- If your kids have a tendency to fight in the car, come up with creative ways to minimize conflict. Bring along a stopwatch so that they can time each another's turns with a toy that they have a hard time sharing. (That'll get you out of the not-so-fun job of playing toy cop!) Try to seat them as far apart as possible so that they're less likely to get on one another's nerves. And give them "car miles points" for every 15 minutes of fight-free travel and allow them to redeem these "points" for special treats and privileges.
- Bring along a "surprise bag" full of long-forgotten toys and other treasures. (Hint: Start saving those gimmicky plastic toys that show up in birthday party treat bags. They'll probably keep your child entertained just long enough to make hour-long trip down the highway to Grandma's house.)
- Bring along some activities that your child can enjoy in the car without creating a huge mess. Here are a few ideas: a cookie sheet covered with magnetic letters and numbers, a peel-and-stick sticker book, an Etch-A-Sketch drawing toy, bendable rubber figures like Gumby and Pokey, a kaleidoscope, a puzzle book, and a felt board. Don't forget to bring your child's favorite music tape or book on tape so that you can pop it into the car's cassette drive if the going gets tough.
- Play classic games like "I Spy," "20 Questions," and "License Plate Bingo." If you're really creative, you might even find ways to play charades while you're zooming down the highway.
- Bring along plenty of snacks and drinks so that you won't have to take as many snack breaks. Aim for healthy but no-mess snacks like raisins and other types of dried fruit, dry cereal, crackers and cheese, vegetable sticks, and so on. Buy refillable juice containers and fill them with juice. (If you pop them in the freezer the night before, they'll slowly defrost while you're travelling and you'll be able to treat yourself and your kids to ice-cold juice -- the perfect drink to quench your thirst in the middle of a hot July day!)
- Don't forget to bring along a picnic lunch. If you plan ahead, you should be able to find a provincial park or rest stop area that has restrooms. It's a great alternative to dining at your local fast-food joint: you can bring along healthier foods and save yourself a wad of cash at the same time.
Don't Worry - Be Happy
Above all: Keep a positive attitude. It can be stressful travelling with kids, but if you take frequent breaks and remind yourself that they can't be expected to clock the same number of miles in a day as an adult, you'll be well on your way to enjoying a terrific family vacation. Have fun!