Family Travel Question:

Q | How can I make sure my child doesn't lose his or her Nintendo DS or games while we're traveling?

This is a matter of smart choices before you leave - and careful monitoring while you're on the road.

A | Five tips for managing handheld video games with traveling kids

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My child may love playing his Super-Mario games but at $50 a pop, I’m careful with his games and super-careful about what he takes with him when we travel and how he looks after it.

Starting with packing, I hold a very strong line about who is responsible for making sure the Nintendo DS and the games make it into the bag. I’ve found that even if we’ve had to endure an epic meltdown on the way to the airport – when my child realized that he’d left his favorite game behind, it’s worth it for the lesson learned. And given that this is the start of the vacation, it reminds everyone who is responsible for the DS and the games during our trip.

I once heard David Sedaris say that he keeps list of everything in his suitcase when he travels and since doing so, he hasn’t lost anything. Since the Murphy Italian Disaster of 2006 (when not one, but three games were left behind in our hotel room), I’ve adopted this approach with much success. My son keeps a list of the games he has with him. We both check it when we’re packing to leave going there and back.

super mario for nintendo ds (wandermom.com)I’ve invested in DS cases and game boxes. Sadly, multiple times. That said, I can tell you from experience that a game case which holds 10-12 games seems to be the sweet spot for having enough slots for all the favorite games – while not being so capacious as to keep this budget-conscious mom awake at night at the very prospect of leaving that many valuable games behind.

I’ve had to police my kids to put their games in the case when they’re not using them. Not under the pillow or beside the pool or in the pocket of their shorts. Although, you’ll be glad to know that if that does happen and said shorts get tossed in the washer, DS games have magical properties: they continue to work even after being washed and run through the tumble dryer.

Even though we are a video-game-playing household (my husband works for Xbox, what can I say?), I never travel without board games, cards and plenty of good old pencils and paper. What you pack will change as your children grow, but you can never have too many travel toys to keep your kids entertained.

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