Make it as enjoyable as possible...
Are we there yet?! It's a question every adult who steps into a car with a child should be prepared to hear ad nauseam! So before climbing in for the long haul, read Raring2go!'s tips for keeping everyone in the family happy during your drive.
Set expectations: It's such a simple concept, you might not have thought of it: telling your kids ahead of time what the plan for the day is and how you expect them to behave. It's helpful for everyone if expectations are clearly laid out.
Create a holiday scrapbook as you go. Pack instant or digital cameras/phones or tablets, paper, markers and crayons, glue sticks and tape. Each night before bed, let the kids make some pages representing the day's activities to enjoy when you get home.
Bring along plenty of toys. Within reason, stash as many of their favourite things in the car as you can. Handheld games are a great way to keep kids occupied while you're driving, but a Frisbee or football works wonders during breaks, plus gives the kids a fun activity to anticipate. Often the simplest things are the most fun!
Reward good behaviour. Ah, the power of a bribe. No complaining for the next hour yields a stop for an ice-cream. Leaving your sibling alone gets some one-on-one time with Mum or Dad in the pool that night. Use this strategy in reverse, too: kicking the back of Dad's seat after being told to stop repeatedly means no trip to the hotel game room that night.
Stop and smell the roses. It's so easy to set an itinerary and become wedded to it, especially if there are time elements involved, such as the need to check in at a hotel before 5pm or to reach an attraction before it closes. But if you have to drive for long stretches, it's critical to schedule in some fun.
Let the kids have a say. Kids tend to whine and complain about things that are forced on them, like broccoli or long car rides. But if you get your children engaged in your trip ahead of time, it should lessen the likelihood that they'll revolt. So carve a few hours out of your itinerary each day, and hand them over to the kids.
Don't skip the pit stops. Many people just want to reach their destination for the day, stopping only when necessary for petrol or toilet breaks. That may be fine for adults, but it generally makes for unhappy, fidgety kids. At a minimum, stop every two to three hours so everyone can get out and stretch, walk around and breathe in some fresh air. It also helps to let your kids run around a bit!
Eat well. No one likes a growling stomach, especially not a kid on a long car ride. So for starters, time your meals carefully. If you hit the road at 6 am, don't wait until noon before you stop for lunch. Aim for reasonably filling meals every four hours or so. Have plenty of healthy snacks and drinks on hand for the hours in between.
Anticipate illness. Before you leave, be prepared to deal with these car-related illnesses. Motion sickness is probably the most common trip-induced ailment, so take preventative medication, travel sickness wrist bands and don't forget a car-sickness bag in case of stomach emergencies.
Timing is everything. If you plan on driving at night while your children sleep, make sure you can stay awake! Some people prefer to drive through major cities or along congested roads at night, when traffic is minimal. School-age kids tend to fall asleep easily, but toddlers and pre-schoolers sometimes need help dozing, which could mean more crankiness, not less.