Build a Better Family Vacation
Involving the children in trip planning will relieve some of your burden. It will also send the message that this is everyone's vacation―so everyone needs to help make it fun and easy―and set a good tone for the whole trip. "If your child is mature enough, possibly as young as five or six, tell him where you're going and how you'll get there, then let him help make plans," says David Fassler, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont. In addition to engaging them and getting them enthused about going, helping to plan can lessen any anxiety kids may have about the trip, "like where they will be sleeping or new foods they may encounter," says Fassler. Online, older kids can research activities and places they'd like to visit; younger children can find the destination in an atlas and look in a travel book for pictures of what they're about to see. Assign each child a task while on vacation, advises Laurie LeComer, a consultant on child development and behavior and the author of A Parent's Guide to Developmental Delays (Perigee, $15, amazon.com): "They can help by making sure no toys are left behind, picking up the room each night, or carrying small bags." And let kids have the responsibility of packing their own carry-on bags. Give older kids a list; ask younger ones to pick out a few favorite toys, books, and outfits (you can help with the final cut).