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The Dos and Don'ts of Traveling With Family

©istockphoto/Geber86

©istockphoto/Geber86

Here’s the thing about traveling as a family unit: it can be wonderful or it can be a little bit of a nightmare – and oftentimes it can be both within a matter of minutes.

If you’re planning a family trip, here are some things to keep in mind to make the most of your time away.

Keep Traveling Distances Short if Possible
Probably the most difficult part of a vacation with kids is getting to your destination. Long flights (especially if there are stops or tight connections) can be hard on everybody, but are particularly difficult for young children. The same is true of long car rides.

One way to make the trip easier on everybody is to stick to destinations closer to home. Sans that, you can also try breaking up your trip. So instead of trying to drive 10 hours to get where you’re going, find a destination halfway there and book a hotel room for the night. Even better if there’s something fun to see and do while you’re there to break up the monotony of a long car ride.

Even for short trips, remember to bring your own entertainment: coloring books, a tablet full of games or movies, your kid’s best-loved toy. Add to the mix something familiar, like your child’s favorite blanket or pillow.

Don’t Try to Do It All
Having a plan or even a “wish list” of things to see and do it’s great – as long as you’re flexible.

Overscheduling your trip is one sure way to end up with cranky kids, especially if the long list of activities means you end up missing your child’s regular mealtimes and bedtimes. Instead, plan your vacation around them and make sure you can move things around if you suddenly need to add a quick nap into the schedule. If you have lots of things planned for a specific day, break the activities into small time segments. Do a few things in the morning, then take a break for food and rest, then start again.

Remember: trying to do too much can backfire. Better take it slow, be ready to adjust, and think of your vacation as … well, a vacation and a chance to rest and have fun.

Always Book Ahead
Being spontaneous is great if you’re an adult, but when traveling with kids, preparation is key. Before you leave home, make sure you have your hotel rooms (or your camping spots) booked, purchase any tickets needed (buying tickets to attractions online might even end up saving you money), and make reservations for things that might get booked or require waiting in line, such as trains or long-distance buses.

And Ask For Family Discounts
You’d be surprised how many hotels, attractions, and even methods of transportation offer special “family deals.” These are great not only because they save you money, but also because they often come with extra perks, such as special sitting, discounted entry to attractions or meals, and sometimes even toys or other freebies in hotel rooms.

One thing to keep in mind: many of these specials need to be booked in advance, so don’t wait till the last minute to search for them.

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