Seeking trip tips, tales from parents

Parents and caregivers of children, please share your tales about traveling with youngsters. I want to hear your tips on ways to successfully get to your destination with all your hair on your head in the color it was when you left your home. Also, share horror stories. Your letters may be printed in an upcoming column with the aim of helping new parents not go down the same road we have. I am the foster mom for my young cousins -- two boys ages 7 and 9 -- and this past weekend, we made a road trip to Southern California to visit their mom, former foster mom, as well as meet our new child protective services social worker. The trip down was pure agony because the kids played loudly despite constant reminders to keep their voices down and not scream and/or squeal, which is highly distracting whether the road is empty or filled to the brim with commuters. The darlings also dropped snacks on the seat and floor of the car as well as had a food fight in the back seat that made it look like a compost heap. This was not our first trip down but it was the worst experience I have had on the road with them since they first came to live with me more than a year ago. Road trip travel tips published in this column suggest it's safer to drive during the day but in the two years of making monthly visits with the kids prior to their moving in with me, I had made the trip at night -- far less traffic the entire way, thus better gas mileage and zero heartache from sitting in bumper to bumper, gas, wallet and energy draining traffic either here or there. However, when the boys came to live with me, I thought I should heed the travel safety tips I publish and make the trip during the day. Bad idea. What is normally a six hour drive was eight hours because of ridiculous south land traffic and we had to make numerous stops along the way because every one's bladder was on different timing and the kids were adamant that they didn't have to use the restroom during our planned hourly breaks. So, I went back to my nighttime drives in which we leave in the wee hours of the morning, the kids sleep at least three quarters of the way, we encounter minimal traffic and my road trip world is relatively peaceful -- until this past weekend. My mom -- their aunt and our babysitter -- let them take a four hour nap while I was at work. In fact, they were still asleep when I got home. That meant they were wide awake and full of jelly beans and excitement for our trip. No peace for me as after four hours on the road, their noise level had gotten so bad that I threatened to turn the car around and go back home. Yes, we bring toys, activity books and gaming devices but none of that ensures a harmonious ride quite like having them sleep for several hours. Friends with kids have recommended Benodryl to knock them out. While I have shunned that idea in the past, I may have to pick some up come our next trip. So, parents and caregivers, what's your story? I am all ears.
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