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My most important travel tip to other parents -- take your kids, one at a time, on weekend get-aways, starting at 7 or 8 years old.  I tried to do this with each of my three kids, at least once a year.
Travel can be quick and unplanned.  Follow those cheap internet weekend fares and grab an opportunity when you can.  If you must, then plan ahead.
Go to those great places the US offers that you probably would not be a destination for a long family vacation.  The places we visited over the years have included:
Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
Detroit (Greenfield Village)
Hudson Valley (Hyde Park, West Point)
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Mt. Rushmore (along with Custer State Park, the Needles Highway and Wind Cave)
New Hampshire (visit to friend with a farm)
New York City
Portland, Oregon (along with the Colombia River gorge, Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helen's)
Springfield (Lincoln Sites)
Washington, D.C.
One lucky kid even got to London for a long weekend when I had a business trip and the airlines were running a $1 companion special.
Other trips we planned but cancelled were:
Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park (ambitious for a weekend!)
Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain sites)
Monticello (along with Skyline Drive, Shenandoah Valley)
If your kid likes baseball, consider visits to baseball games in other cities.
You get the idea.  The list is endless.  Our country is full of great places to spend a weekend.
The dynamic of taking one kid on a trip is a pleasant one because there is no bargaining with siblings over restaurants, movies or anything else.  My wife told me that the change of pace at home also was positive for the same reason.
Pick a motel with an indoor pool.  Don't make the sightseeing too ambitious.  If the kid loves it, then add a few more stops.  At a place like Niagra Falls, the kid will beg for more.  At places with just one thing to see, then you will have time for movies, swimming and games.  You can always find bowling or miniature golf.
Packing a bag at 7 years old seems like a very grown up thing to do.  A kid loves being alone with a parent at that age.
I read an article once saying that the "golden years" for travel with kids is a very small window, maybe from 7-12.  After then, the focus is on friends, and it often is a struggle convincing a kid to go on a family vacation without taking a friend along.  It is important to use this brief opportunity to widen the kid's horizons and to instill a love for travel.  Full-scale family vacations are few and far between, but these weekend get-aways meet this goal very well.
I compared notes with a friend who also enjoyed these weekend get-aways.  He said the best weekend he ever had was when he and his teen-ager got in the car without any advance planning.  The parent was the driver and the teenager had a map and was the navigator.  They wound up driving to some obscure place, and having a lot of fun along the way.
In the case of our two older children, these weekend get-aways morphed into college visits, but that is another story.
Link to visits for older kids:  High school/college 

Last updated September 2, 2002.