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When I was a kid, vacation meant four kids crammed into the back seat of a sedan, poking and elbowing one another while counting the miles between rest stops.

Things have changed dramatically since then. But even with onboard DVD players, electronic devices, spacious minivans, air travel, cruises, and theme parks, family vacations can be either delightful or disastrous. It all depends on the care you devote to research and planning.

Three happy children back seat of car on family vacation

Adjust your attitude

Here is the first rule of family vacations: Parents on vacation really aren’t. If you can unload personal expectations that you will be relaxed and refreshed when it’s over, you won’t be disappointed when you’re not. And if you do get a little rest and relaxation along the way, consider it an unexpected bonus.


MORE: You Need a Vacation


Be realistic about cost

Decide ahead of time how much cash you have for this vacation. If you have, say, a family of five and $500 to spend, don’t even think about a couple of days at Disney World.

Always consider the money you have first and then design a vacation that will realistically fit within that financial boundary.

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Mature woman thinking with hand on chin against white background with Valentine's Day vignette

Valentine’s Day is this week, Thursday! I know, I can’t believe it either.

Bless you, if you are prepared and way ahead of the game. For the rest of us, the way I see it we have six options:

  1. Ignore the day altogether and assume our spouses, kids, grandkids, friends, family, and co-workers, will think we forgot and give us a pass. Not recommended.
  2. Get thee to the card shop and post office to pick up Valentine’s cards and plenty of postage stamps, then get them in the mail, pronto!
  3. Make sweet treats in your kitchen befitting the day—still plenty of time for this one.
  4. Plan a date with your love, even if your wallet is a little thin. Get creative to find reasonable and fun alternatives that require only pocket change—or with any luck, some that are absolutely free. I have a few ideas for you in Great Dates for Couples on a Tight Budget.
  5. Plan a Fun Family Party. Here are 8 Fun Family Games for Valentine’s Day to get you started.
  6. Find the perfect little something for those perfect someones in our lives—there is still plenty of time to do this, too.

Should you be leaning toward option #6, here are 21 great gift ideas sure to please that won’t break the bank.

(You can get delivery on Wednesday, Feb. 13 for any of these gifts by using Amazon Prime, but you need to hurry! Not a Prime member? No problem. Start your 30-free trial today, place your order, get delivery on Wed., then cancel within 30 days—you will not be charged, but yet enjoy all of the Prime benefits including 2-day shipping. It’s legal and ethical; in fact, Amazon encourages us to do this.)

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