1. Include children who are old enough in the initial vacation decision and planning phase asking them where they'd like to go and what they'd like to do. Make a list with everyone's preferences and then, if possible, decide as a family what your pleasure trip will entail.
2. Take the kids to the library to borrow age-appropriate books and videos about the places, cultures/histories, and geographic locations you'll be visiting. Then go online with your kids and help them search via Google to get additional information.
3. Bring your children with you when you go to the Auto Club to pick up maps and travel guides. When you get home allow each child to help you map out part of your route with a felt tip marker and give him/her a mini geography lesson.
3. Give older kids a packing list and suitcase and ask them to pack their own clothing well in advance of the trip. Even younger children can help you pack. Then check each kid's bag of packed items, well in advance of departure day, editing or adding to it as needed.
4. Have each child also pack a carry-on size bag or back pack that is small enough for them to carry themselves and then help them fill it with books and fun things to do. There are also some wonderful pre-packed bags of items suitable for family travel that you can buy, sold by companies such as TravelKiddy.com
Enroute - Isn't enjoying each other what a family vacation is really about?
5. Limit hi tech activities that tend to distract kids, such as iPods, cell phones, and even DVD players. For example, while sightseeing or driving past beautiful scenery, take away all electronics, except for those directly related to the trip, such as digital cameras, or something like background classical music which can potentially enhance what they are viewing on a road trip.
6. Reserve movie watching (and other electronic pastimes) for those moments when you are really going to need it: either on long flights or when traveling on the open highway without much to see. You might even consider surprising your kids with some brand new DVDs that they've never seen for them to watch when you really need to concentrate or want some peace and quiet.
7. Don't over schedule your family's vacation activities by overdoing it and planning too many places to go. Also try to create opportunities for each member of the family to take turns choosing something fun to do together. Remember make sure everyone gets adequate rest and relaxation -- both kids and parents -- because crabby travelers are not very pleasant companions on a trip.
8. Engage kids who have the skills needed to help read maps and check travel guides for things to do, as well as to assist you with finding places to eat and sleep along the way. Make it fun for them to help you get from point A to point B and you'll both benefit.
9. Provide each child with their own blank book and then set time aside a specific half hour each day of your trip for him or her to write and draw pictures about their travels in these journals. Also, during the trip, parents hold on to any mementos you or your kids want to save to bring home such as matchbook covers, logo napkins, ticket stubs, postcards, stickers, seashells, sand, leaves, etc. Trinkets are only limited by your imagination and space in the car.
Post-Trip - Spend some quality time as a family to capture your memories for the future
10. Set-up a scrapbooking session or two as soon after you return home as possible at the dining room table so each kid can make their own vacation memory book. All each child needs to create this is his/her travel diary and printouts of the favorite digital photos. You provide an empty scrapbook and colorful acid-free paper from a crafts store, plus some scissors, glue. This is also the time when you'll want to pass out all those little trinkets you brought home with you from your trip.
Together you and your kids can create scrapbooks that will recall special moments spent as a family. Who said family trips can't be fun and memorable?
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