2. Map out pit stops.
Ask friends who’ve traveled the route before where you can pull off for a snack and give everyone a few minutes of fresh air and exercise. “It’s important not to let food serve as a substitute for boredom,” says Swanson. “When children get squirrelly or jumpy, stop at a rest stop or fi nd a park where they can climb the jungle gym.” You will probably pad your travel time by a few minutes, but the attitude maintenance (theirs and yours) will be worth it.
3. Order wisely at fast-food restaurants.
Make good choices at eateries. “My 5-year-old son loves to go to fast-food restaurants, especially on road trips, and we’ve found a good compromise,” says Jennifer Kim of Northampton, Mass. “He gets to go to McDonald’s and we get a hamburger Happy Meal, but we order milk and apple dippers, without the caramel, instead of fries. Sometimes we either give back the hamburger or, if he’s in the mood, he’ll order a ‘vegetarian cheeseburger’—a slice of cheese in a bun. This way he gets his toy and a relatively healthy snack, and my husband and I get some hot coffee.”
4. Ask for the breakfast menu.
Many dine-in restaurants still serve breakfast at lunchtime, which often affords healthier options than the standard fried lunch fare. “We’d stop at Denny’s, and I wouldn’t even need to press my son to eat one of his favorites—scrambled eggs and fruit—for lunch,” says Ann Struckman, a mother of three in Portsmouth, R.I.
Next: Be a good road model