If you're planning on taking a family trip that involves children, here are some tips to make sure that everybody enjoys themselves.
If you've ever travelled with children, you've probably heard the dreaded "Are we there yet?" more than enough for one lifetime, but there are definitely things you can do to keep everyone occupied and happy. With a combination of advance planning and strategies while on your trip, you can avoid frustration, keep everyone busy, and improve the experience for the entire family.
Planning in advance for kids should definitely include more than getting everything packed. Take a trip to a dollar store and buy a collection of small cheap toys, including travel games and things that you know the kids will like (avoid fighting by making sure you buy separate things for each child), then wrap each of them up individually. Once you're on the plane or in the car, tell the kids that if they're good they can have one every hour (make sure you have enough for the entire duration of the trip!), this not only gives them an incentive to behave, but it also gives them something to look forward to on a regular basis while in transit, which helps prevent boredom (wrapping everything up drags it out a bit longer, and makes it feel more special). While you're shopping, pick up a few extras just in case, including travel games that you can pull out if everyone get bored and fidgety - avoiding boredom is the key to ensuring everyone gets there happy.
While on the road, you should also plan regular breaks to give everyone a chance to stretch. If you're on a plane, get up every hour and take the kids for a walk up and down the aisles, this not only helps with circulation but it also breaks up the flight and offers a different view than the back of an airplane chair. If you're in a car, plan a little extra time and stop every hour or two for the same reason - if possible, map out your route in advance and look for interesting stops along the way, it not only breaks up the trip but it also allows you to experience more than what you would have seen from the highway (and invariably gives you more of a flavour of your destination than what the standard tourist stops would offer) - if you're on the road for more than a few hours, stopping in local towns and supermarkets also gives you a way of buying snacks and lunches at a fraction of the cost of gas stations or highway restaurants (but try to avoid buying too many drinks for the car, unless you want to stop at the side of the road every ten minutes).
If you're driving with more than one child, seating arrangements can make all the difference - pair up children with adults and try to keep them physically separated (unless you're keen on hearing "Mommy, Susie poked me again"), or at least try to make sure that every child has a window seat to keep them amused. Driving games that involve spotting random objects/signs, or taking turns playing "I Spy", can make a day of driving seem like a breeze (most game stores offer playing card versions of these games that involve random objects and methods of scoring points) - these activities are great because they not only keep the whole family occupied, but they also cater to kids and adults of any age.
Most of all, ensure that your itinerary includes something for everyone. Try to plan for at least one major stop for just the kids - an amusement park or other attraction geared towards kids does two things: it gives them something to look forward to while they're visiting grown-up tourist attractions, and also gives them something that they know is just for them (and often becomes the highlight of their trip). If your schedule doesn't allow for an extra stop, be sure to check for children's activities at the places you're visiting (most tourist attractions make an effort to cater to children in some way). If you make a point of looking, you can almost always find enough activities to make every outing special and memorable for the whole family.