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Taking the Kids: Making the most of summer vacation

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

So much for spontaneity. It's hard to be spontaneous when you are carting a stroller, portable crib, diaper bags, toddlers and their backpacks.

Say goodbye to those days of taking off on a whim to a music festival, without a hotel or campground reservation. No more switching gears when you get to a train station in a foreign city and decide to go somewhere entirely different. (As did a couple I know on their honeymoon. They tired of too many tourist sites and headed to Malta instead.)

Of course, you don't want to end up in a strange city with two sleepy (cranky) kids and nowhere to sleep. Of course, you have to schedule your time off, and when the kids are older, make sure the vacation schedule doesn't coincide with a can't-miss tournament, dance recital or summer school test.

If you're flying, you have to plan ahead to get the best airfare deals, especially when you are buying four or five tickets.

And if you are planning to gather with friends and extended family, that can take up to a year of planning and negotiating to suit everyone's budget and vacation style.

But that doesn't mean you have to plan every minute (even if you are going to Walt Disney World). The unexpected -- good and not-so-good -- is what make a vacation memorable. Tell that to the super-planner in your house!

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The day your family couldn't face the theme parks, so you happily lounged by the pool instead (that was us). In fact, I've met many families at Orlando hotels who have returned theme park tickets because the kids preferred the hotel pool, especially since so many are huge water playgrounds these days.

The weekend you were supposed to hike in the White Mountains but it rained so hard you decamped to a bed & breakfast and played board games (that was us too).

The day you opted out of a shore excursion to enjoy the megaship when most everyone was gone (deals on spa treatments!).

Even if you are a Big Planner, don't be afraid to pivot. Sometimes you have no choice, like when the weather derails your plans. (See that as an opportunity to do something else -- maybe a tour of a local potato chip or candy factory.) Sometimes someone gets sick (when did you last have a day to hang out with just one child while everyone else is out and about). Sometimes you just wake up and feel like doing something different than you had planned.

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