Terror in Baghdad


The continuous bloodshed and ravished life in Iraq


It is heartbreaking that not long ago the world mourned the innocent lives of Belgium terrorist attacks and Paris, where Daesh claimed responsibility for, yet today a new wound has been added to the devitalized body of Iraq. Yesterday the Iraqi Capital witnessed a series of terrorist acts against innocent civilians in crowded sites and markets, where dozens of people mostly women and children lost their lives. The pictures being circulated from after the attacks are devastating and heartbreaking and the amount of innocent children with severe wounds or ravished corps would only translates the horror and pain a parent would have to experience.

According to early statements by Iraqi interior ministry, the cars carrying the explosives and terrorists were entered to the area with official badges, license plates and uniforms belonging to the ministry. This statement only shows the incompetency of Iraq’s political and bureaucratic elites in diminishing corruption and favoritism that has costed Iraq thousands of innocent lives and billions of dollars. In addition, the continuous failures of Iraq’s ruling elites to establish healthy, transparent and strong infrastructure and steady service of basic necessities is beyond apprehension. Meanwhile, the international community must place enormous pressure on the Iraqi government to implement influential and actual steps toward crushing and diminishing corruption and favoritism in Iraq. The massive flow of suspicious transactions, the normality of bribe and bribery in government’s institutions and infiltrated security agencies must be the priority of any Iraqi government.

Shia Wisdom urges the respected religious authority in Iraq, illustrated in Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani, the Iraqi people and all conscience and patriots of Iraq to form a unified front that supports drastic change and reform through peaceful means. The past months and weeks have shown the Iraqi masses are capable of change and reform, yet they need to be cautious for any political entity that might use their march and movement for own interests.

Shia Wisdom and staff offer their sincere condolences to the families of all those fallen in the terrorist attacks of Baghdad, asking the almighty to grant them patience and tranquility and gives mercy to the victims.

Shia Wisdom  

Dealing with a Picky Eater?

How to Get Your Child to Broaden Their Culinary Horizons

By Maryam A

Dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating. You spend time making a delicious meal and your child doesn’t want to eat it because it has something green or smells funny. Instead they’d rather stick to peanut butter and jelly, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, or one of their other staple foods. Their picky eating and resistance to trying new things may give you concerns that they are not getting all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need each day. It can also make meal preparation take longer because you are creating something different for your child than what everyone else is eating.

Help your child explore new foods and expand their palate so that meal times are more enjoyable. As you expose them to different flavors and textures, they may find foods that they really like. Keep in mind that changing their eating habits can take time, so have patience.

  • Pick out foods together: Take your child with you to the grocery store or farmers market and look at the options together. Talk about different fruits and vegetables and let them pick out something they would like to try. Kids can be more apt to taste something if they’re curious about it and it is something that caught their attention. Also, they will have seen it before it has gone into the meal so they know what it is.
  • Get kids involved in making meals: Along with letting your child pick out some new foods, let them help you prepare these foods as well. They’ll be proud that they’re lending a helping hand and were part of preparing the meal. It also gives them a chance to see how the new food is being used.
  • Mix new foods with favorite foods: Give your child options on their plate. Make meals that combine foods you know they like along with things you want them to try. If you know they’ll eat ranch dressing, try introducing broccoli with some ranch for dipping. Encourage your child to take a few bites but do not force them to finish it if they don’t like it or are unsure. Getting them to simply taste it is a step in the right direction.
  • Reintroduce foods several times: It can take 10 or more times of trying a food before your child can really decide whether or not they like it. And something they didn’t like when they were younger, they may like as they get older. Don’t give up. Continue to incorporate new foods into meals in different ways. Just because your child doesn’t like raw carrots doesn’t mean they won’t like them cooked.
  • Start with small servings: Give your child just a little bit of the new food to taste. If they like it, they can always ask for more. This can also make it look less overwhelming or intimidating because they are not faced with a large amount.
  • Set a good example: Let your child see you eating a variety of different foods. If they pick out something that you haven’t tried before, let them see you tasting it and giving it a chance. Keep healthy foods on hand for snacks and meals and show them that you are making healthy choices too. Sometimes kids are more interested in what you have on your plate than what is on their own, so if they see you eating something, they may want to try it.
  • Stop making separate meals: If you always cook something different for your child instead of what everyone else is eating, they will come to expect this and it can turn them off from trying new foods. Why try something new when they know they’ll get what they like? Make sure that there are foods on their plate that they like and let them enjoy the same meal as everyone else and try new things.

Be creative and use your knowledge of the types and flavors of foods that your child does enjoy to integrate new foods into their diet. You may be surprised at what you find they like, or what they will eat without even realizing it. Most of all have patience and give them time to build up their palate.

Travel Review: What to See in New York City

and What to Skip in New York

By Amanda C
Edited by Ali Reza

New York City (NYC) is commonly referred to as “the city that never sleeps.” It is a melting pot of culture and activities. From business to entertainment, it encompasses it all. Years ago when people from around the world migrated to the United States, Ellis Island is where their journey into the country began.  The city continues to be a major tourist attraction where millions of people go every year, and for good reason. There is so much to experience there and it is unlike anywhere else.

But with the wealth of things to do, it is practically impossible to fit everything in. If you’re planning a trip to NYC, here are some must-sees, and a few things you could you skip.

Must-See Locations:

    • Times Square: This stretch of street is where a multitude of experiences collide. It is where the ball drops each year on New Year’s Eve and is surrounded by digital billboards advertising everything imaginable. There are billboards for the numerous on and off-Broadway shows going on as well as stands for purchasing tickets to these shows. Madame Tussauds’ wax museum is nearby, as are the flagship stores for many retailers such as Toys “R” Us. You will also find vendors selling souvenirs, jewelry, purses, and more.
    • Central Park: Nestled in amongst the tall buildings and bustling streets is the 843-acre Central Park. In a city where trees and grass can be sparse, it is a beautiful getaway. Walk through the park and take in the sculptures, bodies of water, Central Park Zoo, and Friedsam Memorial Carousel. In the winter there is even an ice skating rink.
    • Empire State Building: Travel up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building and enjoy the picturesque view of the city. From the 86th floor there is plenty to see and you can take in the diverse features and spectacular lights of the city. You can catch a glimpse of many famous attractions from here.
    • 9/11 Memorial: Following the events of September 11, 2001, the city of New York turned the area where the World Trade Center stood into a memorial that pays respect to the lives lost. It is free to visit and shares the history of how things unfolded. There is also a museum with artifacts, pictures, videos, and more.
  • Art Museums: NYC is home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Guggenheim Museum, and more. Depending on your taste, there are plenty of museums to explore and check out a little bit of history.
  • Rockefeller Center: This could go on either list. In the winter it is exciting to see the gigantic tree all lit up and try your hand at ice skating, but it can also be packed with other visitors. The shops surrounding Rockefeller Center are much like retailers you would find in other places.


What to Skip:

  • The Statue of Liberty: This is not to say avoid it all together, because it truly is a sight to be seen, but you can skip the dedicated tour unless you have a few hours to devote to it. Instead, hop on the Staten Island ferry which will take you close enough to take pictures and enjoy the magnificence of the statue, but also let you take in other sights as well. The Staten Island ferry is free and runs every half hour.
  • South Street Seaport: While there are some historical sites to be seen here, overall there are many other more attractive places to visit. It is a little off the beaten path, especially from the convenient subway, and mostly offers souvenirs that can be found elsewhere.
  • Sightseeing Tour Buses: These may seem like a good way to go but only offer a very minimal glimpse at some of the city’s attractions. Your better bet would be to take a walking tour or do a little bit of your own research on what to see.

There are plenty of other attractions scattered throughout the city as well. With tons of great places to eat, shop, and explore, it is a trip worth taking. Make sure you have several days here to really make the most of your visit and enjoy the diversity and history of the city.

How to Prevent Summer “Brain Drain” in Your Child

By Maryam A
Edited by Alireza

The school year is almost over which means summer vacation is near. For kids, this is a time of great excitement because it means freedom from the classroom and time to do other activities that they enjoy. For parents, it means getting children into a new routine and making sure they are still keeping their minds and bodies active.

One of the downfalls of summer vacation is “brain drain,” or where students lose previously learned information. Going for weeks without exercising these skills can mean regression. Teachers often spend the first few weeks of the new school year reviewing and re-teaching old skills. However, there are many ways in which you can help your child not only retain what they have learned throughout the school year but also continue expanding their skills over the summer.

  • Read: Keep plenty of books on hand so your child always has something to look at. Visit the library each week to let them pick out new books that catch their interest. Even though it is summer and they don’t have reading logs or required nightly reading, continue your routine of reading together each night. This is a great time to discuss what they are reading and prompt creative and critical thinking.
  • Attend community events: There are often many kid-friendly events during the summer where you child can learn new things and stretch their mind. Check out the local library to see what events they are hosting and keep your eye out for programs through museums, nature centers, non-profits, and other organizations. Your child can have fun while engaging in hands-on activities and watching interesting presentations.
  • Visit historical locations: While you are on vacation, or even just around town, make it a point to stop in to historical landmarks, museums, and cultural centers. Take in the sights and talk about the people, places, and events that are featured. This can stimulate your child to want to learn more and read up on different topics.
  • Use online resources: Allot a certain amount of time each day where your child can use the computer for learning activities. There are tons of educational websites available and you could even ask their teacher for recommendations. Your kids may have favorite sites they used at school that they can continue playing on at home. Bookmark different sites so that they have a variety of options that encompass math, language arts, spelling, science, history, and other subjects. Games can be fun and educational.
  • Make crafts or projects: Put their math, writing, and thinking skills to use on various projects. These can be fun artsy activities, or even projects around the home. If you are remodeling or redecorating, let them help with measurements and writing down materials.
  • Cook together: Preparing meals can use many different skills. Your child can help write the list of ingredients to shop for, measure out the correct amounts, time cooking, and divide the meal into portions. Bake cookies together and let them use their imagination for decorating.
  • Set up a car wash or lemonade stand: Encourage entrepreneurialism early. Holding a car wash or setting up a lemonade stand can be a great way to teach math and business skills. Your child can decorate signs, help decide what they need, figure out how much supplies cost, and accept payment and make change for customers. It can be a fun way for them to help others, earn money, and use their thinking skills.

Summer does not have to be a time where your child loses valuable skills. Keep them active and engaged in a variety of activities. Incorporate many things they enjoy doing and they won’t even realize that they are learning. Be creative and let your child be your guide; base activities off of their interests and areas where you know they may need a little more practice. It’s summer, so enjoy the extra time together and opportunities to get involved in a wide range of activities.

Tips for Staying Active with Kids

By Amanda C  (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

One of the keys to staying healthy is being physically active. With our society becoming more technology-centric, it is easy to get wrapped up in television, video games, computers, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets. Limiting children’s screen time and encouraging them to be more mentally and physically active is important. But parents need to set a positive example as well. Staying active as an entire family can instill good habits in your children from a young age. There are plenty of fun ways to spend time together while getting your heart pumping and muscles moving.

Go for a walk after dinner each night and make it a habit. It will give your family more time to talk and spend time with one another while staying active. Change things up and let the kids decide which direction to go when you get to an intersection. Your walk could be different every night. Wear a pedometer or use an app on your phone to track how far you walk. See if you can keep beating previous goals. Ideally you should aim to take at least 10,000 steps over the course of the day.

Visit the park or playground and bring a few toys along. You can climb around the play set with your children and help them to use the swings or slide. Take advantage of the open space to play catch, race one another, fly kites, play tag, or any number of other activities. Be creative. You can also ask your kids what kinds of games they play in school and implement those as well. If the park has tennis or basketball courts, you can also get the whole family involved in these sports as well.

Wash the car together. It may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to being active, but washing (and even drying) the car uses a lot of muscles! You can also have fun splashing in the water. Your kids may groan at the thought of washing the car at first, but turn it into a game and have them wear their bathing suits or other clothes that they don’t mind getting wet.

Hold a scavenger hunt around your yard or the neighborhood. The list of things to find could be endless so you can change it up each time. Look for certain colored leaves or flowers, rocks of a certain size, houses with different features, or anything else you can think of. Your kids will be so busy racing around trying to find everything first that they won’t even realize they’re getting exercise in!

Go for a bike ride or hike on nature trails or paths throughout the area. Many communities have greenways and bike paths for residents to enjoy. Strap on everyone’s helmets and set off to take in the beautiful scenery and elements of nature. Or cruise around your neighborhood and check out what’s going on. Make sure your children know proper bike safety first. Bring plenty of water while hiking or biking to stay hydrated.

Set up the sprinkler or visit the pool when it’s hot out. Swimming is a gentle way to stretch and exercise your muscles. You can also teach your children to love the water from a young age. The sprinkler allows everyone to run, jump, and hop through the water while staying cool. Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen!

Start a family Olympics and invite neighbors or friends to join in. Set up different events for family members to compete in for an afternoon of laughter, excitement, and fun exercise. Let the kids help come up with ideas for events and assist with setup and decorating.

Check out the different resources throughout your community that lend themselves to opportunities to stay active. Look for parks, nature preserves, playgrounds, pools, family events, classes, and more. Get your children in the habit of staying active so it is something they continue as they age. It is also a great way for the whole family to spend time together and create lasting memories.

What an At-Home Parent is Really Worth

By Maryam C
Edited by Ali Reza

Stay-at-home parents are rarely given the respect and praise that they deserve. It is a job that is often undervalued and underappreciated. Many people brush it off as staying at home all day and playing with the kids. What could be so hard about that? But in reality, stay-at-home parents take on a wide range of responsibilities every day. They wear many different hats and must always be on their game. After all, the safety and well-being of their children rests in their hands.

Being a stay-at-home parent is not a nine-to-five job. It is an all-the-time job. Full-time employees earn their pay for generally 40 hours a week of work. They may use some personal time to get ahead or finish up, but that is a standard workweek. An at-home parent works far more hours than this per week and does not get a check in hand when it’s all over. Their work and life blend into one another.

Wearing Many Hats

An at-home parent assumes many roles all rolled up into one. On any given day they may act as:

  • Child care provider
  • Chef
  • Housekeeper
  • Nurse
  • Teacher
  • Therapist
  • Event planner
  • Chauffer
  • Accountant
  • Janitor
  • Repairman
  • Laundry operator
  • Writers
  • Programmers

This list is only a fraction of the responsibilities they may take on. Not only are they caring for the children, they are also taking care of the house, pets, finances, and more. They make sure that everyone has what they need for the day and everything is scheduled accordingly. When something is broken or malfunctioning, they either figure out how to fix it or hire someone who can.

At-home parents are constant teachers and therapists for their children, helping them to learn, grow, and expand their minds. Every day presents teachable moments where they can instill basic academics as well as build character and positive values. Their lessons aren’t planned or scripted but rather on the fly.

While at-home parents may not bring in a regular paycheck for their work, they do help to keep costs down. Child Care, be it public or private, can cost hundreds of dollars every month and thousands of dollars per year. Staying at home with children means not having to pay someone else to watch them. Sometimes the amount the parent would bring in by working a traditional job is less than what it would cost them to put their child in daycare while they’re at work. So really it is costing them more to work.

All of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry that they take care of on a daily basis? If these responsibilities were outsourced, the cost would add up. By preparing meals at home, this can reduce the frequency of eating out and keep everyone healthier. In addition, children often catch many germs and viruses at daycare, so keeping them home can decrease illness and therefore medical expenses.

Crunching the Numbers

It is hard to put an exact numerical value on at-home parents. Each person’s situation is different. But many people agree that the work they do is worth a lot. Some even compare it to a six-figure salary. At-home parents choose this career because they love their children and being able to spend so much time with them. In case of Muslim women, it is an ideal type of job too and it is a win win situation.  It is an arrangement that works for their family, their faith, and themselves. They don’t do it for the praise – which is often lacking – but because it is a job they find valuable and meaningful.

At-home parents are priceless. They encompass a multitude of jobs that they learn as they go. There is no formal training or education that prepares you to be a parent and assume all of the responsibilities that go along with it. When it comes down to it, it is not a job that everyone can handle and it takes a special kind of person to dedicate themselves to such a monumental task. So what is an at-home parent really worth? More than we may ever really know.

A Hard Conversation: Talking to Your Child About Death

By Amanda (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

Talking about death can be difficult no matter your age. People tend to avoid subjects that make them or others upset. But death is a part of life and is inevitable. When a family member or friend dies, it can be a challenging situation to deal with, especially when children are involved. While it can be tempting to want to protect children from this pain, helping them through it can be much more effective in the long run.

Discussing death with your child can help them to gain a better understanding and acceptance of what is happening. Let their age and questions guide your conversation, making sure to explain things in a way that makes sense to them.

Be honest and keep things simple. You don’t have to go into a detailed discussion of what happened with a young child. Teenagers may want more explanation, but younger children are often content with the basics and that is all they are really ready to process. Although it can be difficult, use terms such as “died” rather than trying to make things sound more pleasant. Telling a child that their grandparent is sleeping, that they went away, or that you lost them can be very confusing. Children can be very literal and may not understand that the person is not waking up or coming back.

You could explain that they got very sick and their body stopped working, or that they were in an accident and got hurt but the doctor couldn’t fix them. Older children are often better able to understand certain diseases or conditions that may have led to someone’s death. Try to avoid too many details that could scare or upset them. Reassure them that if they get sick or injured, that does not mean that they are going to die.

Let their questions guide discussions. As an adult, you perceive things differently than a child. When they ask where their uncle went when he died, they may mean it very literally. Ask follow-up questions to get a better understanding of what they want to know. If you don’t have an answer, be honest and tell them you’re not sure or you’ll try to find out. Keep conversation open and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Death should not be a taboo subject that they feel uncomfortable bringing up.

Allow grieving. Children are very observant. Even though you may try to hide your sadness, they can often sense when something is wrong. Don’t be embarrassed to cry in front of them and let them know that it is okay for them to cry too. Talk about being sad or mad and missing the person, but let them know that you are there for them. In time things will get easier. If your child seems to have an especially difficult time coping, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor who can help them work through their emotions.

Talk about God and Afterlife. Death is a good reason to tell your children about purpose of Man’s creation and afterlife which can give  logical reasons why one has to die. It can eventually lead to belief in God and afterlife. Such belief can ease the pain of losing the loved one for your children and it can bring comfort that one who dies can be with a fair, almighty, loving and caring creator.


Teaching your Child about Other Religions

By Maryam A (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

The world is a melting pot of different religions and as people move, they take their beliefs with them. Children today are often exposed to people from many different backgrounds who may or may not share their same religious beliefs. It is important to instill in them a respect for others’ beliefs and an understanding of the similarities and differences in religion. They will often see that they are not as different from others as perhaps they thought. Helping your child to become more well-rounded will support them throughout their life.

Focus on your own religion first. Before you start introducing your child to other religions, make sure they understand the one that you are bringing them up in. Give them a firm foundation so that they have something to reference when making comparisons. This will make it easier to discuss differences in beliefs and practices. Be a positive role model and practice what you are teaching and your expectations. Show them that even though you believe one thing, you can still be accepting that others have different opinions and practices.

Use holidays as conversation starters. Throughout the year there are a wide range of holidays that are observed. Discuss how you celebrate these occasions compared to how other religions do. Or, if it is not a holiday that you celebrate, discuss why it is important to others and why they honor it. You can find many books at the library to help explain customs and traditions in a way that your child will find easier to understand. Children are often excited to learn about different traditions and how things are celebrated around the world.

Be open to questions and honest with answers. Your child will probably have friends with different religious beliefs and this can bring about many questions. Hear them out so that you can clear up any questions or misconceptions. If you don’t know an answer, research it together so that you both expand your knowledge and understanding. Show them that you are respectful of what others believe even if you don’t believe it yourself.

Embrace diverse friendships. Through building strong friendships you can learn more about other religions and help others to learn more about yours. Invite others over to celebrate special holidays or religious observances with your family and teach them about your beliefs. At the same time, be open to doing the same with them and learning more about their religion and traditions. You will probably find that there are many similarities such as good will, love, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and forgiveness.

Even if you do not share the same views, it does not mean that you cannot teach your children to be respectful and tolerant of others. The first amendment of the United States Constitution ensures freedom of religion. Many controversies surround religion and religious beliefs, and your child will realize this as they get older and pay attention to the news. Having a broader understanding of religion can help them to make more sense of these issues and what people are fighting for. This can be another segue into conversation and sharing your beliefs versus other people’s beliefs.

People are free to believe in what they want and this is what helps to shape who they are. As your child grows up, they can begin to develop their own opinions and understandings. Exposing them to diversity while they are young can make them more open and accepting of others. Everyone has their differences but this is what makes the world unique. Keeping an open mind and accepting people for more than their religious beliefs can help them to build stronger friendships and cultural understanding. Religion is just one part of who a person is and what they have to offer.

Are There Benefits to Hiring a Parenting Coach?

By Amanda C. (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

Would you like to become a better parent? If so, get in the back of the line: Anyone who is a parent is keenly aware of his or her limitations, and of the daily need to strive harder and to do better. Parenting is both incredibly important and incredibly humbling; the stakes are high, and as such even a relatively small error can leave the ego bruised and battered.

Most parents are willing to do almost anything to boost their child-raising game—but what about hiring a parenting coach? Yes, parenting coaches exist, and yes, you can hire one to work with you on becoming a more deliberate, effective, and confident parent.

But the real question is: Is it worth it? Do parenting coaches actually get results—and is hiring a parenting coach the only way these results can be obtained?

Whether a parenting coach is right for you is ultimately something individual parents will have to decide on their own; with that said, it is important to be upfront about some of the benefits that parenting coaches can offer. Even if you’re a skeptic, read on and consider some of the ways in which parenting coaches can prove—in some cases—quite helpful.

  • For one thing, hiring a parenting coach can provide you with some insight into what kind of parent you actually are. Where are you strong? Where are you weak? What’s your parenting style—and is it complemented or contradicted by that of your spouse? Knowing these answers can help you to be a more reflective and deliberate parent, but it’s hard to earnestly assess your parenting without an outsider’s perspective.
  • Once you have a parenting coach to help you identify your baseline, you can—in theory—be more proactive in improving: Working to do better in the areas you’ve identified as weaknesses, and to build on the areas in which you are strong.
  • A parenting coach can work with you to become a better listener, which is frankly something that many parents do not do well with. Working on your listening skills can help you be more empathetic and understanding of your kids; to build better lines of communication; and ultimately to be more effective in motivating them.
  • Working with a parenting coach can also make you more aware of the power of your words. You may not be saying anything “wrong,” yet word choice comes with subtle implications, and you may not be aware of how your language affects your children. A more precise vocabulary can help you motivate, encourage, and discipline your children more effectively.
  • A parenting coach can, of course, spend time speaking with you about any specific issues that you’re struggling with. These could be anything, just depending on the ages and dispositions of your children—discipline issues, sibling rivalries, lack of respect for authorities, laziness, or something else.
  • You can also speak with your parenting coach about issues that are entirely practical—things like how to help your kids with their homework or encourage them to do better in school.
  • Parenting coaches often have ample experience working with kids who have unique issues or hindrances, like learning disabilities or emotional problems—and as such, they can be invaluable resources for parents who have only recently discovered that their kids are so afflicted.
  • A parenting coach can be a great sounding board for you as you think through the development of different household rules and policies—curfews, limits on screen time, or whatever else is on your mind.

The above list is not meant to be an unqualified recommendation for parenting coaches. Some parents like them, and benefit from them immensely; others do not, and that’s fine. This kind of coaching is not for everyone, but it’s foolish to write it off without thinking through the potential advantages.


Planning a Family Vacation: How to Get the Most for Your Money

Planning a family vacation is never quite as simple or as straight-ahead as parents might hope it will be. You want to have fun, and to select a destination, accommodations, and activities that will please everyone. You want to create positive family memories for your kids, and to a large extent you’re happy to pay any price to make that happen—but then again: You do have a family budget to think about, and you need to stretch your vacation dollars as far as possible.

In short, you want value—but getting it can prove tricky. How can you ensure that your family vacation is smartly budgeted, offering maximum enjoyment for all parties, neither breaking the bank nor cutting any corners?

Getting There

Some of the biggest expenses come from actually traveling to your family vacation destination. If you are driving an hour north to spend time in the mountains, that’s one thing; for longer trips, some decisions need to be made.

You might assume that driving to your vacation spot is the cheapest way to go, and you’re likely correct—but don’t just assume it. Run the numbers on how many tanks of gas you will need; on meals you’ll have to buy on the road, and additional hotel costs if the trip takes more than a day. Think about the wear and tear on your vehicle, as well.

Work up a basic figure for driving costs, then head to the Web to comparison-shop. Look at some of the big travel websites that offer package deals on airfare and hotel rooms. Driving may still be the affordable route, but don’t make that call until you do your research. Additionally, think about whether many hours spent in a car represents a better value for your family than taking a plane and getting there sooner.

Measuring Meal Costs

Something else to plan in advance—something else that tends to eat into the vacation budget—is dining out. Some hotel chains offer kids-eat-free deals, which are well worth taking advantage of and factoring into your total vacation budget. You can also research restaurants that offer kids-eat-free options on certain nights of the week, and do a bit of advanced planning in this way.

You might also consider taking some supplies for breakfasts and/or lunches in your hotel room. Make sure to get a hotel room with a refrigerator and necessary kitchen features, should this be the road you take.

Also note that even if you’re making your own meals rather than eating out, you can still make it fun and special: Try a family picnic at a well-known local park, on the beach, or somewhere else that’s scenic.

A final tip: If you do really want to experience a nice meal at a fancy restaurant, plan on doing so for lunch. Get the full experience for just part of the cost.

Planning for Entertainment

Obviously you want to plan some fun activities on your vacation, but perhaps it would be prudent to make a few of those activities low-key and inexpensive. For example: If you know your hotel room has a DVD player and a microwave, you can pack a couple of favorite family movies, a box of popcorn, and plan on having one family movie night.

For the other things you want to do—theme parks, aquariums, zoos, or what have you—research ticket prices in advance, and buy family passes online if possible. Almost always, you can save some money this way, as opposed to buying your tickets at the gate.

Finally: Don’t overthink things! Does your family love relaxing or playing on the beach? Then you may not need to spend too much money on entertainment; just take ‘em to the sand and shore!

Family vacations are meant to be fun—and your job in making the budget is to ensure optimal fun through optimal value.