Tips for a great family vacation (with your kids)

Plans are getting into full swing. You've blocked off the dates. You've written an out of office email message that could win a Pulitzer prize. Your kids' teachers understand that it's vacation and giving them a busload of homework to do while they're away is on par with a misdemeanor crime (petty theft of precious family time). You rented a car that can drive through frozen tundras, beats planes to their destinations, and you just found the warmest jackets to get you out of the house and into the car at 5 am on that fateful day (but really hitting the road by 6 am). You're taking a trip to see the sun for at least 3 days in a row. And your kids are coming too.

You've done this before. You remember the melted crayons on the backseat of that old wagon. You remember the arctic circle taking its liberties on your planned flight to see relatives, causing all those well-built plans to evaporate in your hand. You've even had bags go missing, stocked with your favorite buttonfront shirts. Your kids never really forgave you for that one time you pretended to leave them at the gas station, and instead of laughing about it, the car was eerily silent for the next three hours to Grandma's house.

Well you're ready this year. You have the kids' clothes packed (is two weeks before too early to pack?) and you have your new family Christmas pajamas for the car ride set aside. You booked one stop on the way at a hotel. That indoor pool is a surprise, so you secretly packed everybody's swimsuits. You've nailed it this year. When you're shuffling through the rest stop parking lot to get a quick bite, a warm long down coat will get you in and out like you're a hot cup of coffee and the coat is your heat sleeve.

When you have a moment to take in the views on that scenic drive you threw in there, you'll want to keep those cozy cashmere sweaters on hand so you can all hop out and take a stellar family photo. Don't forget to take the keys with you though. Nothing like locking yourself out of the rental car on the top of Mt. Where-Are-We. Dad tip: feel free to joke that you left the keys in the car. The family will have flashbacks to the gas station episode and maybe they'll laugh this time around. At least a nervous laugh.

There’s going to be some silence in the car, which will be a really great opportunity to scream sing to the radio with the whole family. You can stop when the kids grab their sweaters and wrap them around their heads like earmuffs...then again they’ll be as comfortable as Grandpa in his recliner, post-turkey, sleeping for hours.

They say "it's the journey, not the destination" and whoever said that must be wise, but they forgot to take in account the "flat-tire mentality." That is: when you're travelling with the kids, it's best to plan the journey as much as you can, and make sure that sunny destination is as free as can be. In no time, they’ll be racing to kick off their sweats and into kids’ graphic tees and shorts. Your girl will love dancing in her knit dress, no tights required. Just remember one thing: when you’re heading to the beach, or planning a day poolside, pull out the kids’ rash guards. The UPF 50 sun protection is a must. Think about it: sunburns are no way to start any adventure, not to mention added agony on the ride back home. They can wear them in the water or playing in the sand. Either way, they’re covered.

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