Happy Trails

Involve kids in vacation planning. If they’re old enough, let each child  plan a day of the trip. You’ll be amazed where they lead you. Forget seeing all the famous sights. If you manage one a day, you are doing well. Make sure to allow plenty of playground/pool/lounging in hotel time. Remember, it’s the kids’ vacation too!

Take a children’s book featuring your destination. It’s always a good idea to bring a book about what you are going to see and do. If you are heading to the seaside, check out “Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach” by Melanie Watt, about a squirrel who learns to conquer his fears, from falling coconuts to pirates. Ask your librarian for other suggestions. Also, bring DVDs set in the places you’ll be visiting.

Parents: get some alone time. You might manage a little romance on a family vacation if you opt for a condo or villa. Put the kids to bed and then open a bottle of wine in the living room. You not only will have more space—and bathrooms—but you’ll save big on meals. Or, bring a sitter along! 

When staying with your relatives… Bring along the kids’ must-have eats or pick them up once you’ve arrived. Grab the kids and offer to take all the cousins to a movie, playground, or nearby museum to get them out of the house—and out of everyone’s hair. Set the ground rules. Even if they’re only in kindergarten, they can help make their beds, clear the table, and pick up their toys. And bite your lip, no matter how spoiled you think your nieces are or how terrible a cook your sister-in-law is.

Consider having your child bring a friend. If your tween or teen is balking at going on vacation, suggest she invite a friend. You’ll have two happy kids instead of one sulking all day. Just make sure you invite a child you know well and that you are straight with her parents on who is paying for what. And whenever you travel with a child who isn’t your own—even a relative—make sure to get a notarized letter from his parents authorizing the travel and medical care, if needed. Take along a copy of his medical insurance information too.

Spend the day at a museum. Hit a museum (or two) wherever you are visiting. Take a virtual tour on the museum website ahead of time and let the kids choose what they want to see; also, check to see if there are special family workshops. Visit www.citypass.com for great discounts on museums and other sites in cities across the country—worth it if you plan to go to several in one visit.

Encourage kids to take pictures. The experts at www.takegreatpictures.com suggest limiting the youngest shutterbugs to one or two shots per subject. And use disposable cameras. Focus on the things they’ll want to shoot—family, friends, pets, favorite toys, other belongings. Make some prints so the kids can share their photos with friends. These days, they can make their own stickers, cards, stamps, and more. 

Bring an emergency supply pack. If you’re planning a long road trip, consider Ready Freddy (www.readyfreddy.com), the ultimate emergency supply pack that contains everything you need to wait out any travel emergency situation, like rope, emergency rations, water, tape, and medical kit, as well as a hand-crank cell phone charger.

This content originally appeared on Taking the Kids (www.takingthekids.com) by Eileen Ogintz. Ogintz is the author of several family travel books, including “The Kid’s Guide to New York City.” 

Raise The Stakes

For a completely different vacation, consider luxury camping—replete with high-end tents. It’s a new trend in family travel, and a great place to try it out is The Resort at Paws Up, which features its very own Tent City (pictured here). Located on the Blackfoot River, the tents are appointed with private bathrooms, TVs, cozy furniture, and camping butlers who can, say, help you build a fire. The best part? You have easy access to a range of great kid-friendly activities, from horseback riding to white water rafting. For more information, visit www.pawsup.com or call 800-473-0601. — Leah Black