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Family: Road Trip Survival Guide

Highway Traveling
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As Labor Day weekend nears, your family might be making plans to take one last summer hurrah outside of the Chicago area. But with hurrahs come road trips, and with road trips come hours in the car with kiddos. Here are a few ways to help make road trips with the little people in your life bearable and maybe even memorable and fun.

1. Plan the Route with Pit Stops

When piling into the car for more than a few-hour jaunt, parents may want to plan a few pitstops as they often help prevent massive outbursts of crying and fights from erupting. Often simply stopping for lunch or well timing a snack stop can go a long way in preserving peace within the vehicle. Have a little extra time? Perhaps plan to stop at a family-friendly place you've always wanted to take an hour or two to explore like the Jelly Belly Factory off of I-94 in southern Wisconsin or the Indiana Dunes just off of I-80/94 in Northwestern Indiana.

2. Make Traveling a Game

When venturing a few hundred miles, make a game out of the car ride. Give older children a list of landmarks they can identify and check off: crossing the Mississippi River? Put it on the list! Driving past the Mars Cheese Castle in southern Wisconsin? Another perfect landmark to spy. Eyeing up the Chicago Skyline with the Willis Tower in site? Mark it! Every time a landmark is identified …

Best Kid Menus In Chicago
(credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

3. Reward Your Car Companions with a Goody Bag

Making goody bags out of simple paper sack lunch bags kills two birds with one stone as it provides prizes for a traveling game and also gives parents the opportunity to ration out other fun car activities like listening to a new song compilation or enjoying a special car snack {cheese wedges and crackers at the Cheese Castle?} or discovering a brand new in-car game like small magnetic checkerboards. Anything new {or new-to-them}, will excite most kiddos and distract from the hours logged in the car.

4. Harness the Power of Electronics

Younger children, obviously, can't be distracted by games. Parents who are on a longer haul might want to borrow a portable DVD player and borrow a few DVDs from the library so as to help the little ones pass the time. Even older children hit their limits during car rides and might not be so excited to play games or ride peacefully in the car, and allowing a special pre-chosen movie to be viewed during a certain time frame, gives the younger crowd some entertainment and the older crowd some quiet.

5. Pack and Use the Essentials Bag with Care

Parents with small children typically tend to be rock stars when it comes to packing the essential emergency on-the-go bag, and those of us who are beyond the diaper era should put some of their packing practices into play for road trips. This bag is the one you'll reach for when there's a hunger meltdown in the backseat and you're miles away from the next pit stop or boredom has induced some serious whining.

Include the following suggestions plus anything you're sure will be a hit with bored kids: car-friendly snacks and drinks, one or two new books, one or two new car and age appropriate games , tissues/wipes/napkins, ginger chews for motion sickness relief, maps of the state in which your traveling so youngsters can chart the trip, a downloaded ipod/mix CD with new-to-them music.

Lastly, especially if your car will play host to preschoolers or younger children, consider packing a Baby Bjorn little potty. Simply, these little potties are awesome for roadside- bathroom emergencies. And they've been known to help out a few parents who've overloaded on water or coffee every now and then, too. The napkins in your bag will come in handy here.

Hyacynth Worth and her husband often venture out on long, day trips around the state and greater Lake Michigan area with their two young boys. They've been known to break out the little potty in emergencies, and are darn glad for it. Hyacynth writes about parenting, motherhood and faith nearly daily at Undercover Mother.

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