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Holiday road trip! Fun ideas for families

Tracy B. McGinnis is creator of www.caffeinatedpen.comHer work has appeared in dozens of magazines on variety of topics. For more diet and fitness articles, click here.

Fun for the road

According to the Travel Industry Association (TIA), one in four household trips in the US includes kids under 18. That means millions of kids each year are on the road asking, "Are we there yet?"

Child playing handheld video game

No matter where your holiday travel takes you this year, chances are your kids will get restless in the car. Whether it's a few hours or an all-day road trip, the anticipation of getting to your destination, along with hours of time stuck in one place, can make those little feet antsy.

Keep the entire family happy on the road by taking some time to prepare. Plan out games, activities, snacks and movies, and consider including your kids in decisions about what to take along.

Electronic entertainment

If your car is already equipped with a TV/DVD system, then you can gauge how long movies can entertain your kids. Consider taking along some of their favorites and renting a few they haven't seen yet as a surprise on the road. Movies may keep them quiet for a couple hours, but on longer road trips, bear in mind that movie overload can them more irritable and restless.

If your kids are into portable electronic games like the DS, discuss what they would like to bring along and how the gaming system will be used in the car and on your trip. The games may keep them entertained in the car, but you don't want them reaching for it frequently while you're on vacation. iPods, books on tape, Game Boys and Leapster toys for young kids are other options you may want to consider.

If you are traveling with more than one child, consider noise level, sharing and competitive play while in close proximity to one another for an extended periods. Just like at home, you'll want to establish rules to make the trip happy and safe.

Board games that battle boredom

Now, you can even take your favorite board games on the road in a miniature version. Companies such as Hasbro have "fun on the run" games including everything from Candy Land to Battleship and Boggle. Visit your favorite retailer or the company's site directly to find deals on your favorite games for travel. Consider how many kids will be playing, their ages, interests and space available. Some games require no playing pieces at all, while others may have tiny parts that may be lost easily between the seats. Sites such as familytravelgear.com sell a variety of car entertainment organizers and trays to keep things together while traveling.

DIY Travel

If you're hoping the kids will unplug from their regular routines while on vacation, consider alternative entertainment for them that may not require batteries or remote controls.

A quick search in your favorite bookstore or online with retailers such as Amazon will yield links to travel books specific to kids. Many websites offer ideas for creative crafts and games to play. For the car ride, consider Rand McNally's collection, Car Game Countdown, which features fun time-passers such as license plate bingo. Artsy kids will enjoy the portability of their very own "Smarty Arty" traveling artists' studio from www.michikobaby.com. it has a pocket for a notebook, spaces for pens, crayons and chalk and an erasable, fabric chalk board.

Making memories is part of traveling as a family, so encourage your child to bring along a travel journal. For young travelers, the journal may include pictures chronicling the journey. For older kids, favorite and funny moments on the trip make interesting journal entries on which they can look back for years to come.

If you're short on time and searching the Internet for fun things to do, check out the SheKnows Kids Activity Center for printable coloring sheets, mazes and connect-the-dots printouts.

think fast

If you're an impulsive traveler who thinks better on the go, play some fun family games on the road that require nothing more than good communication and creativity. Such games include rock, paper, scissors, who am I, the license plate game, and road trip scavenger hunt.

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