We all know that traveling as a family can bring you closer -- or not!
It's all about planning the trip that's right for your family. Take a minute to review the following tips before you leave to insure that your next trip will be a memorable experience for the entire family.
• Allow each child to pack his or her own suitcase and backpack with books, crayons and small toys. Portable DVD players, game systems, and other electronic devices can be lifesavers when the novelty of their backpack has worn off.
• Carry your own water bottle on a plane. Staying hydrated improves your comfort during long trips. Carrying snacks (be sure to pack them according to TSA guidelines) is also a good way to get a "taste of home" while traveling. Zipper baggies of Cheerios, crackers, or other snacks are essential if you're traveling with small ones.
• Make a good impression on your host, whether you stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast. Teach your children to shake hands, smile and make eye contact. Teach them how to behave in situations that you will be in - for example, if you plan on going to a nice restaurant, explain to them your expectations for their behavior. Reward good behavior with little treats!
• Don’t overschedule your days. Leave time to just hang out and enjoy the moment. Take an ice cream break when sight-seeing. Stop off at a museum or gallery you didn't plan, or maybe see a play! Sometimes, you're lucky enough to stumble onto free music in the park or a street presentation of a play!
• Learn half a dozen words in the language of the country you’ll visit. It’s both fun and useful. Grazie goes a long way! Practice your new language skills on the plane and once you land to help your kids remember what they've learned.
• The best (and least expensive) souvenirs are postcards! (Plus, they come in handy for future school reports.) You can even buy pretty frames and hang them in your child's room as art.
• Include children in pre-trip planning so that they are as excited about your destination as you are. Ask for their input in making decisions, and let them choose a few fun things to do.
• Before your trip, read books or watch videos about your destination. If you plan to visit the house of an author or historical figure, for example, read about him or her first. On the way, share some interesting facts about your destination.
• Encourage your child to write in a journal or make a scrapbook. Give them a cheap disposable camera, or your own digital camera to create a record of your journey. Once you're home, you can use a service like Shutterfly to create a photo book that will memorialize your trip forever.
• When visiting a museum, stop in the gift shop first and buy five postcards – then hunt for the real items or paintings in the museum. Your kids will enjoy the scavenger hunt, and you'll be able to skip the battles over souveneirs.
• Weave your child’s interests into your itinerary. For example, if your daughter enjoys playing with dolls, take her to a museum of dolls. You might also visit a doll "hospital," or other destination that matches her interests.
• Do one amazing thing each day. See a major monument or enjoy a new experience - making the trip as fun as possible is the best way to keep everyone happy.
From United Parenting Publications. Updated August 2012