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5 tips for surviving family trips

By Amira Holden, Contributing writer
Published On: May 16 2011 03:07:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Dec 30 2013 09:19:31 AM CST
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Taking the family on a road trip can be anywhere from Clark Griswold crazy to extremely boring to mildly annoying.

You know the drill: "Maaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhmmmm! Bobby poked me!" "Bobby! Stop poking your sister!"

But the whole point of a road trip is to have fun getting to where you're going. With kids, it takes a little planning and some sanity-saving gadgets.

Kids have short attention spans, they are strapped into confining (and safe!) car seats and they have to pee all the time. They're bound to get so bored or antsy they'll kick the backs of your chairs.

But you still want the convenience of driving your car and the freedom of the open road.

Road tripping with kids can be fun, if you follow some simple tips and plan ahead. Here are our top five for surviving a family road trip.

Mom and son in minivan

No. 5: Get a bigger vehicle

If you have one or more kids and two adults in a vehicle for more than a few hours, you need something bigger than a sedan. You will simply have too much stuff for a trunk.

Teens crave their own space, and while babies travel great because they generally like to sleep, they don't travel light. Your adorable baby needs 12 outfit changes (in case of spit up, diaper explosion, food spills, dirt), not to mention baby gear is big and bulky.

There's no question a small vehicle limits what you bring. AND even worse, it puts the kids too close to each other.

Inevitably there will be poking. And grabbing. And face-making. This leads to whining. And crying. And barfing.

And that's no fun.

So buy, rent or borrow a bigger vehicle. You'll save some sanity.

The next road trip necessity is sure to keep the young 'uns quiet for hours ...

In-car DVD player

No. 4: Bring videos along for the ride

This is essential. Kids will ask a billion times "are we there yet?" but if you plug them in to a video, they're blissfully quiet for hours.

It's really just sick how genius this is. You can rent a DVD player if your big-ol SUV doesn't have a built-in one. Or portable DVD players can be had for as little as $35. It's worth every single penny.

You could even use a laptop with movies or kids' shows on it. Or an iPod or iPad -- basically anything that plays videos and can use headphones.

Some kids love to watch a video over and over so even a 30-minute show can get you 90 miles down the road. Or a feature-length film will be golden.

Sure a glowing screen isn't the best thing for Junior but this is a tip you can be sure even overachiever parents use.

The next tip involves some basic human needs ...

Pacific Coast Highway, roadside overlook

No. 3: Make frequent stops

It is strictly forbidden by the international law of car trips to go to the bathroom in a small container inside your vehicle. Do not turn your ride into a restroom on wheels. Too gross.

Get to the nearest rest stop or gas station, where you can fill up the gas tank and bend your body out of its sitting shape.

Road-tripping is a good time to indulge in some snacks you might otherwise avoid. If you never take the kids for fast food, maybe let them have a burger and fries on the road or grab a candy bar.

Or keep it healthy by bringing some carrot sticks and sandwiches, but stop for a cold bottle of water or something to drink.

Sure you can eat and drink in the car, but it's fun to get a yummy snack or a fresh drink when you're stopped anyway.

But be careful, you don't want to see those nibbles coming back up again ...

Bored girl in car

No. 2: Bring barf bags and Band-Aids

All the bumps on the road and the curves and the hills. And did you eat chicken nuggets then go on the swirly slide?

Kids and throwing up go hand in hand. It's natural, just like how kids eat paste and like to twirl in circles endlessly.

So when you're confined in a car, be prepared. Bring barf bags. And not just one either.

There is almost nothing worse than driving for days or hours or even seconds in a car that smells like vomit. It's a flat-out trip-ruiner.

Bring some plastic bags. Kids puke a lot; it's just part of life.

And children also get scrapes and cuts. You never know when and you can't predict how, but if your child falls or gets hurt, a package of Band-Aids will offer her some relief.

And it might distract her as you continue down the road.

For our final tip, consider driving giving the kids a rest ...

Car driving on darkened road

No. 1: Drive by night

All kids get bored sitting in the car for hours. It's like a law of nature; look it up.

No matter how many videos they watch or how many stops you make, there is nothing like a big nap to occupy your kids for a long time.

Traveling at night means they will be sleepy and it'll be dark. Bring a pillow. Even bring some of their favorite bedtime gear, a stuffed animal or favorite blankie.

If you can manage to stay awake yourself, it's a great time to drive.

The downside is that the kids get a good night's sleep, but mom and dad will be extra sleepy the next day. But sometimes it worth it to have some blissful quiet.

Do you remember what it's like to have quiet time? Us either, but we think it sounds nice.

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