Enjoy Stress-Free Travel With Your Kids

Family vacations usually fall into two categories.

There are the ones that are the stuff of legend, yielding albums of photos and years of giggly reminiscing for one and all.

Then there are the ones that progress from, “But Cindy’s mom let her bring a friend!” to “Are we there yet?’ to “Mother, must we listen to Peter, Paul and Mary?” to “I’m never speaking to you again!” before you’re even over the state line.

Plan for Fun
Assuming you would rather see yourself in the warm-and-fuzzy scenario, the first thing to plan on is planning, travel experts say.

“One of the most fun parts of the trip is the planning,” said Kelly Carter, a spokeswoman for AAA of Greater Hartford, Conn. “If you can get the children involved in the planning of the activities and the destination, that really helps out. They’ve got a stake in making it fun.”

And, despite a few bumps along the way, the family vacation is still a time-honored tradition. AAA estimated about 34 million people traveled 100 miles or more during Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff of the summer vacation season. That’s a record, Carter said, and AAA expects plenty more travelers will follow in their footsteps.

“It seems like it’s an American tradition to have a summer road trip — to pile everyone in the car and head out there,” she said.

And just where are families spending Summer 2000?

“It seems like more companies are offering family-style outdoors adventure trips that might include hiking, rafting, canoeing, biking, horseback-riding,” said Teresa Plowright, who writes about traveling with children for About.com. “There are several companies offering really great trips in the Rockies and elsewhere.”

“The great outdoors is always a favorite,” said Deb Cornick, creator of the online family travel newsletter Have Children Will Travel. “Most of the world is kid-friendly and children love to learn about a new culture.”

Cornick should know. Cody, her 14-year-old son, has been her favorite traveling companion since he was just 13 weeks old. She and other experts say those planning a trip need to do little more than turn on the computer for a plethora of information on traveling in-state and overseas. Web sites for researching attractions, planning a route and booking reservations abound.

Package Deals
And it’s no wonder. With a record number of families out there, hotels, motels and attractions are competing heartily for every tourist dollar. As a result, parents who ask ahead are likely to find package deals in which kids eat or stay free (check age limits, though), family suites offering parents and children some welcome privacy, and even play centers at airports for the family with a lengthy layover.

“I would guess that this trend ties in with the trend for business travelers to bring kids on trips and/or tack family trips onto business trips,” Plowright said.

Families also have more options these days, she said. For lodging alone there are hotels, motels, home rentals in sunny spots, weekly apartment rentals in big cities and the cozy bed and breakfasts that welcome families.

“Maybe hotels have to offer more to compete these days,” Plowright said.

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