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Tips for a Better Road Trip Few things are more American than the long road trip. Kids in the back arguing about who crossed the imaginary line and Mom and Dad in front threatening to “turn this car around if you kids can’t behave.” By Cindy Richards
Bring a map.
Yes, the GPS is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. But it’s not infallible, it won’t teach your kids how to read a map and it won’t tell you that you’re only 10 miles from the site of the world’s largest ball of twine.
Food is the fastest way to calm the snarling masses. But think car-friendly
Make your summer road trips a family bonding experience. foods. That means small finger foods, such as grapes, that are less likely to leave a mess behind. And the only beverage allowed should be water. It’s better for everyone and it won’t stain the seats. (See our Healthy Snacks story on Page 34 of this Summer Travel Issue for more car-friendly foods.)
Yes, it can be electronic. Those portable DVD players and smartphone apps have secured their place in the road trip world.
But don’t give up some old fashioned family fun. The alphabet game (find something outside the car that starts with a letter of the alphabet), Mad Libs and other family conversation starter games are real road trip bonding experiences.
Get some exercise.
Plan to stop at least every two hours to let the kids run around for 15 minutes. It will prolong the trip, but it also might save your sanity (and theirs). If the natives
Get Your Car in Gear The key to a good road trip is … a good car. Really. There is no bigger vacation buzzkill than a broken down vehicle and spending hours (and maybe thousands of dollars) at the repair shop. So, before you embark on your road trip, Audra Fordin, a fourth-generation auto mechanic in Flushing, New York, recommends taking your car to the mechanic for a check-up. Make sure all of the maintenance is up to date (oil changed, air filter cleaned, tires checked) and top off all of the fluids, including the windshield washer fluid. Once you’re on the road, keep your eye on the gas gauge. “Exits can be far and
few between when you reach unfamiliar territory,” she says. “Try not to let your gas gauge go below the quarter mark. This will save you time, money and hassle.” Finally, if your car starts to overheat, put the heater on HIGH (even if it’s 100 degrees outside) to bring the hot air from the engine into the cabin. This should help to buy you more time to get to the service station. Likewise, if your charging system light comes on while you are driving, shut off all the “extras” (a/c, interior lights, radio, defroster, if it’s daytime, shut off the headlights too). Going bare minimum will relieve some of the load on the engine—maybe enough to allow you to reach a repair shop. Special Section
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f you’ve taken a family vacation or ever traveled with kids, chances are you’ve been on a road trip. Maybe it was great; maybe it wasn’t. Regardless, it likely provided fodder for years worth of great family stories. Here are some tips to help ensure your road trip is great, and memorable.
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A GPS is great, but maps still have their place on a road trip. get restless miles before the next rest stop is planned, try a little in-the-car exercise with a rousing round of “Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes.” Even little ones in car seats can play along. Sing each round faster and mix up the instructions (ears, nose, legs and toes), until everyone dissolves into a fit of giggles.
Name that trip.
This is a way to make each trip unique,
especially if you’re headed on the same road to the same Grandma’s for the umpteenth time. Call it the Summer to Remember Tour or the Granny Gerta’s Greatest Hits Trip. Let each kid come up with a name, then have a secret ballot to vote on the winner. Click on the compass! Read how you can ensure your children won't be fighting on your next road trip!
Tips for Saving Gas
✔ Slow down. If you’re on the highway, driving 60 miles per hour instead of 70 mph will add as much as four miles per gallon of gas over the duration of your trip. Likewise, traveling at a constant rate of speed, versus fluctuating between 55 and 75 miles per hour, will add another four miles per gallon. ✔ Turn the car off when it’s not moving. You’ll save gas and reduce the risk of the people inside being poisoned by the carbon monoxide gas released from the exhaust. ✔ Use the air conditioner when you’re on the highway. Having the windows open creates an aerodynamic drag that causes an engine to work harder, which uses more gas. On side roads, turn off the A/C and open the windows ✔ Plan your trip to avoid backups. It’s better for your gas mileage and your blood pressure.
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Where, Oh Where, Can My Baby Go? Consider international
I never would have tried this when my kids were babies, but every time I have run into young families traveling abroad with babies, they say the same thing: International travel with babies is easy. For one thing, babies sleep anywhere and any time. So no worries about jet lag. For another, many cultures are family-focused and baby-centric (Mexico and Italy, in particular) and welcome babies at hotels, restaurants and attractions. If you’re still nursing, there are no food worries. And babies used to sleeping in strollers or baby carriers can do that in Paris as easily as Peoria. So baby naps while you walk around to see the sites.
Go to the beach.
The beach is a great laid-back destination for kids of all ages, but it’s particularly good for babies and toddlers. Just remember to bring or rent a good beach umbrella to protect that fragile baby skin from the sun.
Rent a bigger place.
Hotel rooms can get really crowded once you move in the crib, stroller, car seat, diaper bag and all the other equipment that comes with a baby these days. Opt for a condo, apartment or house instead. They come complete with kitchens, so there’s a fridge and microwave for preparing the baby’s food and they have a separate bedroom with a door that closes so parents can stay up and get to know one another after the baby goes to sleep. Having access to a kitchen is a key to saving money when traveling with a family, regardless of the kids’ ages, simply because you can save so much on restaurant meals.
I know--you never would have considered an all-inclusive before the baby. But consider it now. Club Med does a particularly good job. The buffet includes a section with baby foods in jars and the baby corner, open 24 hours a day, contains the necessary facilities for preparing meals: blender, sterilizer (provided on request), microwave and refrigerator. The Baby Welcome package for children from 4 months to 2 years includes amenities to help make traveling with infants and toddlers easier—including bottle warmers, a stroller to use during your vacation and even a baby bathtub, which significantly reduces the equipment you have lug along.
Try a cruise
A growing number of cruise lines will take children in diapers, including Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships offering the Royal Babies program. Cruises also are great options for families with kids of different ages, right up to and through the teen years. There are so many activities and so many kid-friendly options that everyone ought to be able to find something they want to do.
Take a train
Kids under 3 are fascinated by trains and when my kids were babies, they fell asleep almost immediately, lulled by the gentle rocking. As they got a little older, the freedom to toddle up and down the aisles as needed to burn off a little energy was a precious gift. It takes a little longer to get there, but just being on the train can make getting there the highlight of the trip. Special Section
Click on the compass! Read how you can make a trip to Disney baby-friendly!
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Oh, for those carefree B.C. (Before Children) days of travel. You shoved a change of underwear, an extra pair of socks and your toothbrush into a backpack and you were ready for a tour of Europe. But now there’s a baby in your life. It doesn’t mean you can no longer travel. It just means you’ll be traveling heavy now—who knew babies needed so much equipment? But, how do you decide where to go with a baby in tow? Consider these six things when deciding what trip is right for you and your baby. By Cindy Richards
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Why All-Inclusives Are Right for Families Travel snobs like to scoff at the idea of an all-inclusive resort. But once you have a family, an all-inclusive resort can be a gift. Why? Let us count the ways. By Cindy Richards The dirty little secret of family vacations is: They aren’t always fun for the parents. At all-inclusives, parents can relax because there’s no major trip planning involved. Just get up in the morning, check the activity sheet and decide what you want to do that day. And, since there are a limited number of additional fees, there’s less need to monitor spending along the way.
● All you can eat buffets
My first all-inclusive experience was a visit to the beautiful Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort with my son, who was 11 and an incredibly picky eater. Our vacations were stressful affairs during which we tried to find a restaurant with something he would eat, only to find he didn’t like the food once it arrived. Then we had to decide: Should we blow the family vacation budget on another meal for him, or let him go hungry?
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● Parents can have fun too
● Lots of activity choices
Because all-inclusive family resorts are aimed at including all ages, there are a plethora of activities, from kids’ clubs that entertain the little ones so Mom and Dad can have a little free time to teen-friendly activities designed to keep older kids smiling. I was shocked by the sheer number and variety of activities offered by the Club Med Ixtapa Pacific during my family’s stay there. The resort has kids clubs broken down by ages from 4 months to 18 years. My biggest shock was seeing more than a dozen normally surly teens laughing and having a great time. They had taken over the big pool (and kicked out the adults, which may be what led to the smiles) in an activity organized by one of the cool Club Med G.O.s (Gentils Organisateur, or Gracious/ Nice Organizers).
● More Predictable Cost
This, of course, is the No. 1 reason to choose an all-inclusive resort. You know, for the most part, how much this family vacation will cost. No more need to keep a running total of every bagel you buy or Diet Coke you drink in the hope of bringing the family vacation in or under budget. Click on the compass! Read about the best Caribbean all-inclusives for families.
All-inclusives are great for all ages.
How to Choose an All-Inclusive Resort There are many variations on the all-inclusive theme. But the types of destinations most likely to have all-inclusive vacation rates are large resorts, dude ranches and cruises. How do you know which venue is right for your family? What do you like to do? If you like to stay in one place and be pampered, opt for a resort. If you’re a cowboy or cowgirl at heart, try a dude ranch with its horseback riding, fishing, hiking and other outdoorsy adventures. If you like vacations that show you more than one spot in the world, consider a cruise that stops in several ports of call. Read the fine print Does the price include the activities your family will most want to do? If you’re a water-loving family, be sure the sailboats, peddle boats and swim toys are included in the price. If you like fine dining, check to see whether the upscale sit-down restaurants are included along with the buffet line. If you don’t consider it a vacation until you’ve had a spa treatment, check the treatments and rates at the spa before booking your trip. Will you use what you pay for? An all-inclusive that includes booze isn’t a deal if you don’t drink. Consider consulting a travel agent A good travel agent will ask about your family’s needs and recommend a resort or cruise ship that is most likely to meet those needs. It is possible to book everything online these days, but when you’re spending big bucks for a seven-day all-inclusive vacation, it’s nice to get the advice of someone who’s been there-- and might have enough influence to score an upgrade to a better room.
At the Beaches resort, that was never an issue. With a buffet line stretching across the room, I encouraged him to take a spoonful of anything that looked good and try it. If he liked it, he could return to the buffet line for more. In the worst case scenario, he could always get a plate full of fruit. He’s now 17 and no longer a picky eater. Instead, he’s a teenage eater, which can wreak even worse havoc on a family travel budget. Once again, those all-you-can-eat buffets are a family travel budget saver.
Traveling with Grandma: Multigenerational Travel T Start early
Stephanie Diehl, owner of Travel Designed by Stephanie, an Illinois travel agency, who has taken her husband, their two kids and four grandkids on two trips, recommends starting early because it’s tough to find a week that works when you have to coordinate among several working adults, kids’ school vacation schedules, summer sports and the other demands of busy, modern family life. Kim Moldofsky, who travels frequently with her parents, her two sons and husband--and sometimes with her brother’s family and a cousin’s family as well--said that traveling over the winter holiday break
Pack your bag, not expectations, on a multigenerational trip.
from school makes the scheduling easier. The destinations are more crowded, but there are fewer other activities, such as summer sports, to schedule around.
Choose a destination
Once you have a date, it’s time to think about where you’ll go. If you’ll be traveling with family members of varying ages, interests and physical abilities, travel experts suggest cruises, all-inclusive resorts or house rentals. “All-inclusive resorts are designed to keep guests on the property,” said Diane McDavitt, president of Luxury Link Travel Group, “thus they offer multitudes of activities, services and amenities.” Cruises also offer a variety of entertainment and activity options, with an added perk: the ships travel so you get to see more of the world without the hassle of packing your bags and moving. Some families opt to rent a big house at the beach or some exotic location. It has the advantage of keeping everyone together, but Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, founder of Momaboard.com, warns that it’s important to get a big enough place to ensure everyone can have their own space. “We’re an Indian family, so there is lots of togetherness. If my husband had his way he would have us all in a loft in sleeping bags sharing a bathroom because that’s how much he loves proximity,” she wrote in an email. “My firm rule is that everyone should have the option to shut a room door and get some privacy.”
It’s fine to include some mandatory family togetherness--requiring everyone to have dinner together each night, for example-but it’s also important to be flexible enough to ensure every vacationer gets a chance to do things they want to do according to their own interests and physical needs. That Special Section
can involve many parts of the trip--from allowing time for little ones (and maybe Grandpa) to get in an afternoon nap to considering everyone’s ability to walk long distances before planning a five-mile hike.
Finally, the planning process should include a thorough discussion of who will pay for what. When Francesca Folinazzo travels with her husband, mom and daughter, everyone buys their own plane ticket, Folinazzo pays for the lodging and her mom pays for most meals. “It kind of evens out,” the Chicago native said. After the decisions have been made and the money paid, multigenerational travelers need to do one more thing before heading off on the adventure, said Nancy Schretter, managing editor for Family Travel Network: “Leave the expectations at home.” “Multigenerational family vacations are one of most anticipated events of the year, so it’s easy for grandparents and parents to get all misty-eyed envisioning the great memories and intimate bonding moments that will be created on their trip,” she said. “If we’re being honest, however, we know that family vacations never go exactly as planned. There may be bumpy moments, relationship issues may surface, travel snafus happen, the weather might not cooperate, and the kids might have a meltdown or two. It’s OK. Just take the experience as it comes, don’t dwell on it and go with the flow. “Sometimes those vacations where things don’t go as planned make the best vacation memories of all.” Click on the compass! What you need to know before you take the whole family to Disney World.
raveling with an extended family requires more advance planning, more communication and more flexibility than a typical family vacation. “Listening is a lost art when it comes to travel planning, but it’s crucial to a harmonious trip,” said Kelly Merritt, author of The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel.
Snack right, even on the road
Fruit is a must. Choose less messy, easier-toeat options such as bananas and apples. For long car trips, freeze grapes for a treat that also will help keep the cooler cold.
A family vacation should be fun. And there should be treats. Family vacations are the time to say “yes” to ice cream, chips and candy--in moderation. And never in the car or on the plane. By The TravelingMom Staff
Protein-rich snacks such as string cheese, nuts and hardboiled eggs will help keep the driver awake and keep everyone’s blood sugar levels stable.
Kid-friendly veggies such as mini carrots, cucumbers and celery sticks are easy to eat. Cut them into long thin strips and call them swords to make them seem more enticing. If your kids will only eat veggies with dip, save that snack for the roadside stops. Or get your kids their veggie allotment by ordering veggies instead of fries when you stop for a meal.
What to drink? Water, of course. It’s better for all of you and, unlike juice for the kids or coffee for the adults, it won’t leave a sticky stain if it spills on the cloth seats.
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he last thing you need is a sugar-fueled meltdown when there’s another two hours on your road trip or a ground stop on your plane. And those salty snacks will just lead to thirsty passengers who will drink more and then need to pee more, which will lead to more stops, which will delay your arrival, which will make Dad mad. These healthy snacks will satisfy little (and big) appetites and keep everyone feeling energetic and ready to go when you reach your destination.
This is a special section for Project You Magazine sponsored by TravelingMom.com.