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Are you thinking of doing something special this summer with the kids? With some advance preparation, your well-deserved trip can be filled with fun and adventure for everyone in the family. San Francisco Bay Area travel expert Carole Terwilliger Meyers is the author of 18 books, including “Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games & Activities” and regularly blogs at Travels with Carole. Here are some of her best tips on traveling with kids.
1. What is a good way to save on hotels?
Book a suite. You’ll get a lot more room, and often they are not much more expensive than a regular double-double room. All-suite hotels are generally great for families. They usually have a hide-a-bed in the sitting room and a small kitchen for preparing snacks, and breakfast is often included.
On a car trip, pack along an inflatable beach ball. It won’t take up much space in the trunk, and you can blow it up when you stop to encourage active movement. Other good items to pack for stops include bubbles, a jump rope, a Frisbee, chalk (for hopscotch) and jacks. Always keep a package of medium-size self-locking plastic bags in your car’s trunk. These are handy for holding many things, including items children collect and yucky items such as dirty bibs, used diapers and wet bathing suits.
3. How long should we stay at a museum?
When visiting a museum, never stay longer than an hour. Get your kids more interested by stopping first at the museum gift shop. Have each pick out five postcards depicting items in the museum’s collection. Then go with them on a “treasure hunt” to find those items. When each child has found all of their items, reward them with their choice of a small souvenir from the gift shop.
4. What are good tips for a hiking trip?
For a hiking trip, keep distances short. And once you’re at your destination, please your kids by getting down and dirty along with them. Let everyone over age three carry their own backpack, even if it holds only a stuffed animal and a snack. Also provide each child with a whistle to wear around their neck. Instruct them to blow three times–the universal signal for help–should they become lost, and teach them not to blow the whistle at other times.
5. Are there other ways to keep kids entertained on a road trip?
Turn your children into navigators. Give each of them their own map and let them figure out how far it is to the next town. Give them a wide felt-tip highlighter pen to trace the route as you go. To help younger children become familiar with distances, thread a number of Cheerios or Fruit Loops onto a string. At specific intervals (5 miles, 10 miles, 50 miles) let them take one off and eat it. Arrange it so that when they eat the last one, you’re there.
Bonus Tip – What is a good way to prepare for the next trip?
Next time, have your children help pick a destination and plan the trip. Look at maps together. As an adult, you should create a flexible travel schedule. Allow sufficient travel time between destinations so that you can make spontaneous exploration stops along the way. My motto is, “Plan your ideal daily itinerary, then when you’re there, cut it in half.”
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.