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Trains, Planes & Automobiles

Nancy McGurty will never forget the time she traveled from the East to the West Coast by plane with her howling infant, in the center of a row of "suits." For six hours the Bogota, NJ, mother tried to soothe her unhappy baby while bravely withstanding the aggravated glares of businessmen jabbing at their laptops.

Few who've done it would deny that traveling with kids can be trying, but it doesn't have to be. One of my family's best trips was a 17-hour car expedition from New Jersey to Nova Scotia (our three active boys were then 1, 3, and 8). Are you crazy? friends asked as we climbed into our aging station wagon. But the journey  -- driving through northern Maine's woodlands, cruising the breathtaking scenery on Canada's coast, the novelty of visiting a museum in Halifax  -- remains one of our favorite memories.

If there's a rule for family travel, it's this: Find the right balance between preparing for the worst and letting the best happen. In other words, map out a plan but be ready to leap into those serendipitous moments.

What follows is parent-tested advice gathered from those who've braved and survived the travel zone with their children, on the rails, in the air, and on the road. There's lots to be learned from their mistakes  -- and from their triumphs!

Kathryn E. Livingston is the author of Fashion Photography: Patrick Demarchelier and the mother of three boys. She now specializes in writing about family issues.