Build a Better Family Vacation
Share a Rental With Another Family
Sharing a house or a condominium can keep costs down. It gives you more room to spread out than a hotel room does, plus a kitchen to cut down on restaurant meals. And the extra vacation-mates provide kids with built-in entertainment (other kids! Uncle Jimmy!) and supervision. Two good sources of vacation properties are resortquest.com, which manages a network of more than 17,000 rentals in the United States and Canada (specialty: beach and ski areas), and vacationrentals.com, which lists private homes in most states and on most continents at prices to suit various budgets.
Tip: Many newspapers have online classifieds for house swaps―a four-bedroom colonial in the Chicago suburbs, say, for your New York apartment. Or visit homeexchange.com or intervac.com, two swap agencies that do the work for you for a small fee ($99 to $150 a year).
Figure in Child Care
Tip: When you arrive at your hotel, take the kids on a quick tour. Show them the front desk, and explain this is where they should go if they get lost or have a question. And point out house phones they can use if they forget how to find their way back to the room.
Research Activities Before You Go
Put the Kids to Work
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).