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The Colosseum, Rome

Was it nature or nuture?  Did I arrive here on earth, a little bundle of joy, destined to crave travel?  Did I show up predisposed to want to find my way around big cities, become part of small towns, and explore vast wildernesses ?

Or did I simply grow into my desire, fueled by years of moving from military base to military base, noticing along the way the subtle and not-so-subtle shifts that exists among people?  Did my mother’s insistence on driving the back road–instead of the highway–pique my interest in discovering other cultures, other paths?
Was it nature or was it nuture?  Maybe a little of both?
While I don’t know the answer, I do know this:  If it’s out there, I want to see it. 
Seville Cathedral

Having kids added all kinds of new wrinkles to travel, which in the far-flung past existed solely for my pleasure at my whim.  Kids don’t really see the fun in soaking in the sun by the pool for hours or going for a massage before dinner.  Darn them.

But we have three, so rather than pouting and sticking close to home, we’ve learned to switch things up a bit and take them along.  Where have they been?   They’ve visited to the Mecca of Mickey Mouse, of course, and eaten breakfast in front of the Trevi Fountain.  We’ve hiked them through Yellowstone and let them run off steam around the Plaza Mayor.  But will they inherit this love? Nature or nuture?  Whose to say?

For now, though, they’ll be coming along.  If you like to pack up your brood, too, here are 8 tips for traveling with kids (kids who’ve made it past the diaper phase, that is.  Click here for tips on car travel with little kids—some of which transfer to air travel, as well.)

  1. Get your passports now.  If you plan on leaving the country, or even possibly leaving the country, don’t get into a bind because you, or your kids don’t have this all-important document.  Make copies before you go and take one along; don’t keep it with your passport. 
  2. Do your homework.  There’s nothing worse than spending hard-earned cash to show up in a new place and have no idea where to go.  Use the Internet, sure, but be careful not to get sucked into the vortex of random travel information.  Books are still worth perusing for tips on where to go and what to see.  Try Rick Steves, the Lonely Planet, Frommers and Fodors, for starters.  Find a guide that resonates with how you like to travel, and comb it for insight.
  3. Plan your adventures.  Once you know which sites you’d like to see, get the real-life info you need to make it happen.  This is a bigger deal in a foreign country, obviously.  Before we took the boys to Spain, for example, I Google mapped how to get from Marbella to Grenada, Toledo and Cordoba.  I also reserved tickets for the Alhambra (because I read that it sells out frequently) and knew the admission prices of the other sites we’d be visiting (see # 8).
  4. Timing matters.  If you’ll be leaving the time  zone you live in, try to keep the kids up late or get them up early for at least a few days before you leave.  Moving their internal time clocks even just a little can help you all start things out more smoothly on the other end.
  5. Don’t expect them to read People magazine on the plane!  Pack their backpack with some books, games, pencils and paper, and plenty of tic tacs and gum.  If they have an iPod, this is a great time to let them download a new movie to bring along.
  6. Pack light.  You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating.  Get a place with a washing machine, find a laundromat, send it out, or wash it in the tub, but for goodness sakes your kids do not need 15 shirts each.  Put them back.
  7. Plan your downtime.  If you’re off for a week of frolicking, make sure you reserve a day or two for the kids to chill out. And you.  You’ll need to chill out, too.
  8. Budget.  Okay, this should have been first!  In order to have spousal harmony, a critical component of a successful vacation, it’s wise to agree ahead of time on how much you’re willing to shell out for trinkets on your trip.

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