Make This Summer Your Best Ever Family Vacation

With summer upon us, it will soon be time to load the kids into the car and head down the road to your dream destination. Any trip, whether it's a week's vacation or a day's outgoing will be more fun if you plan ahead. Here are some quick tips for traveling with children.

# 1 Create a budget. Involve your entire family in saving for your trip. Help your children understand that they need to work and save for a goal. Stay within your financial limits.

# 2 Decide on a destination and then make a list of things to do. Let every family member contribute. Although the final choices belong to the grown ups, try to include items from each child's list. This will give everyone a special section of the trip to look forward to.
Use guidebooks, the travel section of the newspaper as sources.

Consider exploring your own city. Day trips and weekend outings are great opportunities.

# 3 Let kids help prepare for the trip. Create a checklist of things to do.

Arrange for pet and plant care; Stop the newspaper and mail.

Pack an emergency car kit with flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit, wash packets, paper towels.

Pack pillows for the car, water bottles, snacks, clipboards, toys, music, and games.

Pre-address and print out mailing labels for postcards. Buy stamps.

Be ready to catch those summer memories. Give each child their own disposable camera. Be sure to write their name on top.

# 4 Learn about the places you will be traveling. Highlight your travel route on a map. Make a "Trip Strip." Use a roll of adding machine tape to mark, in sequence, Grandma's house, various landmarks, cities, rivers, and hotels of your journey. As you pass each stone, mark it off until you reach your destination.

# 5 Have a variety of toys and games on hand. "Are we there yet?" Usually means it's time to switch to a new activity. Break the trip up into small segments. Play the alphabet game (find an object beginning with each letter of the alphabet) or license plate game (find one from every state.) Timeless games like crow's feet and cat's paw are a great way to Pass the time. Pull out the map or your "Trip Strip" so that children have a visual idea of ​​how far they have traveled.

# 6 Stop at a park or get out of the car. Allow children time to run around. Go for a walk or enjoy a roadside picnic. Play ball.

# 7 Time zone changes and schedule changes are difficult for anyone, but especially small children. Your kids will be happiest if you keep regular meal and bedtime hours and allow for down time. Try to maintain their normal routine.

# 8 Slow down. Chill out. Remember this is your vacation. It's more important to enjoy your time together as a family than it is to accomplish everything on your list.

# 9 Since you will probably be sharing a smaller place than you normally do at home, remember you do not have to do everything together. Not everyone will have the same interests or attention span. It is OK to break off into smaller groups.

# 10 Create a travel log each night. Collect postcards, napkins, and admission stubs to tape up in a scrapbook. And, do not forget to mail a few of those postcards to family and friends.

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About the Author: Rondi Hillstrom Davis is the co-author of the award-winning book Together: Creating Family Traditions. To check out her website that's jam packed with family ideas, visit