Sane Family Travel

by | May 29, 2009


Most of us have experienced the infamous family vacation - kids shouting over seating arrangements and fighting over toys; parents glassy-eyed and exhausted, as a piping voice asks for the thousandth time, "Are we there yet?" Then, the family dog throws up in the back seat of the car. Isn't it high time to change our road trips from family fiascos into family fun?

When the Pets Go

Not willing to leave man's best friend at home? Understandable. But keep in mind that traveling puts a lot of stress on animals; so before you leave, take the time to make your trip as uncomplicated as possible.

The most important thing about traveling with pets is to be prepared. Having the proper knowledge and supplies is essential. The fewer surprises, the better.

First, consider your pet's health. Is she pregnant? Ill? Very old? Recovering from surgery? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you should probably do your friend a favor and leave her at home or in a kennel.

If you've deemed your pet voyage-worthy, start adapting him to his carrier a month before your trip. At the beginning, leave him in the carrier for a short time, and then gradually increase it to an hour. Give your pet a few treats while he is inside so he'll learn to like it (or at least tolerate it).

Make sure the hotel where you are staying allows pets. If you don't find out in advance, you could be in big trouble when you reach your destination. You can search for pet-friendly hotels in and out of the United States at

If you are flying with your pet, check with the airlines beforehand to see if they have any restrictions or fees. Flying can put extreme pressure on pets, so most veterinarians encourage driving. Make sure to check on restrictions for your particular breed, just in case it is one that has unique problems with travel (such as pug-nosed animals). And don't tranquilize your pet - it may seem like a good idea, but it's the top cause of death for pets during air travel.

Sadly, many pets get lost while traveling; this increases the need to have proper identification on your pet. The microchip, a licensing device implanted by your vet, is the best option, especially for cats. A collar with a current license listing your phone number is also very helpful. Also, bring along a current picture of your pet in case he or she does get lost so you can show it to locals.

Have Children, Will Travel

Although leaving pets at home is usually an option, leaving kids usually isn't. Unless you're going on a second honeymoon, chances are the munchkins will be coming along.

Let your kids help you decide where to take that special trip. Give them a few choices and discuss the pros and cons of each. True, Disneyland is sure to be suggested over and over, but if you show them the merits of Yellowstone and Yosemite, they are bound to get excited. Traveling is always better if the kids are eager about the destination.

Bring along lots of food and drinks. The last thing you want on your road trip is to be plagued by the dreaded "I'm hungry!" refrain. Pack things that won't make a mess, like fruit snacks, bite-sized crackers, and hard candy. And keep the food easily accessible - you don't want to have to be digging around, looking for the munchies without a seatbelt on.

You never know what can happen on a trip, so prepare for the worst. A first-aid kit is a must, along with plastic bags (for motion sickness), baby wipes (for dirty hands and faces), and trash bags. Medicines such as children's pain relievers, motion sickness drugs, and any needed prescription drugs should be the first things you pack.

The trick to peace in the car is to keep boredom levels low. When your kids are entertained, they are far less likely to start a wrestling match for amusement. As far as "onboard entertainment" goes, engaging toys like crayons, word search games, or electronic Sudoku games (for older kids) are your best bet. Buy a small tub with a snap-on lid for each child. This keeps all their possessions in the same place and also provides a desk for them to color on. Books on tape or CD are a great option for the whole family, especially when considering series like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, which are written for children and yet entertaining for adults. And don't forget the age-old favorites - stories and songs. This can be a wonderful time to share your own childhood experiences with your little ones.

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