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10 Tips for Long Car Rides with Kids

How to travel with children in a car or road trip during the holidaysBy Deborah Goldstein
Road trips with teens and preteens are fairly easy. As long as they can text and snack, they’re mostly self-contained. Younger children, however, don’t tolerate long rides with the same enviable apathy. For little ones, you’ll need some ammo. Here are 10 strategies to help you get from here to there this holiday season, relatively stress-free.

1) Coordinate your drives with naptime. With any luck, they’ll nod off. Some parents recommend driving at night, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Our 18-month-old cried for two hours late one night until we made it to our destination. Suffice it to say, we no longer do nighttime drives.

2) Research kid-friendly restaurants and activities ahead of time, ones that your kids will enjoy, aren’t too far from highway exits, and will hopefully wear them out a little. For example, if weather allows, picnicking at a playground or park helps you save money on food and lets them burn off energy. If it’s raining or cold, a mall or restaurant like Chuck E. Cheese works well.

3) Take breaks often, and when you do, gas up—even if your tank is half-full— to prevent having to stop later when your child or baby might be napping.

4) Buy an EZ Pass ahead of time, which allows you to breeze through tolls without stopping. This also helps to prevent disturbing a sleeping baby.

5) Surprise little ones and school-age kids with new books, toys, or games. Just don’t promise any new apps, unless you’re comfortable with your children handling your smartphone or tablet in the backseat without assistance.

6) A portable DVD player can be a lifesaver! Rent some new movies, but bring old favorites as well.

7) Load your iPod with their favorite songs or try streaming radio, like the newly redesigned Pandora app that plays music similar to your favorite artists and songs.

8) Keep the sun out of their eyes with detachable car window shades.

9) Pack plenty of diapers, formula, drinks, and snacks—including treats your kids don’t normally get to eat, to make the trip more of a fun “event.”

10) When all else fails, be thankful you’re not flying—no one else can hear your children melting down inside the car!

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