"Are we there yet?"

Every parent remembers his or her first time hearing this rite-of-passage inquiry, usually about 23 miles into a 782-mile road trip traversing six states. Every parent remembers the second time as well: 24 miles into a 782-mile road trip traversing six states.

This road trip classic is soon followed by "He touched me," "she breathed on me," and "I will turn this car around right now if you don’t..." DVD players and hand-held video game consoles have done little to lessen the level of annoyance between family members forced to endure each other for nine hours in a vehicle. The following suggestions from Fathers and Sons Volvo, however, can make getting there half the fun:

  1. Make the DVD a reward. Many parents hit play on the DVD player as soon as their foot hits the accelerator. Bad idea. You’ve just lost your leverage. The DVD becomes an entitlement. Your kids turn into brats and the odds of interacting as a family plummet. A better idea is to wait an hour or two, depending on the length of the trip. Kids will appreciate it more and it will serve as a break from the monotony of counting license plates from New Hampshire.
  2. Plan your route and find places of interest. Look at a map (if you haven't forgotten, maps are those folded-up pieces of paper that show you where roads and places of interest are). Find logical places to stop every 2-3 hours. Something as simple as a park with a playground can do wonders for a kid’s restlessness and a mother’s sanity. Instead of stopping at the local grease pit for slimy grub, pack a lunch and eat it at the park.
  3. Read books. This works especially well with young kids, but older kids, in between complaints, will enjoy it too. Have each kid pick out a book. Have Mom, Dad, or an older sibling read it aloud. Talk about it. Your kids have nowhere to go. They have to listen to you. Take advantage by teaching something. This is also an ideal time to snuggle up with a child and read a book one-on-one.
  4. Play games. "I spy with my little eye something that is fun." You’ll want to quit before they do, which is why travel-size board games are a nice option too. Be it Checkers, Connect 4, or Candy Land, the local big box outlet has travel versions of most popular games that kids can play with you or with each other.
  5. Bring personal belongings. Help each kid put personal items in a backpack that only he or she can play with. Items can include crayons, coloring books, stuffed animals, or any other item that will make the trip special. Be sure to provide a backpack for yourself with a little bit of candy to bribe your kids.
  6. Plan potty breaks. Young kids need to urinate. They don’t care that you stopped 23 minutes ago or that you’re trying get some place fast. Make your life easier by not giving them a bottle-and-a-half of Gatorade to drink before leaving. For potty-training children, bring a potty-training toilet (space permitting) or some diapers.
  7. Be realistic. Remember, you’re traveling in an enclosed space for many hours with children. Things happen. Deal with it like a grown-up.