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Ease Stress When Taking Children on Trips: Helpful Hints for Families Heading Out for the Holidays

Nov 23, 2020 05:00PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN

Cookie tray come filled with holiday favorites like gingerbread and sugar cookies. LadyCakes Bakery

As the classic poem—and later, song—says, “Over the river and through the wood to grandfather’s house we go.” While the lyrics sound merry, in reality a long car trip can be anything but. Let’s face it; the little ones get incredibly bored. However, there are ways to make a lengthy excursion a little more fun for all. 

“Every year we head up to Michigan for Thanksgiving to see family,” says Susan Henson of Fort Myers. She travels with her two elementary school-age children and husband, Mike. Her tips to ease trip stress include engaging in activities and games, taking along some electronic devices, and mapping out (ahead of time) some fun places to stop. 

Non-messy games and activities can include Etch A Sketch, word finders, crossword puzzles, sticker activity books and magnetic board games. Families can play such games as the alphabet game, in which participants spot things along the road to find consecutive letters of the alphabet. From A to Z, look for letters on billboards, road signs and bumper stickers, for example. 

Family members can write lists to keep track of who notices the highest number of different license plates. Or U.S. maps can be downloaded and printed so children can cross off a state when they spot its license plate. There are also a variety of games with non-messy or “less messy” parts that are perfect for road trips—such as Travel Bingo and spirographs. Although more and more vehicles now have video players, audiobooks are always a good option that can be enjoyed by all passengers. Favorites with “holiday spirit” include A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman. And singing along to holiday songs will make any trip more festive.

The American Automobile Association offers trip highlights, information and maps at is another option for planning. Find interstate rest stops, with restrooms, pet areas, places to stretch, and vending machines, at In addition to using GPS, travelers should check to help with route planning.

It’s best to plan where you’ll spend the night and book ahead of time. When traveling with children, you might consider hotels and motels that offer amenities such as swimming pools and playgrounds. That will help entertain them and enable them to get some exercise. On-site restaurants, or accommodations offering breakfast, also make things easier. 

Remember, littles ones may want to take along a favorite toy or blanket. “And when packing the car, don’t forget the treats,” notes Henson. She chooses ones that aren’t messy, such as trail mix and juice boxes. Whole-grain crackers or pretzels, cereals, and sliced fruit and vegetables are popular. Many children love cubed or string cheese, yogurt tubes and that old standby—sandwiches. Another idea is to pack holiday treats such as cookies, candy canes, chocolate coins, and mixed or candied nuts.

Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.


LadyCakes Bakery
2924 Del Prado Blvd. S., Unit 7 & 8, Cape Coral 

Starting the second week of December and up through Christmas Eve, LadyCakes Bakery creates decorated holiday sugar cookies, and snickerdoodle, chocolate crinkle and gingerbread cookies—for cookie trays or small gift boxes. “We also can create undecorated sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies if you would like to decorate them with your loved ones,” adds co-owner Bess Charles.

Norman Love Confections Chocolate Salons
Fort Myers, Estero, Naples, Sarasota 

A special limited-edition candy cane-shaped gift box with 10 chocolates from its 2020 Holiday Collection is available at Norman Love Confections Chocolate Salons. Other items—which children will especially love—include holiday gift pails filled with goodies; tasty peppermint bark; and a host of other treats from the 2020 Holiday Collection.