Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer travel season for many families in the United States. Family vacations are not just about getting away -- they're about coming together. However, travel can be an expensive, time-consuming, stress-inducing exercise without proper preparation. When planning a family vacation the most important thing to remember is to include the entire family in the financial and destination discussions.
If you're one of the many families getting ready to get away from it all this summer, here are some tips for a stress-free summer vacation:
Tips for a Stress-Free Family Summer Vacation
* Be all-inclusive. Help children feel invested in vacation planning by giving them five possibilities of places you would be comfortable going on vacation, and then letting them choose from those structured, pre-approved choices. Work with each child to contribute realistic outing ideas for the vacation. Select at least one activity from each child's wish list, depending on your time and budget.
* Let your children know the rules. Discuss appropriate travel behavior well in advance.
* Set limitations. Give children a set amount of spending money upfront that they can use to buy souvenirs.
* Plan for a rainy day. Make sure you have a few indoor activities available in the event of inclement weather.
* Don't overdo it. There is no need to take the family on expensive trips to exotic locations to have a great time; there are numerous vacation spots close to home that can be just as enjoyable.
* If traveling on a plane, schedule night flights so that your children are more likely to sleep the flight away.
* Bring a variety of familiar favorites on flights. Help create a comfort zone for your kids on the plane and keep them busy by bringing along their favorite snacks, favorite quiet toys, favorite books, and favorite blanket.
* Have reasonable expectations. Children get cranky and tired; don't let their mood swings discourage you.
* Plan well, but pack a go-with-the-flow attitude. Schedule as much as you can beforehand, but once your travels are underway, come to expect the unexpected - a suddenly tired child, transportation delays, unplanned but exciting detours -- and go with the flow. Flexibility, along with a positive attitude, can go a long way in ensuring your family has an enjoyable summer vacation.