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Stress-free family travel guide

Suzi Milovanovic has been a mother of all kinds: stay at home mom, work from home mom, and go-the-office working mom. She blends all these perspectives in her contributions to various local and national print and online publications, tel...

Plan a fun family vacation

Vacations enhance the bond among family members and provide an opportunity for fun, relaxation and new experiences. Prepare your family and save your sanity with organization and planning for the best vacation possible.

Children Packing Suitcase

The plan

Figure out what your family is looking for in a vacation and plan your budget. With the rising costs of gas and airline tickets, transportation easily can be your biggest budget-buster.

When packing your carry-on and hand luggage (a backpack works best because it frees up your hands), the general rule is to be prepared for delays and messes. Once your luggage is checked or placed in the trunk, your carry-on transforms into a veritable magician's hat!

A travel checklist

Some things to have with you when traveling by plane, train or automobile are:

  1. A change of clothes for your child. It's cold in airplanes, so pack a sweater or jacket, too.
  2. Any medicine your child is taking. If meds are packed in a suitcase, flight delays may keep you from reaching it at the scheduled dosage time. Bring medical and doctors' information as well.
  3. Coloring books, word games and puzzles are also good ways to pass the time. For little children, colorful toys that make noise are often a good distraction.
  4. Portable DVD players (many cars come with built-in DVD players, too) can be lifesavers on long trips.
  5. Electronic handheld games are ideal for older kids.
  6. Children's books on tape. In fact, bring along the most beloved books (those that the kids ask you read again and again) and pop into the CD player to let someone else do the reading.
  7. Resealable plastic bags to hold dirty clothes, trash and so on.
  8. Snacks with minimum mess potential and ease of distribution such as fruit, granola bars and chewing gum to help relieve ear pressure during descent.
  9. A color photo of your child for ID purposes in case you become separated.

So you're there -- now what?

A happy, content family can make any place seem like Shangri-La. Plan different activities that appeal to different family members and one activity a day you know the whole family will enjoy. You may want to look in to resorts and accommodations where trained and certified nannies or kids' programs are available so that you can indulge yourself while your kids have a blast with others around their age.

All-inclusive destinations have tons of activities and recreation for kids and a variety of restaurants to keep even finicky eaters happy. Even drinks are sometimes included, so you can enjoy the convenience of never having to carry cash or credit cards.

Returning home

Kids are creatures of habit, so while the vacation meant an escape from the usual routine, coming home brings back the routine and security.

Here are three steps to ease into this transition:

Step 1 -- Leave on a good note. Prepare for your homecoming before you leave for your trip.

Step 2 -- Schedule extra time. If possible, take an extra day off to tie up loose ends, rest up, sort through the mail and deal with any issues that came up while you were gone.

Step 3 -- Unpack right away. Ask everyone to help unpack for a specified amount of time (maybe 30 minutes) and deal with the inevitable mountain of laundry.

Whether visiting museums an hour away or flying overseas, your family can survive any vacation with a little planning and enthusiasm!

More fab family travel tips

10 Must-haves when vacationing with kids

8 Great destinations for making memories that last

Save money on your next family vacation

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