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Do This, Not That When Traveling With Kids

Traveling with kids can look oh so fabulous in photos. The thing is, you only see the good moments. You don't see everything that the parents are missing out on.

And yet, those parents sure look happy. How can that be? While it's true that you have to curb a few of your travel tendencies (late nights at the club are out), here's how to make everything work with the little ones in tow.

1. Shopping

Do this: Shop for souvenirs with your kids. Pick a theme—Christmas ornaments, local art work, a free stone or shell from the beach—and get the kids involved. Let them pick out an ornament for the tree. Everyone can go shell and sea glass collecting for the family fishbowl, where you throw all the natural treasures from your travels.

Not this: Don't drag the kids to the local outlets at your destination, or to the high-end shops you just can't miss out on. Leave the kids with Dad or skip the shops all together (which is really not so awful. Rarely does someone make wise shopping decisions when they travel anyway. What works on that tropical island will not work at home in Minnesota. Trust me).

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2. Museums

Do this: Go on a scavenger hunt through an art museum with your kids. You will not get to see everything, and this will take a little planning ahead of time, but instead of skipping the museum all together that you have been dreaming about seeing, you can still catch the highlights.

Not that: Don't expect to see every piece of artwork in a museum. It just won't happen with kids. Free art museums are the best, because you can go back again and again for short periods of time. Trying to see the entire collection at the National Gallery in London is impossible for even adults.

Do this: Pick museums that are fun for the entire family. Children's Museums can be boring for parents, while art galleries really aren't that much fun for most kids. Check out the science museums and natural history museums of the city you are visiting. These always have activities for everyone.

Not that: Don't force your kids to love something that they don't. No one will be happy. Give the kids options for activities they want to do. Mix it up so everyone has fun.

Do not leave your children alone in a hotel room … ever. Even just to pop down to the hotel bar for a nightcap.

3. Fine Dining

Do this: Plenty of kid-friendly restaurants are producing stellar cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. Don't give up on eating well when you travel. Just do your research to find places that you can be comfortable with your baby, toddler or preschooler.

Not this: Do not make reservations at the most expensive restaurant in town just because you can't miss out on the Foie Gras. Get realistic about your dining expectations and adjust accordingly. Call ahead to see if they even allow kids. If sports jackets and heels are required, you should probably skip for now.

Do this: Embrace brunch and happy hour. These are your big times to go out and enjoy the restaurants that you love, not a late night out savoring wine pairings and 5-course meals that go into the wee hours when your kids want to be in bed (whether they know it or not).

Not this: Late night dinners are a thing of the past if you have a baby. Unless you hire a sitter, just forget about it. No one will be happy if you keep the baby up past bedtime.

4. Packing

Do this: Pack for less time than you will be traveling whenever possible. Buy disposable diapers, wipes, baby food, snacks, etc., after you arrive. You don't need to pack the kitchen sink.

Not this: Do not pack that 5th pair of stilettos that you "might" wear. The Queen is probably not going to ask you to dinner when you walk by Buckingham Palace. If she does, you now have an excuse to go shopping.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Avoid Chaos When Packing For Kids

5. Date Night

Do this: Book a babysitter with a local agency that does background checks, if you are looking for a night out without the kids. If you can't find a sitter, plan a little romantic picnic in the hotel bathroom or, better yet, book a room with a balcony so you can have some privacy while the kids sleep.

Not this: Do not leave your children alone in a hotel room … ever. Even just to pop down to the hotel bar for a nightcap. There have been enough news stories of abductions that should warn you against this. Instead book a sitter, bring the kids or go to bed early so you can tackle your morning refreshed.

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Feature image via Keryn Means

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