45 Secrets for Fabulous Family Vacations

Cars, Cruises, and More

summer travel

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Know your way. Use online map services such as www.randmcnally.com to help plan your trip and to avoid questions like "Daddy, do you know where you're going?"

Pick perfect car toys. Leave toys with little pieces at home-unless you want to practice your yoga by bending, turning, and reaching to the backseat floor every 10 minutes.

Be shady. To keep the sun out of your child's eyes, get some car window shades or hang a towel from the top of a rolled-up window. When you park, use the towel to cover your child's seat so it won't get so hot.

Resist reading. If there's any chance that your older child will get carsick, discourage him from reading. Instead, play games that require looking outside the window. "Count the American flags" is especially rewarding these days. Check www.momsminivan.com for game ideas.

Bring bags. In case your child does get sick, keep plastic bags at the ready. Gallon-size ones are best and can serve a dozen useful purposes. Bring a spare set of clothing for your child. And don't make the big mistake-as we did once-of not bringing an extra set for yourself.

Pop in a video. Keep the peace on long road trips by renting a portable VCR. A good source: www.drivinsane.com. Or try books on tape.

Don't "make time." Trying to shave minutes or hours off the average time it takes to get to a destination isn't only dangerous-with kids, it's an exercise in frustration.

Go for the neon. Dress your kids in bright clothing. Pin a card listing their local and home addresses inside their clothes. And if you plan to hike, learn to identify their shoe prints, in case they get lost. This will also prove invaluable at home when you try to figure out who tracked dirt on the living-room rug.

Cruise where the kids are. When choosing a cruise-ship itinerary, remember that most kids want to be with other kids. You'll find them on shorter, three- or four-day trips, especially in the Caribbean and during school holidays. Lines that excel at these itineraries include Carnival (888-227-6482), Disney (888-325-2500), and Royal Caribbean (800-327-6700).

Remember her shots. Well before you leave for a foreign destination, talk to your pediatrician about getting your child any necessary vaccinations, particularly if you're heading to an area with a high risk of disease. If you run into a medical problem abroad, a valuable resource is the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, which publishes a directory of English-speaking doctors who will treat members. Membership is free (716-754-4883).

Sleep light. It can take several days for children to adapt to a new time zone. So accept that for a day or two you may be reading Green Eggs and Ham at 4 a.m.

Plan for passports. If you need a passport to visit a country, so will your child-even if he's an infant. Apply for one several months ahead of time; the wheels of bureaucracy turn no faster for kids (www.travel.state.gov/passport_services).

Tuck away the memories. Don't be too quick to rule out experiences that you think your child is too young to remember. What she might be absorbing as you carry her through New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art or pedal her through the back roads of Holland is difficult even for a parent to determine with any certainty. But it is quite possible that she is forming impressions, however buried they may become, that will play a role in making her the unique individual she will always be.

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