Preparing kids for a trip to anywhere

I saw this story on about preparing your kids to go to Europe and it occurred to me it contains great advice about preparing your kids to travel just about anywhere.

For example. the writer recommends choosing your destination wisely (i.e., Switzerland promotes itself as family friendly). But you don’t have to cross the pond to know that is good advice.

Yes, Disney is always a safe (if expensive) choice. But there are plenty of great kid-friendly destinations close to Chicago. Three of my faves: Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Quad Cities. But wherever you plan to go, it’s worth taking a few minutes to check the Web and see whether the tourism folks there have a list of cool things to do with kids.

Be flexible

Equally important, whether you’re flying to France or driving to Detroit is to build plenty of downtime and flexibility into the schedule. Kids just wanna have fun and if the trip is scheduled from one minute to the next, where’s the fun in that?

I can remember many trips to Brookfield Zoo when the kids were little where I would spend the first two hours studiously avoiding that playground in the middle. Once the kids saw it, they didn’t want to leave. Our first few visits, I pouted, wondering why I bothered to drive all the way to the zoo when they could much more easily have played at the neighborhood park. Once I figured it out, the zoo trips worked better for both of us–I got to show off the animals and they got to play.

Among the other recommendations: prep the kids for the trip. If you’re headed to France, that might include reading (or re-reading) the Madeline books. If you’re headed to Springfield, Ill., and the terrific Lincoln Museum, head to the library and check out a couple of Abe Lincoln books or a video before you go.

And my personal favorite tip for any kind of travel: Do the free stuff. It’s key to making family travel affordable. At, the Web site where I am the editor, we’re compiling listings of free things to do in the 50 states. Take a look.

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