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Family Vacations: Getting There

Topics on
Family Vacations:

Let's Hit The Road!
Big Plans,
    Great Expectations
Packing and Prepping
Getting There
Keeping the Peace
The Art of Compromise
Fighting Boredom
Dealing with Relatives
From the Mentors
Ever heard the expression, "Getting there is half the fun"? Do you agree, or does that just sound crazy to you?

Traveling by car, plane, bus, or train can be an exciting and adventurous part of any trip, but it can also be the toughest. Being stuck in a small space with parents and siblings can turn your vacation into a marathon session of fighting, snapping, crying, teasing, and generally bugging one another.

So how can you keep the "getting there" part of your trip from becoming a nightmare? Here are a few ideas:

Going Far in a Car

  • Pack a car kit. Fill a box, bag, or over-the-seat organizer with stuff to keep you happy and busy while you're riding in the car. Take magazines, pens, paper, healthy snacks, word puzzles, handheld videogames, and whatever else might help you stay occupied. Remember: bad moods and fights often start because we're bored, so take what you need to avoid boredom.

  • Make your own space. Feeling cramped, crowded, or having someone else touching you can also start fights and arguments. If you have the room, create your own little area in the car and separate yourself from other people using pillows or other "barriers."

  • Read, listen, or watch. A good book can help pass the hours on a car trip. If you get queasy reading in a moving vehicle, consider listening to books on CD or your favorite music. Using a portable player with headphones will help avoid arguments about what everyone wants to listen to. If you have a portable DVD player, watching a movie can also make time go by quickly. For movie and audio book suggestions, check out IML's list of Cool Travel DVD's and CD's.

  • Take turns. If you have brothers or sisters, work out a schedule to share the cool stuff so that you won't bicker about it. Agree ahead of time to hand off the Gameboy every 15 minutes or alternate between your CD's and your sister's.

  • Spend time with your family. A long drive doesn't have to be something you just have to get through. It can also be a great chance to get to know your family members better, or just have fun being together. Try asking your parents or guardians what they remember from vacations when they were young. Search the radio dial for fun songs the whole family can sing along to, or sing ones from memory. Look out the car window at the places and things going by, and talk about what you see.

  • Read the map. Are you a big fan of asking "Are we there yet?" or "How much longer NOW?" Doesn't make the drive go faster, does it? Instead, try mapping out the route in an atlas or on a roadmap, and mark off each town or landmark as you travel. Being the "navigator" will help you focus on the places you're driving through and keep you excited about the trip.

  • Schedule plenty of stops. The longer people stay in a car, the more likely they are to get cranky. Help the adults plan out lots of stops along the route for bathroom breaks, a picnic lunch, scenic views, landmarks, or just to walk around, stretch, and get some fresh air. Plan on stopping at least once every two hours. When you all get back in the car, mix things up a little by trading seats.

Don't forget the games! Print out this list of Car Games that will help you pass the time and have some family fun.

Staying Sane on a Plane
Flying is way different than driving, and not just because you're several miles up in the air. In a plane, you're in a very small space, and the pilot and crew can't just stop and let you out when you need a break! You're also surrounded by strangers, many of whom are trying to work, sleep, or just relax. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Be on your best behavior. The rules about being on an airplane are fairly strict, and you have to take them seriously. Keep your voice low, never shout or yell, and treat everyone on the plane, including family members, crew members, and strangers, with respect. If you need something from a flight attendant, like a pillow, blanket, or some water, ask nicely and politely. Always obey all signs on the plane and instructions from the crew.

  • Take a nap. If being cooped up on a plane drives you nuts, try to get some sleep. While you're dreaming away, you'll be zooming towards your vacation destination.

  • Choose your seat strategically. If you and a sibling are likely to fight or argue, try not to sit next to each other. Ask a parent to sit in between you so you'll be less tempted to cause trouble.

  • Try the window. Sitting by the window on a plane can be a total blast. You'll see clouds at eye-level, what towns, rivers, and mountains look like from the air, and maybe even see the thousands of lights of a big city at night. Just be aware of the person sitting next to you. If he or she is trying to sleep and the window is letting in too much light, pulling down the shade is the considerate thing to do.

  • Try the aisle. If you're a frequent bathroom visitor, or if you need to stretch your legs once in a while, consider sitting on the aisle. You won't have to keep asking people to get up so you can get out of your seat.

  • Read or write. When you're stuck in a plane seat for hours, it's the perfect time to read a book. One great idea is to get a travel guide that tells you all about the place you're flying to. By the time you and your family land, you'll be an expert on the area! Planes are also great places to do some writing in your journal.

  • Try the in-flight entertainment. Most airplanes offer movies and radio, and some newer planes even have a television at every seat. You can check in advance to see what sorts of entertainment your plane will offer. If the options are limited, consider bringing your own music player or handheld videogame system to help you pass the time. Be sure to use these devices only when the crew lets you know it's okay.

Next: Keeping The Peace


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