Long ago cross-country car trips with my two young sons are now vague, semicomical memories, sweet recollections mixed with sitcom-worthy potty searches on desolate stretches of highway in the Midwest.
I could have used some tips in those days, but you traveling parents are more lucky. Here's a list of some pointers for smoother excursions with youngsters this summer, courtesy of the American Society of Travel Agents:
Drum roll, please!
Build excitement with a countdown calendar decorated with a photo or illustration of the destination. Let kids pack their own bags. Decide what type of clothing, but allow them to choose their favorites and to pack a special toy.
Traveling by air
Allow for extra time at the airport. Be sure to have a safety plan in case anyone gets separated at the airport. Review screening procedures with children before entering security checkpoints so they will not be frightened by the process.
Getting your seat assignment in advance can help ensure families are seated together. If a flight is full and you cannot obtain seat assignments in advance, advise the airline personnel at the airport. The airline may need to ask other passengers to change seats so children are not seated apart from parents.
Traveling by car
Bring pillows and blankets. Stop frequently at rest stops to stretch and make use of restrooms. Play games and make sure the car is stocked with favorite DVDs or CDs. Keep kids involved in the process by making a scrapbook.
At the destination
Plan for down time. Have a daily schedule planned with some flexible, free time for the family.
At hotels, make a sweep of balconies and bathrooms for potential dangers and be familiar with emergency procedures.