“Trip Tips—Family Style,” Ensign, June 1981, 54–55
Family trips are usually memorable occasions. But in these days of high gasoline prices when short trips are more the rule than the exception, how does a family make the most of their outings? The secret is in the planning.
First, let family members be involved in the planning. They can read up on where you’re going and take turns at the dinner table reporting on points of interest along the way, the history of the area, clothing that will be needed, and so on. In our family, we also discuss manners and the behavior that will be expected at a beach, at a nice restaurant, a zoo, or a historic shrine. Together we make a few rules for the road: how much noise will be tolerated in the car; how many stops will be allowed; where children will sit; where to dispose of wrappers, papers, and peelings.
For longer trips, children age eight and up will enjoy studying maps and planning routes, then acting as navigators en route. Young children can help select a soft toy, books, and simple games to take along. For one family trip, grandma made drawstring denim bags with individual names on them, each to contain a coloring book, papers, crayons, a small car, card game, and a few pieces of candy. The older children were responsible for keeping their own things together. We also had some felt cutouts with which they made up stories as they placed them on a white towel folded over the back seat. Simple “sewing cards” can be made by punching holes along the edges of poster-weight paper which has been cut into shapes. Cards are “sewed” with long shoelaces.
Once on the road, the car becomes confining, so we plan extra stops where there’s room to run and expend some pent-up energy that might otherwise explode into unkind words. We give the young children room to move, stretch, and sleep inside the car by putting luggage on the floor between the back and front seats, then placing sleeping bags or a foam pad over them to form a flat play-and-sleep area.
A family can save considerable expense and at the same time provide good nutrition by packing a cooler with buttered bread and sandwich fixings (or pre-made sandwiches, if they will be eaten in a short time), fresh fruit, carrot and celery sticks, cheese, boiled eggs, and snack crackers. Powdered juice or punch mix can be added by spoonfuls to cups of cold water from the jug that should always be carried on a trip.
We learned the hard way that it pays to always keep a plastic ice cream bucket with a lid in the car for unforeseen emergencies. The lid prevents spillage of the contents until they can be disposed of. Another indispensable item is premoistened wash cloths.
A cassette tape recorder proved valuable several times on a recent trip with our children. We had only two story cassettes, but we taped also the small-size, long-playing records which have accompanying books. Children also enjoy recording their own voices—talking or singing—and playing them back during a long ride.
Through adequate planning and preparation, the family trip can become not only a learning experience, but a fond memory as well. Laurie Williams Sowby, American Fork, Utah