Advice for all parents and their children to enjoy their family fun vacations more

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“I’m thinking of taking my kids on our first long family vacation — is there anything special I should pack?”

Having traveled both as the child and as the parent on many family vacations, I now have one important piece of advice that will help all parents, and their children, enjoy their vacations more - a bag or backpack filled with toys and books is essential for all kids, from infants to teens!

And, except for the infants and toddlers, you must let kids decide most of what they will take with them - and give them plenty of notice so that they can put some thought into their selections.

Each child should have, and be responsible for, their own bag, and our family rule is that the majority of what they wish to bring must fit in it. We like the ones that roll easily, with a handle, like a small carry-on. All the smaller items that can be readily accessed during travel should go in their bags, and some larger items could be put in the checked luggage.

When traveling by car, bring along a mesh “fun bag.” This can be filled with toys, games and books from each child’s own bag, and can be hung over a front seat.

Here are some of the items children may consider essential on any trip:

Infants and toddlers:
* A favorite stuffed animal and their “blankie”;
* Baby rattles and teething toys — all tied with a string;
* Favorite songs on CD.

Pre-school/elementary school age children:
* Crayons (kept out of the sun or heat), regular and colored pencils;
* Markers (washable are preferred);
* A glue stick;
* A notebook or pad of paper;
* Favorite children’s books;
* Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, search-a-word;
* Activity books, sticker books, fill in the blank story books;
* Cards and card games (Fish, Old Maid, Uno, etc);
* Children’s songs on CD and favorite movies/shows on DVD;
* Small action figures, dolls, Legos;
* Handheld video games, such as Game Boy and travel games;
* Camera (disposable for younger kids).

Pre-teens and teenagers
They should be selecting their own toys, games, books and videos to bring along — under parental guidance and supervision, of course.

Some more useful items for family trips of all kinds:

Bring safety locks and electrical outlet safety plugs when traveling with toddlers. Ziploc-type plastic bags — quart and gallon size — are useful for many things, from soap to a dirty diaper to a seashell collection.

Also bring wet naps, straws, a cold pack, a miniature cooler, a flashlight and glow sticks.

Additional items you may want to bring along for rest areas on car trips: bottles of bubbles, a flying disc (Frisbee) and small sporting equipment, such as a badminton set, inflatable ball, etc.

If traveling by plane, bring along gum, hard candies and snacks. The change in pressure can be quite uncomfortable, and chewing gum or sucking a hard candy or eating an apple can help.

For infants, try to time their bottle feedings to coincide with takeoff and landing.

For all children (and adults), any required medications must be brought along and kept with you at all times - do not entrust your family’s health to your luggage!

For infants on formula, it is imperative to bring enough with you for the entire time away if you are traveling out of the country - DO NOT assume that it will be available for purchase at your destination! Dry is best to pack, and should ALWAYS be mixed with bottled water.

Super Family Vacations, Resort and Adventure Guide by Martha Shirk is a widely acclaimed family vacation guide, packed with exciting family vacation ideas.

Profiling 150 family vacation destinations in the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Caribbean. Super Family Vacations covers a wide range of interests and activities for children and adults, dining, attractions, and geography.

Family vacation planning ideas.

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