Planning can make it easier to keep small children happy during a long drive.
“Break the trip up and don’t be in a big rush to get there,” said Kim Whiteman, a Marion mother of four, whose family recently made trips to Indiana and New Mexico. “Stop and eat. Make the trip part of the vacation. We stop and pick up sandwiches and eat at a park along the way. Be able to let them get out, actually let them stretch their legs, find a small park that they can play in.”
Whiteman takes along interactive, audio, and dry erase books.
“My kids are easy, easy travelers. They are 8, 6, 3, and 3 months,” Whiteman said.
Some parents find it helpful to drive during the night when kids are tired and will sleep much of the way.
“We made a trip longer by avoiding larger cities,” Whiteman said. “On the same hand you can avoid all the traffic.”
Preschool teacher Michele Gossen from Peabody suggests packing snacks and activities.
“Pack nonperishable foods like pretzels, granola bars, goldfish crackers, animal crackers, teddy grahams, or dry cereal in individual snack bags,” Gossen said. “Pack a cooler of bottled water, which will save money and cut down on sugary drinks. Include healthy snacks like grapes and carrot sticks.”
Gossen recommends taking a “busy box” of items like coloring books, twistable crayons that don’t melt in a hot car, stickers, paper, miniature cars, a small Lego set, dolls, pipe cleaners to bend and twist, stuffed animals, and books. Older children can enjoy hidden picture pages and hangman games.
She also suggests a CD player or stories, movies, or songs downloaded to a smartphone or tablet to entertain children.
Family games such as “I Spy” can keep children paying attention and learning during a trip.
Sheriff Rob Craft also offers safety tips.
“Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination,” Craft said. “Check with KDOT for road conditions and if they’re doing any road work. Keep an eye on the weather conditions. This time of year you can have anything.”
Craft urges adults to buckle children in a car seat, booster seat, or seatbelt.
“The upmost important thing is buckle up,” Craft said. “Buckle up for the appropriate age and size of the child.”
Craft also recommends checking tires and making sure radiator hoses and fan belts are in good shape before setting out.
“On really long trips, I recommend burning just the top half of the gas tank,” Craft said. “I fill up at half a tank — always have and always will.”
Hillsboro police chief Dan Kinning said adults should never leave children alone in a vehicle and should keep them under control.
Once at the destination, he recommends checking hotel rooms for dangerous objects and moving items such as coffee makers out of the reach of young children.
“Don’t let your child answer the door,” Kinning said.