leafCredit: Deposit photo

With the holidays upon us, it is time to make traveling plans. Most of us travel by automobile, which can be wonderful or awful depending on how well prepared you are to make the trip.

1. Fill up the tank before filling the cab

When my family and I would travel to eastern Washington to visit our extended family, the worst part was the motion sickness which was exacerbated by the smell of gasoline as my father filled up the tank before our trip. If you have traveling companions with queasy stomachs fill up the car the night before leaving. This will give you extra time to load the car the following day and ease the discomfort of those who suffer from motion sickness.

2. Snacks

I looked forward to snacking on our long trips. My mom would purchase taffy, which had jokes and riddles printed on the inside of the wrapper. We would laugh at the silly jokes and ponder the riddles. The taffy was good for settling my stomach, and the laughter was great for passing the time.

3. Entertainment

Make sure to bring along books, music, or DVDs to make the time move along, keep the children engaged and not fighting, and give you the ability to concentrate on the road. My father modified a small TV/radio and strapped it to the space between the captain chairs in the front of the family van. Who knew we would be a trend setter? Electronic entertainment is easier to travel with now so take advantage.

4. Bring weather appropriate gear

No matter what season you are traveling in it is good to be prepared. Make sure your car is excellent working order before you leave, carry weather appropriate gear for the car and the occupants. I remember on the road to my grandmother’s house our van overheated. We pulled to the side of the road, and my father pulled out a pitcher from the gear in the back. We were next to the Columbia River, so he climbed over the retaining wall, hiked to the river, filled the pitcher with water, and returned to pour it into the radiator. I remember feeling terrified that I would never see my father again once he crossed over the barrier. In less than thirty minutes, we were on our way because my father was prepared.

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5. Stop every couple of hours

Long trips broken up by stopping every two hours will make the trip pass by easier. My family would use these stops to stretch, use the lavatory, and refuel the vehicle. Over the years, the stopping areas would let us know how close we were to our destination. My favorite stop on the way to my grandparent’s home was Arlington. There is a park, restroom area, and a store to buy extra snacks. There is a bridge where it was a tradition to play pooh sticks. It is an easy game where you select a stick from the park and drop it into the water on one side of the bridge and race to the other side and see which stick passes under the bridge first. The frequent stops will add time to the overall trip, but lessens the stress during travel.

6. Blankets and pillows

Bringing a pillow, blanket, or special toy can keep children occupied while traveling. Pillows and blankets make it easier for children to take a nap. Napping keeps children quiet, and in a good mood when they arrive at the destination. As children, we were allowed to bring one pillow and blanket. It was great way to travel in comfort, and it was a symbol of home away from home.

7. Travel markers

Involve your children in the trip by making maps they can follow as you drive. It helps them to understand that traveling takes time and lessens the chance of the dreaded question, are we there yet? For younger children ask them to look for natural landmarks like waterfalls or mountains, and for older children have them look for city signs. See what you can tell about the city just by driving by. If it is a route, you travel each year discuss any changes you notice.

8. Games

Many travel hours passed happily while playing games. We had mini magnet games like checkers, chutes and ladders, and a small game of connect four. We played I spy with my little eye and filled out the empty spaces in the pad of Mad libs. Games are a great way to spark conversation with your children and create memories as the miles pass. My favorite games were the alphabet game, (find each letter of the alphabet on the road signs), car colors (choose a car color and try to find one hundred before you arrive at your destination), and slug bug (every time you see a VW bug you get to slug your sibling in the arm).

9. Count down

I would ask my dad before we left how long the trip would take. He would give me a estimate, and I would calculate what time of day we would arrive. It helped me to learn how to estimate, calculate time, and how taking breaks made the trip longer. I learned that my father traveled about a mile a minute on the freeway, and then I could calculate how long it would take us to arrive at our destination depending on how many miles were on the road sign. Knowing when I would arrive gave me the confidence to endure the time that was left.

Traveling can be a wonderful experience if you are properly prepared by filling up gas tank the night before, bringing snacks, having access to entertainment, preparing for weather, stopping every couple of hours, bringing pillow or blanket of comfort, point out travel markers, play games, and have a time countdown. When the trip is comfortable for the crew, it is comfortable for the captain.

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