If you want to get the most out of your dollar and your trip, Pauline Frommer's Travel Guides are for you. I put a fresh spin on budget travel, showing you how to experience the best for less and how to see it in a more authentic way -- the way the locals do. In this series of monthly tips, you'll find some terrific tips to help you get the most out of every trip. This time around, I share some insight about how to plan for family vacations.
Involve the entire family in the planning.
While you'll want to control the choice of destination, you should enlist your children's help in researching activities for your vacation. With children over the age of eight, you may consider allowing them to plan a full day's activities. It's remarkable how giving each member of the family his or her day cuts down on complaints. Your ten-year old son will be better able to tolerate a visit to the Doll Museum knowing that a baseball game is in his future.
Immerse your children in the destination before you start the trip.
Bring home books of fairy tales from the country you'll be visiting or age-appropriate novels, set in the destination. Rent movies that feature places that you'll see. By preparing your children in this fashion, you'll increase their ability to enjoy the destination exponentially.
Consider renting an apartment or vacation home rather than staying in a hotel.
Usually the costs will be equivalent, but with a rental you'll likely have much more space. That means that instead of the entire family having to pile into one bedroom, the parents can take the bedroom while the kids sleep on a fold-out couch in the living room (or may get their own second bedroom). As importantly, with a rental you'll have a kitchen in which to prepare baby bottles or cook meals for finicky eaters. And being able to prepare at least some of your meals will help your budget immeasurably.
Give each child a souvenir budget.
And don't give in if they spend it too soon. It's a terrific way to teach them about fiscal responsibility and keep your kids engaged in the trip.
Build in time to your schedule just for blowing off steam.
Sure it's great to see and do new things but children, especially very young children, need time to simply run around or loll in the grass. So research where the local playgrounds and parks are when you get to your destination and budget at least a fifth of each day just kicking back and relaxing in them. A hidden perk to hanging out in the park: you get to meet local parents, who can tell you where the great child-friendly restaurants are, or what life is like in the locale you're visiting. (Some of my fondest travel memories are of these impromptu conversations).
Prepare your child (and yourself) adequately for the flight.
If you're traveling with toddlers or babies, make sure to have a bottle or pacifier handy for take-off and landing. Young ones scream during these times of flight because they can't adjust the pressure in their ears. Having something to suck helps with that. For older children, be sure to bring enough distractions to last the flight plus two hoursÂ?delays are endemic nowadays! For that very same reason, make sure you bring meals and extra food along with you. Many airlines now sell onboard snacks, but they're rarely the fare children enjoy (the same goes for the "kids meals" the airlines give away). And before you get on board the flight, don't sit in the terminalÂ?you'll be doing that for hours on the plane. Instead, try and find a terminal playground (many have them nowadays) or an out-of-the-way place where you and your children can run around and play tag. The more tired they are before they board, the quieter the flight will be for you.
Check out kid-friendly events on www.whatsonwhen.com or at the local library.
Look for fun happenings like parades, circuses, festivals, puppet shows and country fairs. You'll also find that local libraries in the places you're visiting can be wonderful resources for diversions such as story times or craft hours.
Teach your children some of the language, if it will be different.
Not only is it polite to know how to say such basics as "Please" and "Thank You", it will give your child a sense of control as they're traveling.
Find out more about the Pauline Frommer Travel Guide series, read articles by Pauline, and listen to Podcasts on Pauline's page on Frommers.com.