dayton_mall_playareaI’m not the sort of parent to let the kids make the major decisions – after all, they’re not even old enough to write their own names. As such, they don’t decide when we’re going to eat dinner as a family or where we’ll take a vacation.

However, when it comes to traveling, we give them a little more say than usual. Traveling with cranky, overtired or antsy kids makes everyone miserable; why should we all purposely feel lousy?

Our recent travels brought us to a bayside tourist town in March, when the temperatures can be either unseasonably warm or still brisk and cold; unfortunately, it was brisk and cold for us. Despite our feeble attempt to get the kids to enjoy their first visit to a beach, outdoor activities were simply not going to work.

I had done some research prior to the trip and found that the local mall had a children’s play area. While not the most exciting or authentic experience they would get from the trip, it accomplished one major goal: to let our 1- and 3-year olds get out, run around like crazy, and have a good time. They enjoyed the play area so much the first night that we ended up taking them back again the next afternoon – and making an unscheduled stop to see the Easter Bunny on the way.

If you’re traveling with small children, don’t discount the play area at the mall or other local establishments (I hear Ikea has a good play area for kids as well). It’s free, it’s somewhat clean and safe, and it gives the kids a much-needed chance to stretch their legs and have fun with other kids.