By Kelly Herdrich, Contributing writer
Whether it's a weekend trip or a cross-country road trip, travel with kids comes with its own set of unique challenges.
If your family is planning to travel with kids, making the trip stress-free is likely high on your list of priorities. With planning, realistic goals and a little bit of luck, stress-free travel with kids can be a reality for your family.
Stop Every Two Hours
Road trips, especially those that take more than a few hours, can be incredibly difficult for children. No matter how much you bring along for entertainment, there is usually not enough to keep children occupied for an entire car ride.
Plan to stop for a bathroom break, a drink, or just to get out and stretch your legs every two to three hours on a long car ride. This breaks up the journey for everyone, and doesn't have to add more than 10 minutes for every two to three hours of car travel.
Pack More Than You Need
While this is difficult to do when flying, car travel allows families a bit more flexibility when it comes to packing.
Not only should parents bring along plenty of clean clothes to avoid the need to do laundry, but also they should think about activities. Bringing along a portable DVD player, a handheld video game system, and/or a laptop computer are all great ideas to help keep children entertained in the car and during down time on family vacations.
Book Big-Enough Accommodations
Sure, you might be able to sleep two adults and three children in one hotel room. But even Parenting magazine recognizes the importance of giving families enough room when traveling with small children.
If you want a stress-free trip with kids, think about booking a small apartment with a kitchen, instead of just a hotel room. It might not cost that much more, and could save you a ton of hassle if you have early risers or need more room to spread out.
The best way to achieve stress-free travel with kids is to do something or go somewhere that appeals to the entire family.
If your fair-skinned kids hate the beach, don't expect them to enjoy a three week vacation on a beach in Florida. Instead, consider taking them to a mountain resort.
Stress-free travel is easier to come by if parents keep their children's likes and dislikes in mind when planning family vacations.
Set Realistic Expectations
One of the best ways to take the stress out of traveling with kids is to set realistic expectations.
Don't require your 2-year-old to go all day without a nap, and then be surprised or frustrated when they melt down. Don't ask your teenager to spend the entire day watching his little sister in a museum that doesn't appeal to him, and then not understand why he wants to be on his own in the evening.
Try to think about your family members, their unique personalities, needs and wants, and set realistic expectations for yourself and your family during travel.