Whether you’re taking your first big trip with a newborn or you’re a seasoned traveler with a disaffected teen, these tips and tools can help make family vacations more fun—and way less stressful—for everyone.
Babies Traveling with a baby doesn’t have to equate to traveling like a pack mule, thanks to gear rental companies that will bring just about anything you need to you at your destination. Baby-equipment-rental.com has a database of U.S. and international businesses that rent everything from cribs and high chairs to strollers, swings and room monitors.
Toddlers This age group has short attention spans, lots of demands and likes to be on the move, making them the most difficult travelers. When possible, plan travel during nap times to maximize downtime. For all those other hours, Leapfrog’s My Own Leaptop ($22 at leapfrog.com) is a small investment that yields a big return by keeping tots busy with educational games that make them feel all grown up on their own little “laptops.”
Six-to-nine-year-olds Make your smart device work for you to simplify travel with kids this age. The iReward Chart app ($3.99 at iTunes.com) can help prevent backseat brawls during road trips by letting kids earn stars for customized accomplishments (say, “keep hands to yourself”). Stars can then be redeemed for rewards you tailor to your kids, such as TV time or sweet treats. The app is compatible with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch products, and can be synced across multiple devices.
Tweens What do you with kids who are too cool to spend time at resort kids’ clubs but too young to go off on their own? Tweens are just the right age for a vacation at an all-inclusive resort, where they can exercise their independence (say, hanging out in a game room or at a water slide) with you nearby. Some resorts, like The Cloister at Sea Island in Georgia, have clubs just for preteens, with activities including scavenger hunts and bicycling excursions.
Teens Many families with older kids find that, if it isn’t cost prohibitive, letting a less-than-enthusiastic teen bring a friend along on vacation makes them more excited about participating. Establishing rules and limits before you go, and letting them have a say in some of the planning helps, too. Bonus: You might get a closer look at your aloof teen’s world in the process.