No-Stress Holiday Travel with Kids

If You're Driving

Think safety first. Take your car in for a quick inspection (oil, antifreeze, brakes, tires) before you leave. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead to see whether you'll need extra supplies or travel time. Just in case, pull together some emergency essentials, including a small shovel, blankets, a flashlight, and bottled water. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.

Beat rush hour. You can't avoid traffic jams caused by accidents or emergency roadwork, but you can plan your trip so you're not in big cities during the morning or evening rush. You might also consider leaving at night if you feel well rested and comfortable driving in the dark. There will be fewer cars on the road, and your kids will probably sleep most of the way.

Take breaks. Hit rest stops regularly to prevent your kids from getting stir-crazy or going into tantrum mode in the car. For every two hours on the road, children need at least 15 to 30 minutes to stretch their legs and run around. Lansky suggests bringing along inflatable beach balls or Frisbees.

Keep kids entertained. Let your children pack their own bag of toys, travel games, books, and so on. But bring a special surprise or two to pull out when they start getting bored -- maybe a toy they haven't seen in a while or a small gift you bought just for the trip. Give little ones their favorite lovey, and then read or tell them a story so they don't feel ignored. For older kids, encourage them to scout out license plates and road signs or have them track your route with a marker on a map. Books on tape or a portable DVD player also make great travel companions.

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