Vacations are highly anticipated events, but long car rides can seem even longer with young children on board. Young children get anxious, fussy, whiney, full of questions and irritable when they have been in the car for too long. This upcoming summer, my family has many vacations planned that will require ten hours or more spent in our car. For months now, I've been dreading the long car rides and what we will do to keep my active and energetic son from going crazy and making me lose my sanity, as well.

I've discovered that to keep a long road trip pleasant, you must be prepared. It can make the difference between a happy adventure or the end to all future family vacations. Here are a few ideas that can help you keep children of all ages entertained while enjoying family road trips.

Make an art kit

Many children love to draw and be creative. With just a few basic items, you can make your child her own art kit that she can enjoy while in the car. All you need is an empty DVD case, paper and color pencils, markers or crayons.

To make the kit, you simply stick the paper inside the left side of the DVD case. On most DVD cases, there are little hooks you can place the paper under to stay. You can stick plain paper, coloring pages and activity pages in the art kit. The right side of the case can hold all of the drawing utensils. However, it is wise not to stick all of the sheets of paper or activity pages in at once as your child might go through them all in one setting. Mix it up and make sure there are plenty of activities left for the long drive home.

Provide hourly gifts

For many children, time seems to go much slower when riding in the car. You can help your children count down the hours in the car with hourly gifts. Before you leave, wrap a present for each hour you will spend in the car. These gifts could be special treats or activities such as a book or audiobook, a game, or even small figurines or toys for the kids to enjoy. Your children will have fun opening each gift, and it can help pass the time until it's time to open the next hourly gift.

Utilize household items

Most of the items you need to keep your children entertained are found right in your own home. Aluminum foil or pipe cleaners are excellent tools for creating statues, figurines and other objects. They can also be undone and reshaped easily.

Cookie sheets make great tables for children to play games or draw. You can also go the extra mile and place magnets on dress up dolls, letters, numbers or other objects that your child can stick on the cookie sheet. Plus, the magnets make an easy way to avoid losing pieces.

Let children take pictures

Children love to mimic their parents. While on vacation they usually see a camera in their parents' hand. If your child is old enough, give him his own camera. This could be an inexpensive digital camera or a disposable camera. Taking pictures of objects outside and inside the car can keep a child occupied for quite some time.

Always have snacks

Of course, the perfect road trip involves snacks, and a satisfied belly will keep your children happier for a much longer period of time. There are many snack options for road trips including crackers, fruit snacks, gummies and even vegetables. Keep a variety with you at all times. However, stay away from all hard candies or anything that your child could choke on. Also, provide a water bottle or sippy cup for each child. Just be careful with the type of liquid you place in the bottle because you don't want to find spoiled milk or a large punch stain in your car interior days later.

Bring fun toys

There are plenty of car-friendly toys that are easy to pack, without taking up too much space. One that you may not have thought about is a Tamagotchi. Made popular in the 90s, these small electronic toys are a great way to entertain younger children as they take care of their virtual "pet".

By being prepared and having several fun activities planned, family road trips are the perfect opportunity to create memories that your entire family will cherish. It just requires a little effort.

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