So what if your neighbors made Yellowstone reservations six months ago and brag about their foresight every chance they get? Who cares if your brother-in-law snagged the last family-sized cabin on that bargain summer cruise and can't resist telling you every detail of his upcoming affordable trip of a lifetime?
Just keep smiling. Your vacation will come, and it's going to be your best ever. Don't get frantic just because it's nearly May and your gang hasn't begun to decide where to go this summer, much less when.
The good news is you've never had so many places to help you plan, whether you want to camp in the mountains, cruise on a megaship to Alaska, or swap houses with a family across the country or the ocean.
I promise the memories will be just as sweet whether you plan your trip a week or a year ahead.
Here's my annual resource guide to help you get started.
What are you waiting for? Get the kids to help and grab the phone -- or the computer mouse -- and you'll be on your way:
IF YOU WANT TO USE A TRAVEL AGENT
-- Check the American Society of Travel Agents' Web site at www.astanet.com (you can choose by specialty or geographic area) or call ASTA at (703) 739-2782.
-- Rascals in Paradise sends small groups of families to slightly off-the-beaten-track destinations, from Mexico to Australia to Bali, often with a counselor for the kids. Call (800) U-RASCAL; http://www.rascalsinparadise.com.
-- Grandtravel offers upscale grandparent-grandchild tours of Washington, D.C., the Southwest, Europe and Africa. Call (800) 247-7651; http://www.grandtrvl.com.
-- Celebration specializes in multigenerational travel, whether a gathering on a cruise ship, Hawaii or a resort or villa. Call 800-656-4206; http://www.celebrationtrav.com.
-- Kids Go Too specializes in family trips to the Rocky Mountain states with unique kid-tested packages that might include staying in a Colorado tipi village, a Grand Canyon Indian reservation or traveling by covered wagon along Yellowstone's south border. Call 800-638-3215; http://www.kidsgotootravel.com.
IF YOU WANT A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
-- Condominium Travel Associates promises it can find you a roomy condo for the price of a hotel room or less. Call (800) 492-6636; http://www.condotravel.com.
-- Hideaways International is a travel club that offers villas, condos and suite resorts around the world at a discount. Makes available a $39 four-month trial membership. Call (800) 843-4433; http://www.hideaways.com.
-- Resort Quest offers vacation rentals from studios to private homes throughout North America. Call (877) 588-5800; http://www.resortquest.com.
-- Intervac International is a large home exchange agency that offers access to thousands of swappers worldwide for $89 ($50 for Internet only). Call (800) 756-HOME; http://www.intervac.com.
-- Recreational vehicles aren't only for seniors anymore. The kids will find plenty of friends at the campgrounds and you'll save big bucks on restaurants and motels. For rentals, call Cruise America, the largest national chain, at (800) 327-7799; www.cruiseamerica.com.
ECO-ADVENTURES AND LEARNING VACATIONS
-- AWE GORP Travel offers scores of family adventures all over the West and Canada, among other places. Here's your chance to ride in a rodeo or on a dog sled. The Web site is the leading online source for outdoor recreation. Call (877) 440-GORP; www.gorp.com.
-- Ocean Voyages charters yachts with kid-friendly skippers around the world. Costs start $125 per person. Call (800) 299-4444; www.oceanvoyages.com.
-- Wildland Adventures sends families cruising in Costa Rica, hiking glaciers in Alaska, looking for wildlife in the Galapagos. We used this organization to plan our Alaska trip last summer. Call (800) 345-4453; http://www.wildland.com.
-- Backroads offers different 31 different biking, walking and multi-sport itineraries designed for families, from the San Juan Islands to the Loire Valley in France to Costa Rica to Maine. Bikes, carriers and trailer cycles are available. Call (800) GO-ACTIVE; http://www.backroads.com.
-- The Sierra Club offers more than two dozen family trips, including a grandparent-grandchild vacation near Lake Tahoe, raft trips in Utah, Dinosaur National Monument, the Southwest and visits to Maine and California ideal for introducing toddlers to the outdoors. Call (415) 977-5522; http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/national.
-- Familyhostel offers trips by the University of New Hampshire's InterHostel, known for its moderately priced learning vacations for seniors. Go on an Alaska cruise or to Scotland, France or Costa Rica, staying in university housing and spending time with local families. Call (800) 733-9753; http://www.learn.unh.edu.
-- The Cruise Line Inc. was my choice to book an upcoming family reunion at sea. Call (800) 777-0707; Internet http://www.cruiseline.com. Along with World Wide Cruises, (800) 882-9000; http://www.wwcruises.com, it offers substantial discounts and is savvy about the best ships for different aged kids.
-- Disney Cruise Line has unveiled its second ship, added nurseries for infants ($6 an hour) and plans seven-day eastern Caribbean cruises late this summer. Call (800) WDW-CRUISE; http://disney.go.com/DisneyCruise.
-- Windjammer Barefoot Cruises are sailing trips with children's programs and kids-go-free deals this summer in the Caribbean. Call (800) 327-2601; http://www.windjammer.com.
-- Global Citizens Network is a nonprofit organization that sponsors building projects in Central America and elsewhere, with children as young as 7 participating. Call (800) 644-9292; http://www.globalcitizens.org.