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Car trip tips

  • Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Liz,

We are heading out for our annual vacation with our three children, ages 7, 10 and 13. It involves a lot of car travel. When my husband and I were kids, we used to like it most of the time, minus all the gadgets the kids have today to pass the time. The middle child has a tendency for car sickness. We also want to avoid the typical bickering. Any suggestions? We want it to be a good, safe experience.

“Loading up”


Dear “Loading up,”

Thank you for a timely question as school ends. I am always warning parents about children's decreasing ability to (1.) Entertain themselves without electronics, (2.) Just “be” in the moment, enjoying the scenery, and (3.) Enjoy family time through car games, singing and just plain pleasant conversation and storytelling.

Safety first – make sure the drivers are well-rested, have comfortable glare-reducing eyewear and necessary breaks are taken. My rule also is “the car does not start until everyone is buckled up!”

Parents should set the example. And stay buckled until the car is at a full stop and parked. No dashing into parking lots without handholding with a wise, careful, taller person.

Proper nutrition will help alertness and mood. Avoid sugary snacks and treats. Hyper kids and sugar crashes (no pun) are not good for anyone in a car.

Before you all leave any place with a restroom, every one goes, whether they need to or no. A few empty peanut butter jars with tight-fitting lids are good for emergencies – along with baby wipes.

I could go on and on about that.

Make sure each child selectively packs a book bag with their chosen entertainment. Always double-check those bags before leaving to make sure appropriate and wise choices were made. Make sure electronics are charged and chargers are brought. Investing in car chargers is a wise decision, but children should learn to be responsible and knowledgeable about their devices' usage times and charging times. Part of the use of electronics should be to map the route and find places of interest and history.

I recommend electronics breaks where you (as lame as it seems) have opportunities to learn about where you are going, talk, tell jokes, sing and yes, play corny games.

My favorite is “Share a Story” where one person starts with “Once upon a time” and then it goes to the next person, taking turns adding a sentence (or two) to the story. At first the 13-year-old may give you an eye roll, but require participation.

Lastly, for the one with tendency to suffer from motion sickness – ask your child's doctor for medical prevention advice, as well as the wrist bands and others. It is best for this child to be near the front, where they can look AHEAD. They should be armed with a small trash bag lined bucket for “just in case.” And keep some baby wipes handy too. They fix stains, clean faces and hands, clean leather – oh yeah, and babies' behinds. There is a lot of advice about car sickness, car games and other travel tips online.

If you plan ahead with your children, keep them informed and engaged with the process, they may even learn to enjoy the journey and you won't hear as many whiny “Are we there yet's.”

Safe journey and let us all know what works for you!

Just a quick note to parents and grandparents. It is so helpful for children to have a summer schedule as well as a school year one. Ease into an appropriately later bedtime, bedtime routine with summer themes, summer chores and summer safety rules. It is extremely effective when all caregivers are on the same page.

Here's to a fun, safe summer vacation filled with opportunities for learning, growing, exploring and improving relationships!


Please send your questions and comments to asksharpliz@ gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Masters-level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years of experience in mental health including serving as a school counselor, and as a consultant and mediator.

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