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Are We There Yet?

If family road trips can drive you crazy, consider these suggestions from family lifestyle maven Julie Edelman.

Thursday on The Early Show, Edelman, president of Lifestyle Beat Media and a published author, offers tips to keep your kids entertained on the road.

Plan Ahead - Figure out what to bring that will keep your children happy and occupied. And, give some thought to departure times. You may want to plan your trip around nap times, especially for infants. For the older set, make sure they are involved in selecting stuff they'll enjoy.

Easy Access - Be organized. Make sure your kids can get to all the stuff you're bringing for them.

Create Surprises - To help hold their attention create the element of surprise. For instance, use a grab bag filled with small inexpensive toys for them to pick from, every hour or so, during the road trip.

Know Their Limitations - No matter how much entertainment, toys and food you pack up in your car, you will have to stop. Allow and plan breaks for kids to get fresh air, to stretch and use the bathroom. The amount of stops depend on the age of the child, but expect to stop at least every couple of hours.

Here are some gadgets featured on the show:

Entertainment

Lots of cars now come with built-in entertainment systems, but for those who don't have that option or want portability there are many alternatives.

  • AudioVox DVD, $800 - Features a bigger screen. The D1210 is the largest portable, 12-inch flat screen LCD-DVD for the car, that you can take into the home (or hotel) and also use as a TV/Home Video system. Comes with a mounting kit for mobile use, detachable speakers, 2 sets of wireless headphones, and a remote control. Powered via battery or cigarette lighter.

    If you don't own a portable player or a laptop computer equipped with a DVD drive, portable DVD player rental companies, such as InMotion Pictures, are conveniently located in almost every major airport. (visit inmotionpictures.com)

  • Hasbro's Video Now - Kids can watch their favorite TV shows -- Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob," "Fairly Odd Parents," "Hillary Duff," and even "American Idol." This new portable handheld viewing device holds 30 minutes of programming. For ages 5 and up. Available in July at Toys-R-Us and FAO Schwarz in New York (also by phone order), and nationwide in September. $50, and 3-pack mini discs $14.
  • Game Boy Advance - SP, $99.95: It's smaller and sleeker and for the first time comes with a lit screen. Also new is its rechargeable battery. Ages 8 and up.
  • Audio Books - A great alternative to TV, or other forms of entertainment, it encourages reading as a way to spark a child's imagination. The new "Flat Stanley" Audio collection, based on the classic children's' series, features Stanley Lambchop who wakes up flat one morning. It's an excellent geography teaching tool for ages 7-10. $18/2 cassettes.

Another very convenient way for kids (and adults) to listen to best-selling books on audio is to rent them. Buy and return books at one of Cracker Barrel's 476 store locations in 41 states nationwide, and just pay just a $3 exchange fee. It's just like renting videos or DVDs.

Books/Games

  • "Molly's Route 66 Adventure" from American Girls features a scrapbook with "real" props and memorabilia of a young girl's family trip to California on RT. 66. For ages 8 and up. $15.95 at Barnes &Noble.
  • "The Big Book of Car Games" - $10.99, is a fun and colorful interactive book filled with sing-a-long songs, cardboard car kits, masks, postcards, games, and lots more. It has something for everyone! $12.95
  • License Plate (& USA Map) Imaginatics game keeps kids from ages 4 and up interested. As you're driving along, kids look for "real" license plates. First person to see all 50 states wins!

Keep It Fun, But Organized

Although there are many great games to keep kids occupied, one of the biggest challenges is providing a flat space for them to play on.

Shoe Bag - Tie a shoe bag to the back of a car seat and use as an organizer for all sorts of toys and things.

Tray Table - $11.99, with side pockets from Learning Express fits over car seat. You can customize it at no extra charge.

Fill the tray with travel staples that are durable, fun and quiet. For instance, the Best Travel Activity Book ($3.95) by Rand McNally and Crayons to Go, with 100 washable and non-toxic crayons, for $11.99 from Alextoys.com. Other good ole classics include Travel SpinDoodle, $4.99, but now without the mess, for ages 4+ from Curiositykits.com or card games using a cool Handy Card Holder, so cards won't fall all over the place! $2.99 from Learning Express.

Fun Surprises:

But no matter how well you plan and pack, it's always good to keep your kids excited about the ride throughout. A grab bag filled with fun, reasonably priced things can help make the time fly.

  • Dot Squares or Hangman, are great pad & pencil games. $1.99/$2.49 from Games on the Go
  • Mad Lib Electronic Key Chain records your voice & inserts it into mad libs. $ 9.99 from Basic Fun Bats. Inc.
  • Joke Teller plays over 200 recorded jokes. Includes laugh track, too. Ages 6+. For $7.99 from Basic Fun Bats, Inc.
  • Not your same old Silly Putty. Features your child's favorite movie folks -- Hulk, X-Man, Spiderman. Ages 3+. $4.99

Healthy Snacks

Keep healthy snacks cool (or warm) with the Coleman Personal Chill Cooler. It's compact enough to stow away in a car! 16qt. size for $50, at www.coleman.com.