Travel

10 essentials for a happy family road trip

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Road trips can be much more enjoyable for the whole family when you take these tips.

If you remember the road trips of your youth, you may shudder as you recall being crammed in the backseat of your station wagon between your siblings with no air conditioning, only wide stretches of open road as your parents argued over the directions and your little brother whined, "Are we there yet?"

Today, taking to the road as a family is much less of a hassle, and can even be – dare we say it – fun. Advanced technology plays a large role in the success of family road trips, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you, your spouse and the kids enjoy the journey as much as the destination. 

1. Books, magazines and comics. These classic forms of entertainment will never be beat when it comes to travel utility. Each family member should be allowed to bring his or her own publications along for the ride.

2. Travel games. Portable versions of games like Sorry! or Scrabble are great for the kids in the back seat, but make sure you have something the whole family can play, like the license plate game or 20 questions. 

3. Crafts for the kids. Do your youngsters love to color or work with their hands? There are plenty of portable crafts that make minimal mess in the car. Think coloring books and markers, dry erase boards, Magna Doodles, pipe cleaners and origami, Real Simple recommends. 

4. Digital media. If your car has DVD players or your kids have iPads or other tablets, make sure you either bring discs or have the right types of entertainment downloaded ahead of time. Other handheld devices like the Nintendo DS could occupy kids for hours. Make sure you have headphones and car chargers for these devices! 

5. Books on tape. Do a little research before your trip to find books that are appropriate for the kids but still entertaining for Mom and Dad. Harry Potter is one classic, and parents might also enjoy hearing favorites like Rold Dahl over again. 

6. A MacGyver kit. In addition to bandages, anti-bacterial wipes, sunscreen and pain killers, include some other key items like dental floss, a needle and thread and travel scissors in this kit. It should prepare you for any bumps – literal and figurative – in the road. 

7. Individually packed snacks. Sharing big bags of pretzels or chips is fine, but you might be able to keep the car neater (and prevent fights among kids) by choosing individually packaged snacks. Trail mix is one healthy and filling choice. Fruit also counts – oranges, apples and bananas are all travel-friendly.

8. Garbage bags. Start with one garbage bag in the car with you, but pack a few extra in the back just in case. This will keep the car neat and tidy as you consume your snacks. 

9. Plenty of water. Stack a cooler with either reusable bottles of water or rows of bottled H2O. Consider reserving an entire cooler just for water, and keeping a small lunchbox of water and snacks in the front seat with you for easy access, Health.com recommends.. 

10. Maps – and the batteries to power them.  Although you likely won't be poring over a paper map these days, it's just as important to make sure you have the capability to follow the Google Maps on your phone or the route your GPS is giving you. Some GPS devices plug into the car and others have external attachments, so make sure you have all the chargers and accessories you need so you're not up a creek without a paddle, Refinery29 reports. You should be sure to pack car chargers for your cell phone, too – even if you're not using it for directions, some stretches of road can have minimal cell phone signals and will wear out your battery quickly.