Letting your kids pack their own bags can go a long way towards making the trip more pleasant. Here are some of my favorites:
Samsonite Sammies Backpack--Sammies packs from Samsonite are simply adorable. Pick from penguin, tiger, turtle and ladybugs. My older girl just loves to pretend she's going someplace and pack up her favorite things in this pack. $27.99
Outside Baby Mini Pack for Kids--Outside baby makes this delightful mini pack that looks just the the adult version. $19.99
Kelty Starfish--On the trails or in the city, this pack includes a hydration system so little hikers can stay healthy while keeping up with mom and dad. Plus, with the purchase of this pack Kelty will donate $1 to the National Wildlife Federation and as a thank-you gift, each your child receives three issues of Ranger Rick magazine (a childhood favorite of my brother's). $47
And here's travel tip from a sorority sister of mine. Nell is a uber-organized mother of two and lives in Illinois. Here's her tip:
When taking the kids on a long car trip (we drive to Georgia from Illinois on a regular basis) prepare little gift bags filled with things to do for each hour. Label each bag with each child's name and the time of day you will give it (or leave that off so you can be flexible). Some ideas to include are sudoku games, books, gum, crayons and paper, snacks, etc. You could do a modified version of this for long plane rides too. Be careful not to cave in and give them all the bags too early!
Also, when I travel WITHOUT kids I do something similar. For each day that we are gone I leave a gift bag (or just brown paper bag with their name on it) with little gifts for each day for each child. The first day is usually a cute stuffed animal they would want to sleep with while at their grandma's or their aunt's house. The next day might be a simple craft to keep them occupied so Grandma has a little break. And so on ...
Thanks Nell! I'll be getting my bags ready for our next drive to Maryland.