Friday, March 19, 2004

Planning enhances family vacation

By Doreen Nagle
Gannett News Service

Whether it's a five-star resort, two weeks sailing off the coast or a week of day trips from home base, a little planning will fill the family vacation with more pleasant memories and less stress. Isn't that what a vacation is supposed to do?

Where to go

With the plethora of options these days, your family can find the vacation of their dreams - from the adventurous (a trek through Nepal) to the child-centered (amusement park resort). The question is how to decide. Consider these factors:

• Budget. How much you want to spend will be one of your prime deciding factors. Do some research online if you are in the dark about the cost of a cruise versus a plane trip versus a car trip. Consider the rapidly rising cost of gasoline to get to your destination versus airfare.

• Activity. What do you want to do on a vacation? Soak up the sun and enjoy planned activities, tour a region's museums, raft a wild river, sleep in a five-star hotel - or all the above? Educate yourself about options: Visit travel agencies, scour magazines, go online or hit the library to gather material. Then hold a family meeting to brainstorm.

• Timing. With a destination, or type of destination, in mind the next question becomes when will you go? School calendars, work and other commitments must be considered, but also consider seasonal travel deals, special event timing, seasonal crowds, seasonal activities, weather and preparation before you go.

Taking kids out of school

Is it OK to take kids out of school for a family vacation? A week immersed in a foreign culture - or with extended family - means a lifetime of memories for your child. However, before you take your school-age children from the classroom, ask yourself a few questions.

• Must the trip be made at the time planned?

• Will it be educational? If so, make time each day for your child to document the experience; for example they can write if they are old enough or draw if they are not.

• Ask the teacher what your child will miss during his absence. Can he do extra work prior to the vacation or take work with him?

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