Does this sound familiar?

"I'm hungry!""I'm bored. Are we there yet?"

"Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom."

Such are the sounds of the family vacation.

With a little planning, however, parents can quickly tame the savage beasts that overtake children while en route to a vacation spot.

Cynthia Carney Johnson, who edits Parents magazine's travel section, says the cardinal rule to remember when traveling with children is: "Be flexible."

"There are so many variables when traveling with children. They get tired more easily. Your day-to-day activities have to be flexible, you have to learn to go with the flow," she says.

You also have to know how to keep little hands and minds occupied.

One idea is to pack plenty of small toys and games in a medium-sized plastic storage container so everything can be kept together. Whether you travel by plane, train or car, a storage container is a handy way to keep everything together, much more efficient than loose crayons and game pieces.

For older children, Nintendo Gameboys are a favorite; a Walkman cassette player is also good. Many games come in special travel size with magnetized pieces, including such perennial favorites as checkers and chess.

If your child doesn't suffer from travel sickness, magazines and books will provide long hours of entertainment. Surprise them with new ones after you get on the road.

Traveling with babies can be a problem. Pack plenty of bottles for infants.

"A trip can be delayed for any number of reasons, and you don't want to get caught without enough bottles or whatever your child needs," Mrs. Johnson said.

For older children, non-leaky sandwiches and graham crackers make great travel snacks. Juice boxes are good, too; they minimize spills. If a vacation is going to require a plane trip, parents can request special kid's meals when making a reservations.

And give kids a break.

"Stop regularly so kids can stretch. It allows them to burn off some pent-up energy."

If you're on a plane or train, occasionally walk with your child up and down the aisle.

Not everything is going to work with every child all the time, but a little patience and a lot of imagination can make travel time easier on a parent's nerves.

(Cherry Rich is a reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald in Alabama. )