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Hip Trips For Kids

If your family is getting restless after hunkering down through the long winter, it may be time for a vacation break. If so, you'll find this strategic guide from CBS.com and GORP helpful.

As every good general knows, you need to prepare your army's movements in advance, lest the troops fall into disarray and turn mutinous mid-mission. A little strategy can spare your family conflict down the road.

Figure out where you're going, how you're getting there, and what to do when you arrive. While you're thinking about the "where," consider the following natural alternatives to the usual family fare.

Outdoors trips are perfect for families. Having a daily destination gives the group solidarity and purpose.

Older kids can help with planning, equipment, supplies, and directions, all the while gaining a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Infants and toddlers can be safely and conveniently brought into the wilderness with the right gear and preparation. The new sights, sounds, and smells will fascinate them.

Find out how other parents have fared in the Family Features, and share your ideas with other travelers in the Family Forums.

"Kids' favorite activities involve height, water, unusual modes of transportation, and animals," according to Deb Cornick of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Cornick, publisher of the seasonal newsletter Have Children Will Travel, has been hitting the road with her son since he was 13 months old. She feels children of any age benefit from the travel experience, even if they are too young to recall specifics of the journey later.

According to Cornick, foresight is the key to painless travel with children. "Plan ahead if you're going with the family, and everything will go more smoothly," she says.

National Parks, Forests and Wilderness Areas offer limitless opportunities to stage an outdoor adventure the kids will long remember. Parent can hook up with packaged trips and tours in US National Parks, which can take most of the planning burden off their shoulders.

For those who like to plan their own itineraries, the interactive US National Park Locator Map and the online guide to US National Forests are invaluable resources.

Looking for the wildest time possible? US Wilderness Areas are a great place to get away from it all.

Children, like grownups, are happiest when they are occupied. Parents learn quickly to distract and engae the youngsters to avert those ennui-induced tantrums. Boredom is the enemy, and the license-plate game does not qualify as entertainment.

Ask your kids about their vision for a family getaway. While their ideas may be a little impractical at first, those childish fantasies can be reshaped into a workable trip.

For example, if they say they want to go on safari, maybe you could substitute a nearby National Forest for the African savanna. With an open mind and a little imagination, you can create a unique vacation that will be fun and memorable.

Spared the distractions of a resort or theme park holiday, family members actually focus on one another, building real closeness. Plus, you won't be bombarded with the kind of blatant commercialism that can empty the pockets and fill your station wagon with useless merchandise. Spending in and of itself is also not a form of entertainment.

If the thought of an outdoor trip with your family fills you with angst, just think of the popular alteratives, those acres of parking lots and endless lines. Besides, after a day of hiking and exploring, the kids might be too tired to be cranky.

Take a chance on the wilderness trip, and you could become the next Swiss Family Robinson. Everyone knows how much fun they had, and their money was no good at any of the local establishments.

Written by Curtis Grisham with graphics by Charles Paek

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