Family Vacation Survival Guide on More than 100 tips for actually enjoying yourself.

Babble’s Family Vacation Survival Guide

More than 100 tips for actually enjoying yourself.

by Allison Pennell

August 6, 2009

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As soon as you become a parent, the term “vacation” (previously defined as days of footloose R&R) takes on a whole new meaning. Family vacations operate on a different clock than the rest of the year – speeding by while standing perfectly still at times. Back to the past and right smack in the moment.

Here’s our exhaustive guide to everything you’ll need to survive your family travels in one piece, with more than 100 sanity-saving tips. – Allison Pennell

How To Travel Light

Traveling light and family vacations would seem to be mutually exclusive, but it actually can be done, according to packing guru Doug Dyment of A family of five can actually pack everything you need into two carry-on suitcases or backpacks. His greatest hits in a nutshell:



· You don’t need more than four of any item of clothing: four tops, bottoms, undies, socks, and so forth. Exceptions: bathing suits, shoes, and jammies, which shouldn’t exceed two. And one jacket if needed.

· Other sartorial rules of thumb: limit your color palette to no more than two compatible colors that easily mix and match, think lightweight and quick-drying for easy overnight wash and dry (eg. no denim or cotton socks).

· Traveling to a new country? Check the cultural appropriateness of your gear at

· Maximize space and cut down on wrinkles by bundle wrapping instead of folding.


· Air travel regulations have outlawed liquids larger than 3 oz. in your carry-on luggage. Transfer small amounts of your favorite products with Easy Traveler’s Totally Compliant Carry On Kit ( or check out for one-stop shopping. Or find alternatives to your favorite liquid products: J.R. Liggett’s Bar Shampoo, lightweight tooth powder instead of paste, facial and body cleansing foams and wipes, insect repellant cloths.

· Multi-use Essentials:

Waxed Dental Floss (dental hygiene, clothing line, in-a-pinch shoelaces, stopgap for missing eyeglass screws)

Duct Tape (shutting up annoying siblings, emergency child-proofing, resolving territorial disputes, ad-hoc car repair, etc)

Mini Flashlight (book light, monster prevention, seeing where the hell you’re going)

Resealable Plastic Bags (dirty laundry, organizing, packing laundry detergent and other helpful stuff)

Laptop or iPod Touch (movies on demand, music, games, search engines, driving directions)

· Don’t leave home without: tweezers, umbrella or lightweight raincoat, first aid kit, compass (helpful in cities too).

Fear of Flying: Sanity-Savers

Parking. Find bargain lots and coupons at

Flight Delays. Avoid them if you can with online or phone alert updates provided by your friendly air traffic controllers at For terminal cases, check out this list of all airport entertainment and recreation amenities throughout North America.

Getting To and Fro. Don’t check the stroller! You can bring it to the gate and it comes in very handy for schlepping car seats, carry-on luggage and tired kids.

In The Air, Junior Birdman. Ah, the flight. Remember, bathroom breaks and diaper changes before boarding. Bring no-mess snacks and goody bags filled with portable activities. Also, this is where that laptop can really come in handy for watching favorite shows and movies.

Etiquette. Apologize to all neighbors in advance of the myriad possible infractions young children have been known to commit in-flight. Looking and sounding like you are putting some effort into stopping whatever bad behavior ensues is also key.

Into the Wild: Camping for Beginners

You can get back to nature without importing a sherpa or lugging half the house (not to mention the kid) into the wilderness on your back. “Car camping” – using your wheels to get to the campsite – still counts, says Kristin Hostetter, Backpacker magazine’s Gear Editor and author of Don’t Forget the Duct Tape, Adventure Journal, and Tent and Car Camper’s Handbook.

Top Tips:

· Borrow gear from friends or relatives rather than buying.

· A few nights is probably enough for beginners – and first-timers should stick close to home, no more than two hours away.

· Tag along with another family who knows what they’re doing.

· Pack synthetic socks (cotton causes blisters) and a whistle necklace for each kid just in case they get separated.

· Know your leaves: go here for images of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

· When hiking, there’s no shame in bribing your kid up a steep hill with Skittles.

· Want to read your book in peace? Organize a nature hunt. Give each kid a bag and a list of things to find/do.

· If you’re feeling adventurous, invest in a National Parks annual pass ($80 buys a year’s worth of unlimited access to all national parks). They also run the Junior Ranger program: kids get swag and at the end of their stay, new recruits get “sworn in,” complete with a badge of honor.

For reservations and more planning tips, log onto,, or

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More than 100 tips for actually enjoying yourself.

by Allison Pennell

August 6, 2009

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Other Cheap Travels

Don’t let the recession put the kibosh on your family vacation. How to go without going broke:

Join Forces

Rent a place with another family. Built-in buddies, half the cost, maybe even the chance to read your book in peace or go on a date. Just make sure everybody plays well in the sandbox!

Swap Your House

House swapping can save a bundle and will give you an inside track on experiencing a community as a local would. Check out,, and

Friends and Family Tour

Mooch off copacetic friends and relations with vacation houses; just keep it short and sweet and don’t forget to bring a nice hostess gift.

Family Camp

For a total getaway, try sleep-away camp for the whole family, complete with cabins, campfires, cool activities and counselors. Resources:

Go Local

How many New Yorkers have never been to Ellis Island or San Franciscans to Alcatraz? Take advantage of the time off to treat your kids to local adventures or go camping in the backyard. Vacation is a state of mind.

Online Deals Hands down, the best travel search engine on the web. AAA membership buys steep discounts at numerous hotel chains, Amtrak, rental cars, and restaurant chains. Where the last-minute deals are.

How Not to Feel Like You Need a Vacation From Your Vacation.

Pack a playmate (a low-maintenance one). Pack another family. Pack a trusted teenager to help out. Pack grandparents who won’t annoy you and who like to wake up early AND baby-sit. And give up the ghost on sophisticated travel; embrace the singular charms of a kid-friendly locale instead. And if all else fails, GoCityKids has local leads on finding a “date night” sitter throughout the U.S.

Where The Boys (and Girls) Are

Your best bet for finding playmates is to schmooze with friendly-looking, kid-bearing locals wherever you find them. Also, Kaboom’s Play Space Finder maintains a user-generated database of 11,800 favorite places to play across North America.


Backseat Entertainment: Keep the Peace on a Road Trip

We know, it’s a love/hate thing, but the memories are everlasting. And on the bright side, experts say that fighting in the backseat, feeling bored and having to entertain yourself, being squished, and not having your needs met instantaneously all teach kids such vital skills as managing patience and cooperation. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a little electronica on long car trips.

Free Audiobooks. Most local libraries allow cardholders to download a wide variety of books for free off their websites. Fill your iPod or laptop with hours of stories.

Digital Babysitter. Download movie and tv show rentals from iTunes and Amazon to watch on your laptop before you set out; you’ll have up to a month to watch them. For the laptopless, did you know you can now buy a portable DVD player for as little as $25?

Low-Tech (and Low-Brow) Entertainment. It’s hard not to love The Encyclopedia of Immaturity (Klutz, 19.95). Kids will learn how to do armpit farts, fake a sneeze, play pranks, and skip stones, among 296 other things. Also fun from Klutz, Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit ($19.95).

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Babble’s Family Vacation Survival Guide

More than 100 tips for actually enjoying yourself.

by Allison Pennell

August 6, 2009

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3Page 1

Did You Know? Beach and Pool Advice

Pack a small container of white vinegar. It’s an antiseptic, pain reliever, tried-and-true cure-all for jellyfish bites, wasp stings, water in the ear, sunburn and sun-damaged hair.

Sticky, Icky Sand? A little baby powder makes getting the sand off a breeze.

Do you really have to stay out of the water for a half hour after eating? Absolutely not, say the medical experts. Jump right in, the water’s warm.

Finally, a legitimate reason for showering before you get in the pool: green hair prevention. Dry hair soaks up a lot more chlorine, according to research.

Almost half of Americans recently surveyed admit to peeing in the ocean. And Trip Advisor’s recent etiquette survey found that 53% of travelers are perfectly fine with that. Urine is sterile, after all.

Rule of thumb for the better half: the toilet closest to the door is the least used in public restrooms.

Only 32% of parents make their kids wear sunglasses as opposed to 82% for sunscreen, even though according to the AAP, children under ten are at increased risk for vision damage. Try MFS eyewear: comfortable, won’t fall off, shatterproof, floats in water, cool colors, wrap around frames, and 100% UVA and UVB protection. ($14.99-19.99 for ages 0-12.) For other options, here are our Babble Best: sunglasses picks.

Getting kids to stand still for sunscreen has never been easier; try Neutrogena’s Waterguard Kids Sunblock Mist.

Scientists estimate that the average kid swallows 1-2 oz. of sea water per beach day, twice as much as adults. Hence: keep kids in cool, fresh, unsalted water all day by freezing water bottles overnight.

Lifeguards spend more time finding parents of lost kids than saving lives. It’s a good idea to sharpie your cell phone number on the inside of all little arms.

If caught in a riptide, swim horizontally, parallel to the shore, rather than trying to head in to shore or out.

Best-Kept Secret: Hit the Big City

It’s a well-kept secret, but summer in the city is awesome. By August, with lots of city dwellers heading to the country for vacation, you can actually find a parking spot, and there are infinite (and often free) possibilities for spending the day. Ditch the car on the outskirts and get taken for a ride in NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Fran and Chicago with the help of When you’ve got to go, find nearby relief with the help of the aptly named search engine, Find short-term apartment rentals on Craig’s List (just search for vacation rentals). Check out for finding the best hole-in-the-wall eats. Skip the line and save big on museums and popular local attractions with Find family-friendly events, resources and places to go for cities all across the country at

Health On The Road: Rx for Common Woes

Fight germs with water. Drinking lots of water is the best way of warding off airborne contagions.

Deal with jet lag. Kids are a lot more hardy than the ‘rents when it comes to resetting internal clocks, and supposedly the under-three crowd doesn’t suffer from it at all. When crossing time zones, have kids drink up before and during flight. After landing, start eating and sleeping on the new schedule and get into bright daylight for at least 15 minutes as soon as you can.

For the motion-sickness prone. Make sure they eat before they go. Counterintuitive though it will seem to kids, it helps settle the stomach. Eyes straight ahead (no reading). Keep fresh air flowing if possible. And, in a pinch, try Children’s Dramamine for kids over two, Sea-Bands, or Queasy Pops, which we highlight not because we really know they work, but purely for the inspired name. Oh, and don’t throw out that empty coffee cup. You may need it.

Unblock ears. Yawning, swallowing, chewing gum, or sucking (hear that, breastfeeding moms?) are all tried and true remedies.

Travel Insurance. Really, does anything suck more than ending up in an ER in some far-flung place and then paying the bill for years to come because your health insurance doesn’t cover you? Our favorite travel insurance site:

Call the Doctor! The American Academy of Pediatrics maintains a worldwide directory of member pediatricians broken down by specialty.

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Babble’s Family Vacation Survival Guide

More than 100 tips for actually enjoying yourself.

by Allison Pennell

August 6, 2009

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Bringing Along The Beast (no, not the kid: the dog)

Hundreds of budget motel chains and even upscale hotels like W Hotel now welcome poochs; “pet lodgings” at Disney World, formerly known as kennels, are now full-service pet resorts. has the scoop on lodgings, dog parks, beaches, and even hound-welcoming dining opportunities.

Dinner Conversation

A recent Columbia University study found that sharing regular family meals will potentially make your kids upstanding, vice-free scholars of the future. So just think of the dividends all this dining togetherness will bring. To keep the conversations flowing:

Kids 3-6: Family Time Fun Beginner Dinner Games ($15)

Ages 4+: award-winning Family Talk Cards ($13)

Just Shoot Me: Let the Memories Live On

iLife makes it a snap (sorry!) to make your own coffee table vacation opus. Also cool: Google’s Picasa Web Albums.


Online Resources

Where to find everything remotely vacation-worthy under the sun:























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