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The Perfect Vacation

Masterfile

Where Should We Go?

The object is to spend more time smiling than stressing, so think about your family's needs. Will you get the most from a resort with kids' programs and lots of amenities? Or would your gang rather decelerate on a secluded beach? Only you'll know whether your preschooler would love building stick dams in a mountain creek or would rather go full throttle at a theme park. So spend an hour or so with your mate drawing up a wish list of possible places to travel to.

For help with planning, check out these click-worthy websites:

 

  • www.familytravelforum.comfor up-to-date info on the best travel deals, news, and contacts

     

  • www.tinytravelers.netfor answers to health and safety questions that may come up while you're on the road

     

  • www.fodors.comfor family-friendly hotels and restaurants, as well as links to possible destinations

    If your kids are young or you haven't traveled much as a family, you might try a one- or two-night practice run. This can help ease your children into sleeping away from home. "Travel can be scary for young kids," says Deb Cornick, publisher of the newsletter Have Children Will Travel. A quick trip will also clue you in on what you need to pack. And you may find out (before you book the beach house) that your 3-year-old is terrified of waves. Along those sensible lines, Linda Wilkins, a mom of five in Akron, Ohio, set up the new tent inside her home a few times before her family left on their camping trip.

    Though you're vacationing with your children, you don't need to plan kid-centered activities all day every day. Sometimes you'll simply follow your nose and your own interests. "Young kids mostly just want to spend time with you," says Cornick. So be creative. "If you want to go to the Smithsonian with your toddler, do it in small doses. Take breaks to picnic on the grass outside," she says.

    One way to strive for balance between time spent with your children and with your mate is to pick a destination that offers supervised activities for kids. Since the quality of childcare can vary, call ahead and ask pointed questions so you don't get stuck at a hotel that considers child-friendly activities to be a room off the lobby with a VCR. What you should definitely find out: the child-adult ratio, whether the staff is trained in CPR, how the ages are grouped, and what's on a typical day's schedule.

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