Now's the time when families tend to hit the road - whether it's to visit Grandma, Disney, the beach, or just to sightsee and get a taste of other communities. It's not the destination; it's the journey, right? Not when you have kids in the backseat asking "are we there yet?" or fighting amongst themselves. A family road trip can start to seem like a very bad idea when the kids start getting hot, hungry, tired or bored. Plan ahead for those events, and you can make the trip a lot easier on the whole family. Allow each of the kids to bring a comfortable blanket and pillow for naps. Small kids might want their lovies or special pacifier - pre-trip isn't the time to try to break a small child of these habits. Pack small, portable toys, board books, and coloring books and (washable) crayons for smaller children. Older children will appreciate iPods, electronic games and books to keep them occupied. A portable DVD player is a godsend for families who travel long distances - they're stuck in their seats, so a road trip is a perfect time to relax TV-watching rules. It's best to map out your route before leaving, noting any restaurants, points of interest and rest stops along the way.
Web sites like Rand McNally and AAA offer helpful tools to help you do just that. Pay particular attention to scheduling meals so that the kids don't get any crankier than they already are. Pack a cooler or bag full of healthy, portable snacks, like fruit, baked chips, granola bars, portioned cereal, trail mix, plus just a few small pieces of candy - you never know when they'll come in handy. A healthy snack can mean the difference between making a scheduled stop and limiting your choices to unhealthy fast food. Get creative and involve the whole family in car activities, like old-school license plate games, I Spy, card games or 20 Questions. Up the ante for kids by making it a contest with prizes - this is where candy might be useful, or even small amounts of money. It is possible to maintain yours - and your kids' - sanity during a road trip, if you plan ahead and keep them occupied.