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Vacationing as a Family, How to Avoid the Frustrations.

When vacation season approaches, many families plan to take to the road in order to escape the stress of the daily grind. A poorly planned family road-trip can be a greater source of frustration than many families realize. Unfortunately, these families tend to encounter this frustration halfway into the vacation, at a time when little can be done to remedy it.

The level of stress during the trip is in direct proportion to the quality of planning done before pulling out of the driveway. It can be so disappointing to make travel plans in order to promote family 'togetherness' only to get to the destination with parents and children at each others' throats.

But when parents discover how simple planning can make the trip fun and memorable, the difference in the quality of the actual vacation is measurable. Having the right tools on the road can make all the difference between the success and failure of the actual vacation.

First, take time to plot out a trip that includes preplanned rest stops, a cooler of refreshments (to avoid high-priced rest stop and fast food prices), music and books on tape, and lots of activities for the kids in the back. Keep everyone occupied with Ghost, 20 Questions, Punch Buggy and License Plate Bingo, then try a scavenger hunt, a tin foil sculpture contest and Penny Ante. Try leaving for your trip at a time other than in the morning or mid-afternoon. You may even want to leave in the early or late evening.

There’s something to be said for the lull of the road to put bickering kids to sleep. Just be sure the driver is able to stay awake! Borrow an idea from the airlines: show a movie. Rent (or buy) a TV/VCR made to play in your vehicle, hit "play" and go. Portable DVD players are more affordable these days and they can be a lifesaver on a long trip!

Make goodie bags for your kids to keep them occupied on the long trip. For the bag itself, use an old book bag or backpack, lunch box, shopping bag, small suitcase or a small purse. The length of the trip may end up determining the appropriate size of the travel knapsack. If you are traveling by plane, try to use something that closes tightly to avoid spills. Make sure you have a separate bag for each child to avoid arguments. You might want to consider labeling items with the child's name for extra certainty. Fill bags with the same items if your children are near in age or have similar interests. Some suggestions for items to include are: spiral notebook, colored pencils, washable markers, story books, activity books, magnetic games, card games, travel-size board games, kazoo, hand held electronic games, sticker books, non-melting crayons, coloring books, Mad-Libs, magnifying glass, paper dolls, magic slates, invisible ink books, small cars, finger puppets, small dolls/ action figures, felt books with stick-ons, blunt scissors, sewing cards, puzzles, pipe cleaners, slinky, origami paper, books on tape, and a tape player or CD player and headphones.

Let your child help you pack the bag and encourage him/ her to think about what he/ she wants to take on the trip. Allow your children to choose their favorite toys to place in the knapsack. Do not forget to pack your child's security items such as a blanket or stuffed animal. That could surely spell disaster.

You may wish to include snacks to tide your children over between meals. Choose snacks carefully to avoid messes and stomach aches. Avoid sticky fruits and drinks that you cannot re-close and pack snacks in zipper bags for easy clean-up. Some travel-safe snacks are: fruit rolls, animal crackers, raisins, bottled water, sliced apples, carrot sticks, bananas, and small bags of cereal.

Traveling as a family and avoiding frustrations


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