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Adventure SecretsLake George, NY
Lake George, NY

 

Pike's Place
Pike's Place Market, Seattle, Wa

 

 

 


 

Deb frequently shares her know-how on Good Morning America, Live with Regis and Kelly, the CBS Early Show, and CNN. Here are top travel questions and concerns from viewers.

It’s torture to wait for a vacation to start. How can we pass the time?
Make tie-dye T-shirts for everyone to wear on outings during the trip. My daughter Cady and I made eight T-shirts for family members who gathered to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary in Maine. When we all wore them, someone would inevitably ask, “What club are you in?”

How much sightseeing should we pack into a day?
One “to do” daily is generally sufficient. An itinerary is a guide, not a verdict. Part of the joy of travel is spontaneity. If every moment is accounted for, you might miss out on a fun detour.

This is our big vacation of the year. How can I make it perfect?
Redefine perfect. On a family trip, there will be disagreements and moody behavior, just like at home. Attractions might be closed. It might rain. If everyone is sad when the vacation ends, that’s my idea of perfect.

Planning a vacation is overwhelming. Any advice?
1. Know going into the trip you won’t be able to do everything – focus on one highlight per family member.

2. Costly attractions/adventures don’t necessarily equal happiness. Your kids might enjoy a day at a little known bike path as much as a crowded, overpriced “must see.”

3. On a practical note, get a plastic accordion file folder and label pockets: Hotels, Maps, Itinerary, Attractions, Budget, Restaurants, and so forth. File all your research/receipts/notes in this folder. When the trip starts, keep it in the front seat for easy reference.

Any packing tips?
For car trips, skip the suitcases. Give everyone a supersize, resealable, see-through plastic bag with a built-in handle. Each person’s clothes and accessories take up one bag. This is so much easier than hunting through suitcases whenever you need something. For toiletries, use one family travel case with multiple pouches and a hook.

My kids go nuts on long car rides.
Remember the 3 C’s:
Comfort – Kids generally dislike car seats and seat belts, so keep them as comfortable as possible

  • Give each child a fleece blanket, slippers, and a neck rest or pillow.
  • Encourage them to do a “wiggly workout” by kicking their legs, stretching their arms, and opening and closing their hands to the beat of a beloved CD.

Control: Help kids be masters of their own domains

  • Strap a wall clock to the back of the adult’s head rest so your child can clearly see the numbers. Show the child where the hands will be when you expect to arrive at your destination. This often cuts down on “are we there yet?”
  • Provide a sports bottle in a zip-up pouch with a strap, so kids can drink water whenever they want. Hang the strap over the headrest for easy access.

Company: Time passes more quickly when kids travel with trusty companions – toys and activities to enjoy solo or with parents

  • Provide a mesh backpack for each child with see-through pockets for crafts activities, magnets, stickers, books, and games. My kids love the mini-size travel versions of classic toys, such as Etch-a-Sketch. If you only let kids use the backpack on roadtrips, the novelty remains.
  • Give kids a photo album filled with pictures of relatives. If you haven’t seen family in awhile, this is a great time to review.
  • A laptop desk is a must for food and crafts. You can buy a travel tray (some come with side pockets and soft bottoms) or you can just use a cookie sheet.

How can I keep kids from playing with electronics the entire car ride?
Before you start the car, have kids agree on the time (our rule of thumb is one hour of screen time daily) they’ll watch movies or play Nintendo. When the hour is up, they need to choose an activity from the mesh backpack, chat with you, rest or write in journals. It helps to post a list, Ten Things To Do in the Car. Suggestions: write a letter, eat a healthy snack, keep track of trip progress with a highlighter and map, make as many words as you can from VACATION, and so forth.

How do we stay fit on the road?
Visit attractions that involve exercise, such as hiking, biking and swimming. At Natural Stone Bridge and Caves in Pottersville, NY, my kids love crawling into caves and over gorges. Head for a state park and make a day of it. Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, Mass. has 20 miles of recreational trails, a working dairy barn, and grassy picnic spots. Mini golf courses make great pitstops. Bring your bikes.

How do you cut down on costs?
Instead of dining out, stop at a grocery store and gather ingredients for a healthy picnic. Find a local park with a playground, or simply plant your picnic blanket at a roadside rest stop. Bring a plastic storage bucket filled with a kite, soccer ball, football, beach ball, jump rope, chalk (to draw hopscotch), and flying disc. Some of our favorite times together haven't cost much more than gas.

What are your favorite healthy snacks?
We like Kashi chewy granola bars, organic peanut butter and apple/celery slices, baby carrots and hummus, and whole-wheat pita bread rollups with low-salt ham and cheese. Keep a small cooler in the backseat between the kids, so they can eat when they want. For frozen treats, we like ice pops made from 100 percent fruit. You can also simple freeze chunks of fruit – grapes, strawberries, bananas, and so on.

My kids love fast food restaurants. Can you offer an alternative?
The main reason my kids like fast food restaurants is the kid’s meal packaging and toy. Before your trip, go to the dollar store and buy stickers, glow bracelets, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles. When your child eats a healthy lunch prepared by you, let him choose a toy from your stash. If you want to get really fancy, serve the lunch in a lunch bag decorated with stickers.

Summer is a time of temptation: ice cream, homemade fudge, fried seafood…
We indulge when it’s really worth it – for the area’s best clam roll, lobster dinner, or award-winning raspberry chocolate chip ice cream. Make special splurges really special.

How do you stop meltdowns?
When my kids are bored, hungry, or uncomfortable they let me know. Typically, I offer a snack and offer to play a game. If the meltdown continues, I stop the car and we toss a ball. As an incentive for good behavior, I tell my kids they can choose a toy from the stash (containing fun items from the dollar store) if they remain in good spirits for awhile. If kids are chronically cranky, it’s probably time to assess the scope and pace of the trip.

Any tips for traveling with grandparents?
We take at least four trips away each year with my parents. We’ve learned it helps to discuss finances beforehand so there won’t be disagreements about who’s paying for what. My parents like to have their own car (chances are, the entire group isn’t going to want to do everything together). We bring fishing equipment, classic board games, family movies, and photo albums for memorable multigenerational times. Cottage rentals have worked especially well.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Deborah Geigis Berry, The Family Adventure Mom, 2008-11. All rights reserved.

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