Gwynne Spencer never goes on a trip without her bag of Cheerios.
The Albuquerque businesswoman and mother of a 10-year-old boy learned early on that traveling with children can be rewarding - with proper planning and imagination."One of the very first times I traveled with my son, Matthew, we got stuck on a plane in Atlanta for four hours. All the kids on the plane were going crazy while we waited for it to take off," recalled Spencer.
"I happened to have a bag of Cheerios, and I quickly found several amusing ways to use them: You can string them on a shoestring and make a necklace or bracelet. You can lick them and stack them up, or put them all over your face."
American Automobile Association spokesman Bobby Santiago said there are three basic rules for traveling with children: Keep them safe, keep them occupied and tailor your mileage and stops to their eating habits.
"Before you begin your trip, sit down with your children and lay down a few rules of your own," Santiago said. "Tell them there should be no distracting the driver, no playing with door handles and no sticking hands or heads out of open windows."
He also suggests bringing along plenty of favorite toys and reserve a surprise or two for when the trip's novelty begins to wear off. Playing cards, simple puzzles and favorite song or story tapes are good bring-alongs.
Spencer suggests a number of books that can occupy a child: "The Little Follow The Dots Book" by Anna Pomaska, "The Annotated Ultimate Alphabet" by Mike Wilks, "Animalia" by Graeme Base, "Find Waldo Now" by Martin Handford, "The Car Trip" by Helen Oxenbury and "We're Taking An Airplane Trip" by Dinah L. Moche.
And Gulliver Travels publishes city guides for children that include ideas on putting together travel diaries, historical and cultural information on cities, safety tips and games.
If you're short on manufactured games, you can teach the children to play games that count or list license plates, roadside signs or categories of things seen along the highway.
Involve older children with the navigation or the keeping of mileage or expense records.
To avoid car sickness, keep the car cool and well ventilated.
Carry a pillow and blanket for nap times. Take plenty of breaks to allow the children to expend pent-up energy. A picnic lunch is a good way to do this.