Making vacations fun for everybody

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Teenagers want independence and alone time. Younger kids want hands-on activities that require supervision. Toddlers and babies -- when they aren't sleeping -- want constant attention.

And parents, God bless 'em, want a little privacy and romance.

As vacation season approaches, consider these expert suggestions for keeping everyone comfortable and content -- whether on a road trip to a state park or a plane trip to a farther-flung locale.

1. Don't overestimate everyone's stamina. If driving, take a short break every two hours. "That's not only good for the kids, but it's good for the driver," says Dan Ronan, communications manager for AAA Texas and New Mexico. "Stretch your legs, use the rest room, get some fresh air."

2. Embrace Plan B. It might rain on a day you planned to be outside. Or the kids might tire more quickly than you expected. Rather than demand another hour on the hiking trail, let them settle in with a movie. Be flexible. "You've got to realize that kids don't have the endurance, concentration or stamina we have as adults," Ronan says.

3. Visit a state park. "With the economy being what it is and has been, remember that kids 12 and under receive free entrance to ( Texas) state parks," says Bryan Frazier, public affairs director for the Texas parks system. "We also have free fishing; you can fish without a license or a stamp."

4. Give children an outdoor survival kit. If families are going to be hiking or spending a good deal of time outdoors, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends that each child carry a whistle, a hat, sunscreen, water, a snack, a compass and a bright orange bandanna. The bandanna can be used as a flag if someone runs into trouble.

5. Carry your own survival kit. This includes everything in the children's kit plus a small first-aid box, toilet paper and hand wipes. A walking stick is also a good idea, particularly for inexperienced hikers. "It gives you extra balance and will reduce stress on knees and joints," Frazier says.

6. Invest in headphones or earbuds.
On the road or in the air, adults will soon tire of the dings and blips and battle sounds of children's cartoons or games -- particularly if there is more than one playing at the same time. For every child who loves handheld technology, there's an adult who loves not hearing it.

7. Consider a separate hotel room for the kids. AAA Texas is often asked how old children should be before they can stay in a hotel room by themselves. "We tell people it depends on the kid, but probably 13 or 14," Ronan says. "But there's a caveat. You want to get a connecting room, so you can walk through a door and interact with the kids. Some places have suites with two bedrooms with a common living area, which is a great option."

8. Have your child bring a friend. Inviting a friend is a great option for children 8 to 18 and is particularly recommended for families with only one child. "It builds camaraderie and keeps your child occupied," Ronan says.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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