The Family Vacation

Amy Dunkin

The parents in our little corner of the office all got a good chuckle out of a recent Wall Street Journal column about family vacations. The point was that a vacation with the kids can be so exhausting, many parents can't wait to get back to the relative calm of the office when it's all over.

Any working parent who has ever traveled with a baby or toddler can relate to that feeling. I think I'm still recovering from a weekend on Martha's Vineyard where we had to gone to celebrate my cousin's graduation from medical school. While everyone else was sipping margaritas and eating lobster, I spent the whole time chasing my then 1-1/2-year-old son around the yard to keep him from toddling into Vineyard Haven harbor.

But guess what? It does get better. As the kids get older, they need less parental maintenance--you can actually tell them to go away while you take a nap--and they become fun traveling companions.

We recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. with our two boys (ages 9 and 6), and we thoroughly enjoyed doing the touristy things my husband avoided when he lived there for 15 years. One of everyone's favorite stops was Ford's Theater, where President Lincoln was assassinated. Even my younger son, who is going through a phase where he's fascinated with people who die, loved the rinky-dink museum in the basement that has the murder weapon and Lincoln's bloody pillow on display.

If you ask me what's the secret to a successful family vacation, I'd offer this advice:

* When at all possible, get two adjoining rooms or stay in a suite hotel. (We seek out Embassy Suites.) For your own R&R, it's imperative that you can shut the door on your children.

* When at all possible, stay somewhere with a pool. I don't know at what age the pool ceases to be the best part of the vacation for a child because my two haven't reached that age yet.

* When at all possible, pick a place that serves breakfast. Our kids are old enough so we can send them off to breakfast ahead of us. Not only does it make them feel grownup, but they can happily load up on pancakes and Froot Loops before we arrive and start insisting they consume something healthy, like a banana or glass of milk. Plus, it gives my husband and me a few extra minutes of alone time.

* When at all possible, follow up your family vacation with a trip sans children. This weekend, my friend Laura is taking me to Palm Beach as her belated present for a big birthday I celebrated last year. I doubt I'll be as ready to return to the office on Monday as I was when we got back from D.C.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.