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The Perfect Vacation

  • Can It Be Easier On Everyone?

    Whether you're flying or driving, be sure to pack more diversions than you think you'll need.

    What works, say parents:


  • Little sticky notes (kids can draw pictures on them and stick them to the windows or the seat in front of them)


  • A small mirror (to make faces at)


  • Gel pens (to decorate little hands)


  • An inexpensive stopwatch (to time how long you've waited to take off or traveled between exits)


  • Binoculars (to look at planes or faraway road signs)


  • Sticker books and stickers

    Older kids might get a kick out of talking about what they see on the road into a portable tape recorder or looking for different license plates to see which one is the farthest from the state you're driving through. And babies and young toddlers can find even the most mundane things amusing  -- a roll of tape can last a plane trip.

    And don't forget the snacks. For short or long jaunts, whenever she travels with her 4- and 2-year-old daughters, Jennifer Geddes of New York City stocks up on little treats that she doesn't usually keep at home, such as M&M's (which she mixes in with cereal), individual boxes of animal crackers, or mini-bags of Goldfish crackers or pretzels. Lollipops are another distraction  -- and they take a long time to consume.

    A sanity-saving rule: The younger your children, the more stops you should make. Schedule in a 20-minute break every two hours, Cornick suggests. The key is to let your little ones feel free, so "find a park or an open space for them to run around in and try to avoid restaurants where kids have to sit down again." For shorter trips, travel at night or during your child's regular naptime.