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The final holiday weekend of the summer is just days away and if you’re taking a trip with the kids, you’re going to have a handful. Traveling with children doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you set some rules, expect the unexpected and use a few of these tips.

1. Pack light: Erykah Badu never lied. Bring only the essentials. The more you bring, the more you have to keep up with and the heavier the bags. Kids can require a lot of stuff: car seats, strollers, cribs, high chairs. Most car rental companies also rent child safety seats and hotels offer childproof rooms or cribs upon request. Call ahead.

2. Expect the unexpected: This seems to contradict the first tip, but make sure you have plenty of what you need in your carry-on: diapers, wipes (which are great for a multitude of things), medications, change of clothes, snacks, and a secret book or toy. Kids are more likely to be consumed by a new toy than a toy they’ve played with for months.

3. Bring toys and games: Be sure to bring something to keep everyone entertained, but leave the singing Elmos and beeping video games at home. You and everyone else will be glad you did. Another rule: backpacks for each child: Toddler or teen – give each child his own backpack to carry with their chosen toys/books/etc. The catch is if they pack it, they carry it. Trust me, one heavy backpack experience and they’ll learn just how much they really need on vacation.

** Parents Note: check the backpacks to make sure there are not any toys with water elements (ex. a toy train car) or Play-Doh (TSA considers this a potential explosive device.) as they will be confiscated.

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