12/14/2011 08:35 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2012

Kids' Top-Secret Tips For Family Travel: The Stuff They Just Won't Say When Parents Are Listening

In my last column, I gave some overdue ink to kids themselves on the sometimes sensitive subject of going on vacation. Drawing from an exclusive panel made up of a dozen kids ages 6 to 15, the blog post aired out panelists' little-known vacation "hates."

As it turned out, most of my panel didn't really think travel was as fun and educational as their parents did, but, on the bright side, almost as many wanted to hit the road as hang out at home.

Roll up your windows. Buckle those seat belts. Time for some more uncensored advice from the panelists -- a group with varied vacation experiences and some geographic diversity (they hail from six different states, and one panelist lives in Spain.)

Here are some ideas from the kids on the panel to make family travel go more smoothly. The panelists I talked to were nervous about mentioning these ideas to parents, but as one said, "Maybe I should."

  • Don't argue inside a hotel room. "Other people might be able to hear."
  • Ease off when it comes to slathering on sunblock whenever we go outside.
  • Travel more often to the country, "instead of always to big cities."
  • Fairs or carnivals aren't always that interesting. Skip them.
  • Instead of just walking around to see sights, try going down to a river and going on a boat.
  • Don't go into so many grocery stores on trips and don't talk so much about "how good the fruits and vegetables are."

Those on my panel didn't stop at giving advice to grown-ups. They also wanted to reach out to other kids with tips for "making parents do what you want them to." (The following may also be of use to savvy parents who want to be prepared.)

  • To convince parents to do something on a trip, "say how it will make you a better person. Like if you want to go someplace, tell them you will learn some things there."
  • To get grown-ups interested in a destination, try to think of things they might like about it and pretend those are the things you like. "Like if it's Hawaii, they might like the luau dancing."
  • Be organized, and try to find out the plan for the day right away. Then throw out ideas before parents have it all set.
  • Bargain with parents. "Let's say they want to go to some museum and you want to go to a really cool toy store. Tell them, okay, I'll do that if you let me go to the store later."

Since long drives are still a vacation stumbling block for both kids and parents, I asked the panelists if they had any suggestions for improving road trips. Here they are.

  • Try to drive more on back roads, "not always on the highway."
  • On car trips, don't always wake kids up because you think something is interesting. Usually it isn't.
  • Take food in the car that doesn't smell and make you sick.
  • Bring Mad Libs or easy crossword puzzles and fill those out while you drive.
  • Play more car games like "I Spy" and "20 Questions" and more "category word games."
  • Bring along better snacks "like Funyuns, Cheetos, cream soda and caffeine-free Diet Coke."
  • Bring an IPod if you have one and "listen to Johnny Cash, The White Stripes and Green Day."

Last, but not least, almost all the kids on my panel insisted on the following, to make drives less grueling: Don't tell boring stories about the "old days." Tell more jokes in the car. "And they need to be good jokes, not duds!"

Peter Mandel is a travel journalist and the author of ten books for kids including his newest about a guy who runs a jackhammer and uses his belly on the job: Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan/Roaring Brook).