Surviving the Family Vacation

"That's okay, Mom, I was really kind of hot," my son exclaimed after he accidentally dumped a full glass of chilled Sprite down his front. We were crowded into coach class airline seats on our way to see the in-laws for the holidays, and the spill's collateral damage took in my pants and the stuffed animal that caused the spill in the first place. I mopped us up, changed his shirt and tried to keep in mind my favorite travel motto, "This will make a funny story later," even though I wasn't laughing then.

It was a sticky beginning to our trip, but it served to remind me that we, along with a couple of million other young families, were putting our fate into the hands of the travel gods -- and, for better or worse, into the hands of the family members we were about to visit. Here are some tips to encourage fate to touch you with a light hand:

Before You Leave

  • Go with speed: Avoid wearisome lines, hideous traffic jams and gruesome airport delays by avoiding peak travel days when the roads and airports will be at their busiest.
  • Information is power! Tell your kids where you're going, how you will get there and who you'll be seeing.
  • Manners 101: Go over basic behavior requirements such as table manners, houseguest etiquette and expectations concerning cheerfully helping with chores.
  • Prevent idle hands: Pick up some inexpensive toys, games and goodies to pull out while you're traveling or visiting -- maze books, magic pen books, tiny games, stickers, lollipops, etc.
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