Family Travel's Best-Kept Secret

If you're dreading that upcoming family trip by car or plane, here's a great way to banish the "are we there yet?" travel blues. To eliminate frayed nerves on your journey, pack a travel knapsack for your kids. Travel knapsacks make family travel so much easier, and soon will become a much beloved part of your family's vacation memories.

Essentially the equivalent of a goodie bag, travel knapsacks are essential for enjoying a trip with pre-schoolers or school age kids. If your family is traveling by plane, the people seated around you will bless you for your foresight as your kids color and play rather than screaming and fidgeting. Kids delight in opening the bag to see what's there, so it's important to save the bags until the last minute before traveling.

For the bag itself, use an old bookbag or backpack, lunch box, shopping bag, small suitcase or a small purse. The length of the trip may end up determining the appropriate size of the travel knapsack. If you are traveling by plane, try to use something that closes tightly to avoid spills.

Make sure you have a separate bag for each child to avoid arguments. You might want to consider labeling items with the child's name for extra certainty. Fill bags with the same items if your children are near in age or have similar interests. Some suggestions for items to include are: spiral notebook, colored pencils, washable markers, story books, activity books, magnetic games, card games, travel-size board games, kazoo, hand held electronic games, sticker books, non-melting crayons, coloring books, Mad-Libs, magnifying glass, paper dolls, magic slates, invisible ink books, small cars, finger puppets, small dolls/ action figures, felt books with stick-ons, blunt scissors, sewing cards, puzzles, pipe cleaners, slinky, origami paper, books on tape, and a tape player or CD player and headphones.

Let your child help you pack the bag and encourage him/ her to think about what he/ she wants to take on the trip. Allow your children to choose their favorite toys to place in the knapsack. Do not forget to pack your child's security items such as a blanket or stuffed animal. That could surely spell disaster.

You may wish to include snacks to tide your children over between meals. This is particularly true if you're traveling by plane, since food and beverage service can be late and has been eliminated on some flights. Choose snacks carefully to avoid messes and stomach aches. Avoid sticky fruits and drinks that you cannot re-close and pack snacks in zipper bags for easy clean-up. Some travel-safe snacks are: fruit rolls, animal crackers, raisins, bottled water, sliced apples, carrot sticks, bananas, and small bags of cereal.

If you're pressed for time and would prefer to purchase a travel knapsack, visit the Travel Tots website. This company specializes in travel activity backpacks and headrests for children ages 3-9. Each of their backpacks is specially designed for your child's age and gender, and comes with 11 to 13 unique and different activities. The Traveler Series is designed for 3 to 5 year olds and the Explorer Series is designed for 6 to 9 year olds.

Over time, the key to packing a great travel knapsack is keeping your eye out for new items to add to the bag. Keep a toy or two in your own bag to surprise children with in moments of crisis.

These bags are also excellent to take to sit-down restaurants or to places where you have to stand in line. They also come in handy if you need to take a child along to a meeting or to a friend's house. Once you get in the habit of traveling with a travel knapsack for your kids, you'll wonder what you ever did without it. This is certainly one travel secret that should be let out of the bag.

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