Surviving The Trip: 10 Tough Love Tips For Calming Cranky Kids - My Family Travels

Preparation and clear boundaries make a road trip with your babies, toddlers and school-age kids easier to handle and much more fun for everyone.

If you dread the idea of piling your kids into the car and traveling, think of the poor mothers trapped in their covered wagons for ten months on the Oregon Trail.

Planning and foresight can make travel not just endurable but enriching.

Here are some kid-tested ways to keep peace in your wagons while you travel with kids.

Just Say No

  • NO sugar allowed before or during the drive. This means:

    — No candy
    — No gum
    — No snack foods with sugar in them
    — No sodas
    — No Lifesavers

  • NO caffeine allowed:

    — No Coke, Pepsi, frappes
    — No iced tea
    — No chocolate

10 More Sanity-Savers When No is Not Enough

1.   Even though sugar may temporarily pacify a whining child, in 90 minutes or less it will plunge this same child into a blood-sugar crisis resulting in crying, hitting, whining or worse.

2.   Prepare them with a map, and an idea of how long the journey really is, marking off milestones so they get a feeling of progress. This will cut down on "How much longer?" and "Are we there yet?"

3.   Give each child a "travel pack" into which all treasures must fit. If objects are found on the floor of the car, or under the seat, or stuck to the dog (or another sibling), they go into the trash. Call it a "keeping bag." Make sure your child's name, address, phone, and destination information is inside the keeping bag in case it accidentally grows legs.

4.   Assign window seats using a chart so you can accurately recall who did and did not get a seat by the window. There should be a rule that you cannot have more children than you have windows. If you make the assignment of windows a boring and tedious task, worthy of a nitpicking award, your children may eventually lose all interest in who gets a window just to avoid listening to your litany of who already HAD a window seat.

5.   Take special precautions for the carsick-prone child. Seasick bands really do work, as do dermal patches that release chemicals to counteract motion sickness. Teach your kids some sort of easy signal to tell you they are REALLY going to throw up and that you REALLY need to stop the car or pass the barf bag NOW. It will save a lot of grief and chain-reaction sickness in the vehicle. Restricting fluids sometimes helps, since the ailment is related to fluid in the ears. Antihistamines help, too.

6.   Take your pit-stops as seriously as the Unsers do. Every two hours, whether it's raining, sleeting, snowing, or the end of the world–stop the car. Get out. If there's a gas station, empty the kids and fill the tank. If there's nothing out there but "nothing," let them use the car door as a privacy screen. Always carry toilet paper and wipes in the car.

7.   Stop to eat and stretch and get at least 20 feet away from each other at least every four hours. You'll like each other a whole lot more at the end of the day.

8.   Zero tolerance of name-calling or bad manners.

9.   Let each child choose snacks themselves. Encourage sharing. Reward good behavior constantly. Do not tolerate bad behavior.

10.  Each child should have a Discman/MP3 Player/iPod with headphones, and lots of batteries. How about listening to "Harry Potter" during the journey? Many libraries lend books-on-tape/CDs for free. It's a great way to read away the miles.

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