1. "Don't book a room; book a suite instead, so your family has space to spread out, and you'll often have a refrigerator for snacks and drinks," says Family Vacation Critic Editor-in-Chief, Lissa Poirot. "It especially comes in handy at night when young kids go to bed early; mom and dad can stay awake in the living room. It doesn't need to be expensive -- Embassy Suites and Comfort Inn & Suites are friendly on the budget, but still give you plenty of room."
2. If friends came to visit us in Washington D.C. and said 'Show us the city in eight hours, with kids,' I'd tell them they're insane," says Christine Koubek. "But insane we were when we visited Rome, because even though "Rome wasn't built in a day," we attempted to see it in such during a Mediterranean cruise. We toured around as much of the city as we could in one day and returned to the ship in a daze, yet there was nothing we wished we missed. Hence, my advice is to see those don't-miss places on your family's bucket list and adjust your sight-seeing the day after. For example, on our cruise, the ports of call for Rome and Florence were on back-to-back days. Instead of two full sightseeing days in a row, we opted to spend just a few hours that second day walking around Lerici, a small Italian coastal village, then let the kids spend the rest of the day in the pool."
3. "Don't forget to get seat assignments early, as you don't want to haggle with strangers to take your middle seat for their aisle seat just so you and your child can sit together," says daddy travel journalist, Steve Jermanok, of Active Travels. "And don't plan a connecting flight with only 45 minutes between flights. We missed our connecting flight in Charlotte back from Jamaica after trying to run our stuff from one gate to another on the other side of the airport. My daughter was crying from the stress." On the flip side, he also advises not to plan extra-long layovers. "We tortured ourselves by planning a layover in Paris for eight hours on our way to Israel, but had to stay in the airport rather than see the city."
4. "I think the biggest mistake is always catering to your kids," says contributing writer, Lisa Milbrand. "It's hard to avoid the McDonalds and playground-kind of vacations when kids are super young, but you need to be willing to take that risk and let them try something more challenging and experience something new. We traveled to China with a 4-year-old, we took my then-three-year-old to the ballet, and my kids (now 9 and 6) have both eaten successfully in a five-star restaurant. We educate our daughters on the type of behavior they'll need before the activity (i.e. no talking during the show), and just have at it. Yes, we've had to leave a performance early and skip half of an art exhibit, and we once had to feed our daughters a second dinner after an Ethiopian meal was a flop. But generally, we have amazing experiences and my daughters like sushi better than chicken nuggets."
5. "Don't nag your kids to look under the bed and behind curtains for items before you check out of your room -- make it fun for them," says Wendy Irvine, travel writer and mom of twin boys. "Who wants the hassle of getting an item back that was left in a hotel room? Been there, done that, hated it. I've learned to make it a game for my kids by hiding a silver dollar or LEGO minifigure or a small toy in the guest room. A few minutes before we leave, I tell my boys that they can keep the special item if A) they can find it and B) if they throw whatever else they find (that's ours) into the suitcase."
6. The only thing worse than a long flight is a long flight with kids, so don't ever come unprepared," says frequent contributor Andrea Guthmann, mom of three. "I load up my 5-year-old daughter's backpack with boredom busters. We start the flight with stuff that's good for you... books, crayons, playing cards. Then we break into the goldfish crackers or other snacks. Finally, when I'm really in need of a distraction, I start pulling out the electronics. We have an iPad loaded with kids' games. It does the trick every time. Just make sure it's fully charged!"
7. On our most recent trip to Orlando, I did a pretty good job following my "Not To" rules, with the exception of No. 3, "Failing to Consider Traffic When Selecting a Rental Location," which turned out to be a BIG mistake," says Jackie Perrin. "Lesson learned: if you're going to Disney, and traveling at a peak time, it really pays to stay onsite or else within walking distance (or at a lodging which offers a traffic-free commute). Although I thought we knew all the traffic "shortcuts" in town, it's hard to completely avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic during the holidays. In this case, had I jumped straight to Rule No. 9, "Not Taking Advantage of Local Knowledge" (which I unfortunately also failed to follow), and consulted my local sources about holiday traffic in relation to our lodging, I would have known that we were in for a waiting game and adjusted our plans accordingly."
8. "Don't be a slave to your schedule," says luxury travel writer Andrea M. Rotondo. "The most important advice I can give parents is to take cues--subtle and not so subtle--from your kids. They may sleep later than they normally do at home, or need an afternoon nap even though they've long given up nap time. They may also be more interested in spending an afternoon at the hotel pool than exploring further afield. The best part of a family vacation is simply spending time together. Don't worry if you have to skip an outing or two. There will be plenty of vacation memories to cherish--even if you don't hit all the tourist destinations hyped in your guidebook."
9. "Don't be afraid to leave," says Midwest travel writer Lisa McClintick. She remembers checking into a disappointing mountain resort and debating the hassle and stress of finding new lodging. The upside: packing up and checking out led them to discovering YMCA of the Rockies, one of their all-time favorite family destinations. Plan B became an A+.
10. Don't neglect solo trips with your kids," suggests travel writer and frequent contributor Terry Ward. "Of course, traveling with the whole gang is great. But as an aunt to four fabulous nieces, I've really enjoyed the times I've had to take the girls away, one-on-one, for a different sort of bonding experience. Siblings need to feel like individuals, too, and a short overnight or weekend trip with one kid at a time can give them a different kind of confidence.
11. "Don't try to do everything a destination has to offer," says contributing writer, Diana Lambdin Meyer, who also operates her own travel Web site, mojotraveler, alongside her husband. "Choose two or three key things to experience, but plan plenty of downtime so the kids don't get all 'wiggy.'"
12. Don't assume that it's cheaper to drive," says frequent blogger Traci Suppa of Go BIG or Go Home. "We're a road-tripping family, so we have the planning part down pat. We know it's not 'cheap' to drive anywhere. For the four of us, driving from New York to Florida was more affordable than flying during the holidays, when airfares skyrocket in line with demand. But it was by no means cheap, after factoring in gas, meals, and one hotel overnight.
By the way...taking the train? Almost as expensive as flying! Also, don't set out on a multi-day road trip without hotel reservations. If bad weather forces people off the road, hotels near the highway exits may get overbooked. Don't be shut out!"
13. Don't leave kids--especially teens--out of the planning process, particularly if you're not headed for an all-inclusive or on a cruise where they can safely go their own ways," says Geri Bain. There's nothing less fun than sightseeing with a sullen adolescent or teenager who didn't expect to be dragged to yet another museum.
14. Lastly -- and we hate to laugh, but -- "Don't put your kids down for a nap wearing a swim diaper. They do not work the same as a regular diaper. Thankfully, we had put a towel underneath my daughter before laying her down," says contributor Karon Warren.
More from Family Vacation Critic:
Surviving the Airport with Kids
12 Tips for Managing Jet Lag with Kids