Whether you're planning a weekend get-away or a stay at a mountain or beach resort, if you're taking the kids, the vacation will be fun. It will be even better if you take advantage of our travel tips.
1. Make Plans
If you're flying with young children, request bulkhead seats. Request the right sized rental car and a car seat, if appropriate. If you want the kids to take tennis or swimming lessons, make arrangements ahead of time. Book activities such as rafting, horseback riding, and all-day excursions that you don't want to miss.
2. Pack Small Bags
Rather than two or three huge suitcases, pack a number of soft, small bags such as duffels and backpacks. Kids can carry these themselves. They can also jam their sweatshirts and stuffed animals in them. And these bags tend to fit in nooks and crannies in overhead bins and rental cars. Make sure every bag has an identification tag.
3. Limit Highway Time
Expect the kids to be bored on road trips. Plan the drive so that you never spend more than five or six hours on the road. Stop often for bathroom breaks and snacks. Encourage the kids to run around a little. Pull into rest stops with room to toss around a ball or Frisbee or to run races.
4. Stop and Pet the Animals
Plan roadtrips so you can pull over when you see a sign for roadside attractions such as petting zoos, alligator wrestling, dolphin parks, caves, "Wild West" towns, or fossil museums. These sights may not be your idea of culture, but children love them.
5. Take Along Games, Books, and Tapes
Pack small toys, games, and simple art supplies. These are great for passing time on planes and in cars as well as in airports and motel rooms. Don't forget books. Pack your children's favorites for bedtime reading - or anytime they need a little comfort.
6. Look for Pools
Kids don't care about oversized towels and late-night room service. But they do care about pools, ice machines and soda machines. Stay at motels where youngsters can work off steam in the pool and buy treats from the vending machine. Some motels offer large "family rooms," which save you money even if they deprive you of privacy.
7. Skip Breakfast
Not really. If you eat breakfast in a restaurant, kids tend to load up on pancakes and bacon; a few hours later, little stomachs might rebel in the car or on the plane. Instead, bring along cereal, granola, and fruit (pack milk and yogurt in a cooler) and eat lightly and sensibly in the room. Save the restaurants for lunch and dinner.
8. Keep to a routine
Help younger kids stick to routines. If your toddler takes an afternoon nap, try to accommodate her on the road. If you're lucky, she'll sleep in the car. If your preschooler snacks mid morning, make sure you keep to his schedule. And don't forget blankies and stuffed animals. These comfort items help enormously when little ones are tucked into unfamiliar beds. Nightlights are good ideas, too.
9. Keep Tickets, Passports, and Documents Safe
Appoint one adult tour leader. He or she is responsible for plane and hotel reservation confirmations, visas and passports, health records, and other valuables. Teenagers may ask to carry their own passports and photo i.ds. Resist!
10. Document the Journey
Make sure at least one member of the group takes photos. Remember phone and camera chargers. Everyone loves looking at pictures of their own vacation! It's also a lot of fun to keep an online journal, write a blog, post on Facebook, or collect postcards that will help you reconstruct the journey when you get home.