabet. Everyone can look for something starts with “A”—an apple tree or an alligator—then move on through “barn” and “cow.” The game ends when you’ve found a “zipper” or a “zero” on a sign. Extra points for a “zebra.”

10. Let them help navigate. Older kids can learn to read maps and help navigate the trip. Younger ones can collect brochures for attractions along the way and read out which exit ramps to follow. Let them mark up the map with yellow highlighter so they won’t keep asking, “Are we there yet?”





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