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Surviving a Car Trip With Kids


Car travel and kids aren't always a great combination. It's something like Molotov and cocktail: Put those together and something is going to explode, probably your stress level. But making it through a car trip with your children doesn't have to be all stress and no play. It just requires a little planning, some creative thinking, and loads of patience. Before You Go Check car seats. Make sure each child's car seat is correctly installed and that the straps are properly buckled. Time your departure. If you are driving at night, the kids will sleep in the car. But if you leave mid-afternoon, you will have some restless bodies when you arrive at your destination in the evening. Avoid traffic. You get enough commuter traffic on the way to and from work. Lower your stress level by staying off the roads during rush hours. Plan your stops. Estimate how long the trip will take before you leave, but remember to be flexible and allow for lots of bathroom breaks, meals, and playtime stops.

Bring Things First aid. Bring a basic first aid kit to deal with minor illnesses, along with any prescription medications. Ask your pediatrician about over-the-counter motion sickness medication if you will be traveling on windy roads. Pack snacks. Food and drinks brought on board will help avoid unnecessary "I'm hungry" stops. Bring juice and water in a cooler, along with plenty of travel-ready snacks like nuts, pretzels, cheese sticks, fruit, or fruit roll-ups in resealable plastic bags. Toys. Pack a treat bag with coloring books, small toys (your kids will appreciate the chance to choose their favorites), books, stickers, paper, markers, pencils, and electronic games or portable tape players for older kids. Clean up. Remember to take some plastic or paper bags for trash, and bring wipes and paper towels to clean up the inevitable spill. Quick change. Whether or not you are spending the night at your destination, bring a spare change of clothes for each child in case of spills or late-to-the-bathroom accidents.

On the Road Play stops. Whether it's at a roadside rest stop or a park in a small town, allow the kids to expend some pent up energy. The longer the trip, the more the energy. Your kids--and your sanity--will thank you for it. Road games. Alphabet, Simon Says, Counting Cows (or cars or cornstalks), 20 Questions, I Spy, and License Plate Pick are just a few of the car games you can play with your kids. Travel journal. Show the kids where you are going, tell them what they are driving past (a good guide will offer lots of information). Get them a scrapbook, or buy them a postcard, and let them write all about it. Besides being educational, a written record is something they will keep and share with friends and classmates. Get wired. The combination travel TV/VCR is ideal for those long trips, but books on tape or favorite music CDs will do the trick, as well. This is a great way to entertain the kids when you are all game-played out. =======================================================================

Traveling With Teenagers Teens are notorious for causing trouble on family trips. They can be obstinate about little things, get bored easily, and refuse to comply with travel plans. What then, are parents to do with the threat of a ruined vacation looming large on their teenager's furrowed brow? If your teen-age kids don't want to go with you on a trip, it is probably because they don't think they are going to enjoy it. Here's how you could change that: Let them be part of the planning process. Don't expect your teens to have a fabulous time on a trip that you have planned entirely according to your own interests. Ask your teens to research the destination and include sights/places that they would like to visit. Show interest in what your teens want to see. Allot time in the itinerary to visit these spots. They will appreciate the fact that you respect their choices.

Don't hurry your kids. Allow them to take time to enjoy their trip, as much as you would like to jump right into your destination. Intersperse museum tours with fun activities or stops--local fast-food joints, skating rinks, or record stores would be a good way to introduce teens to the local color and keep them entertained. A teen starved of peers is an unhappy teen. Be sure to plan for some activity that will compensate for the friends they miss. Outdoor activities work well here--hiking or going on a train journey will bring them in contact with other teens.

Be flexible with your itinerary and prepare to change it. Car or road trips can often be monotonous and boring and a fertile ground for squabbles and sulks. Here are some tips for making that claustrophobic time in the car more enjoyable for everyone: Most teens love music. Take along a portable tape player or CD player so each of your teenagers can listen to music of his or her choice. (Remember to take extra batteries!) If a personal system per teen is too expensive, carry an assortment of music selected by the entire family. Allot an hour or so each day when each person can play music of his or her choice on the car stereo.

Books are an interesting pastime. Ask your teens to select a few books, novels, or magazines they would like to carry for reading during the journey. Some parents swear by handheld video game players to keep teens quiet--others swear at them. However, if it is something your teens enjoy and will keep them from boredom, get one for the trip. As some parents suggest, you could restrict their use to road trips only and ban them from hotel rooms or during sightseeing tours. Some folks suggest that you take small outdoor breaks during long drives. Carrying a basketball or soccer ball for a quick game during a stop could help teens spend some energy and feel refreshed.

Teens may not be little kids, but they can get hungry often. Carry little snacks so that you don't have to stop every time they need a drink or something to eat. Map out your route and ask your teens to help you navigate. Engage them in interesting conversation. Do your homework and read up on things of teen interest in your destination. Talk to them about it and generate excitement about the vacation.

What teen doesn't love shopping and hanging out? Once you've arrived at your destination, allowing a little unstructured time might just be the key to keeping your teen happy. Pick economy stores in your destination and allow your teens to shop. Give them an allowance to buy small trinkets for themselves and friends back home. Allow them free time, unsupervised, but within a defined range--a shopping mall, maybe--for a short time everyday or as often as you can spare the time. Teens respond better when they know you trust them to behave more responsibly. And finally, a few general pointers that will make traveling easier for everyone: If possible, let them each take their own camera, or at least share one between themselves.

Let them take responsibility for their own luggage so that hell doesn't break loose when favorite items are missing or forgotten. Doesn't that upcoming vacation already look a lot more promising now? Preventing Motion Sickness There's nothing worse than a vacation ruined by motion sickness. It begins with dizziness, sweating, and nausea. Your body gets hot, your face pale, and your adventurous spirit crushed. Children between the ages of six and eight are the most common victims of this malady. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help kids combat the effects of motion sickness.

Following some simple guidelines could mean the difference between a pleasant journey and a miserable one: Avoid forms of travel known for causing motion sickness. Choose to fly instead of driving a long, winding road, or travel up the coastline by train instead of ferry. When flying, sit over the airplane's wing. The ride there is the least bumpy. Avoid the bow and stern of ships, as they are the most unstable spots. Don't let children prone to carsickness read in a moving vehicle. In the car, seat children so they have a view of the horizon. The middle of the back seat is good for that (in combination with a safety seat). Encourage your youngster to sleep through the trip. Offer children a light snack before starting on your journey. Avoid smoking in the car. Avoid smelly foods in the car that may cause nausea.

What should you do if your child gets sick?

For starters, know the warning signs of imminent nausea: Your child may become pale, sweaty, and restless, and may yawn often. Stop immediately at the first sign of sickness and have your child get out and lie down and relax until he or she feels better. Give your child appropriate medication (see below), crackers, or tea to calm the stomach. Over-the-counter and prescription treatments: Several drugs are available, but none of them works every time. It is difficult to tell in advance which one will relieve your child's symptoms. If one proves ineffective, you may want to try another. Treatments include: dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), cyclizine (Marezine), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), meclizine (Bonine), and the prescription drug promethazine (Phenergan). Please note, it's always best to check with your doctor before dispensing any type of drugs to your children. Be sure to check age requirements when choosing a treatment for your child.

Cyclizine and diphenenhdramine should not be give to children under six. Meclizine should not be used for children under 12, and scopolamine (Transderm Scop) should not be given to children at all. Keep in mind that the above-mentioned treatments are all antihistamines. They can cause drowsiness, dry mouth, and blurred vision. Treatments work best when taken at least a half-hour before the trip begins. Alternative treatments: Sailors have always chewed ginger to combat seasickness. While studies have reported mixed results on its anti-nausea effects, experts say that ginger tea is safe for children (but not infants) and recommend dissolving 1/8- to 1/4-teaspoon of powdered ginger in a cup of hot water. You can also try boiling two slices of ginger root in one cup of water for 10 minutes. Sweeten tea to taste and offer sips throughout the day. Peppermint and chamomile teas are two standard remedies for soothing an upset stomach and can be helpful to a sick child. Feeding the child one or two crackers can also help settle the stomach. Placebos have proven to help children suffering from motion sickness. If you believe in the remedy wholeheartedly, who knows, they just may believe it, too.


Takis Kyriakakis

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