"Are We There Yet?"
Gwynne Spencer

If you dread the idea of piling your kids into the car and traveling, think of the poor mothers trapped in their covered wagons for ten months on the Oregon trail. Planning and foresight can make travel not just endurable but enriching. Here are some kid-tested ways to keep peace in your wagons while you travel with kids.

     No sugar allowed before or during the trip. This means
     No candy
     No gum
     No snack foods with sugar in them
     No sodas
     No Lifesavers
     No caffeine allowed.
     No Coke, Pepsi, etc.
     No iced tea
     No chocolate

Even though sugar may temporarily pacify a whining child, in 90 minutes or less it will plunge this same child into a blood-sugar crisis resulting in crying, hitting, whining or worse.

2. Prepare them with a map, and an idea of how long the journey really is, marking off milestones so they get a feeling of progress. This will cut down on "How much longer?" and "Are we there yet?"

3. Give each child a "travel pack" into which all treasures must fit. If objects are found on the floor of the car, or under the seat, or stuck to the dog (or another sibling), they go into the trash. Call it a "keeping bag". Make sure your child's name, address, phone, and destination information is inside the keeping bag in case it accidentally grows legs.

4. Assign window seats using a chart so you can accurately recall who did and did not get a seat by the window. There should be a rule that you cannot have more children than you have windows. If you make the assignment of windows a boring and tedious task, worthy of a nitpicking award, your children may eventually lose all interest in who gets a window just to avoid listening to your litany of who already HAD a window seat.

5. Take special precautions for the carsick prone child. Seasick bands really do work as do dermal patches that release chemicals to counteract motion sickness. Teach your kids some sort of easy signal to tell you they are REALLY going to throw up and that you REALLY need to stop the car/ pass the barf bag NOW. It will save a lot of grief, and chain-reaction sickness in the vehicle. Restricting fluids sometimes helps, since the ailment is related to fluid in the ears. Antihistamines help, too.

6. Take your pit-stops as seriously as the Unsers do. Every two hours, whether it's raining, sleeting, snowing, or the end of the world-- stop the car. Get out. If there's a gas station, empty the kids and fill the tank. If there's nothing out there but "nothing", let them use the car door as a privacy screen. Always carry toilet paper and wipes in the car.

7. Stop to eat and stretch and get at least twenty feet away from each other at least every four hours. You'll like each other a whole lot more at the end of the day.

8. Zero tolerance of name-calling or bad manners.

9. Let each child choose snacks themselves (see #1). Encourage sharing.
Reward good behavior constantly. Do not tolerate bad behavior.

10. Each child should have a Walkman/Discman with headphones, and lots of
batteries. How about listening to Harry Potter during the journey? ($49.95
for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on CD's is a bargain). Many libraries
lend books-on-tape/cd for free. It's a great way to read away the miles.
Gwynne Spencer has survived thousands of miles with kids and invites your
responses at PO Box 121, Mancos CO 81328. She is also the author of "What's
Cooking in Children's Literature?" (Linworth) which connects snack recipes
and kids' books.