The real key to any successful family vacation is to be well prepared, and that's especially true when there's only one parent to handle it all. Get the kids involved with the process, or you may find yourself dealing with a meltdown early on. Ask where they want to go and what experiences they want to do. Sometimes the simplest things become more exciting when it's "their idea."

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Have the kids participate in the logistics, like reading maps or finding the gate at the airport. Not only does it keep them engaged, it helps them develop necessary skills. Always—always—make sure to have an emergency plan. In the event that the kids are somehow separated from you, do they know what to do and what not to do? If they are too small to have a cell phone, do they know your cell number by heart? In any destination, identify a meeting spot in case they get separated.

Do not overlook three major categories of things to pack: an emergency kit, plenty of games (new ones tend to hold their attention longer) and snacks. There's nothing worse than facing airport or airplane food that is not child-friendly or driving that long, never-ending stretch with signs reading, "Last stop for food for the next 60 miles!" Small bags of pretzels, almonds, raisins, granola bars and, if you choose, candy, are all great options.

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The last thing to remember to do is have fun and relax. Your kids get enough structure and early mornings during the school year, so it's okay to be flexible with your schedule on vacation. And remember, your children are louder and whinier to you than to anyone else.

Enjoy your time together!

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