Traveling with kidsFamily vacations provide an opportunity for both parents and children to escape day-to-day routines and responsibilities and enjoy each other’s company. Siblings have a chance to bond, and parents can be more playful and let down their disciplinarian demeanor.

Deb Cornick, publisher and editor of, says, “Many parents think they have to wait until their children are older to travel. But any age is a great age for traveling, provided parents plan properly and have realistic expectations.” If your work schedule or budget won’t allow for a long break, remember there are many great destinations close to home. So start collecting brochures and travel guides, bookmarking websites, and shaping your dream family vacation.

Planning a Trip

When time off beckons, Cornick suggests getting the entire family together to discuss options. Acknowledge likes and dislikes. While Disney World may be the perfect spot for some, others may not enjoy the crowds. Conversely, those that like sightseeing and action may be bored by a week at the beach. Kyle McCarthy, founder of Family Travel Conference, says, “Give older kids some ownership of the trip by having them complete their own research and help plan the itinerary.” Prepare younger children by letting them look through picture books and brochures so they know what to anticipate.

Many attractions offer advance ticket sales, allowing families to save money and avoid waiting in lines. See whether you can book advance meal reservations (theme-park character meals must be reserved months in advance). Also check hours of operation and age/height requirements for attractions to avoid disappointment.

City Slickers

Big cities with landmarks, theaters, museums, and restaurants are a great source of entertainment for families. New Jersey residents are fortunate to have New York; Boston; Washington, DC; and Philadelphia close by and easily accessible by car, train, or plane. Teresa Sellinger of Sparta, NJ, the former New Jersey editor of, says, “Big cities offer parents an opportunity to expose their children to different cultures and cuisines. In New York City, my son tried Indian food and loved it. He never had it because we don’t have any Indian restaurants where we live.”

Take advantage of a city’s unique attractions, but try not to overdo it. McCarthy suggests finding accommodations in a central location to allow for trips back to the hotel, where a nap or a swim in the pool can break up the day.

Selecting the perfect location, and getting back to nature ->


Destination Locations

Theme parks and other destinations can provide nonstop family fun. Some, such as Legoland in California, are geared toward younger children; others, such as Disney World or Universal Studios in Florida, have attractions for every age. For a theme-park experience closer to home, consider Sesame Place, Dorney Park, or Hershey Park, all in Pennsylvania.

All-inclusive resorts such as Beaches, Club Med, and Iberostar, located all over the world, are popular family-friendly options. Meals, activities, and most amenities are paid for in advance and available on site, allowing parents to put away their car keys and wallets. Cruising is another option with all amenities at hand.

European Travels

Parents may think their children are too young to appreciate a trip to Europe. But planned well, with a realistic itinerary and rest stops even little kids can enjoy a trip abroad. When we took our seven year old to London, he had a great time on the “duck tour” (a sightseeing bus trip that ends with a splash in the river – available in many cities), riding the London Eye and seeing the show Wicked (especially because in London, ice cream is available in the theater at intermission). His best memories from Italy last summer was eating gelato everyday in Tuscany, watching the soccer games, and having McDonalds on the museum steps in Florence.

Exploring Nature

Get-back-to-nature vacations are great for all ages to banish couch-potato tendencies. Says McCarthy: “As people are becoming more environmentally aware, adventurous outdoorsy vacations are becoming more popular. Many families, especially those with older children, are considering vacations that include zip lining, snorkeling, and safari expeditions.”

Nature vacations can also be fun for families seeking a less-active pace or tranquil days spent fishing and boating at a lake or the beach. Cornick says, “Nature allows for simple pleasures; a child surrounded by sand and waves can amuse [himself] for hours. Nature vacations allow families to enjoy quiet time together without being stressed by always following a schedule.”

Taking it Easy

Regardless of where you go, McCarthy says, “My best advice to parents traveling with kids is to cut your itinerary in half…ambitious parents want to see every museum, go on every ride, and do every activity. But a trip that includes children should be geared toward the children. Instead of worrying about ‘missing something,’ remember that it is usually the detours—and even the missteps—on vacation that create the best family memories.”

Just remember, says Sellinger, “A positive attitude is the key to a successful family vacation.”

Short Hills mom Randi Mazzella is planning a family trip to Canada.


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