Perhaps the best thing to do to avoid a summer vacation nightmare is to watch the movie "National Lampoon's Vacation" and do the exact opposite. In fact, many of the following tips were inspired by that hilarious movie.

Anyone who's ever been on a family vacation can relate to the Griswold's "Quest For Fun!" as the father, Clark, sarcastically puts it when he's reached the proverbial last straw.

Fortunately, in this case, life is not a movie.

Take the following tips as suggestions, not necessarily answers, because every family is different, and each person within that family is different. Vacations can be a time to embrace your family's idiosyncrasies. You're probably going to be spending a lot of time in cramped quarters like a car, airplane or hotel room. The more you roll with the punches, the less you'll get hit.

No. 5: Find something for everyone

One of the best descriptions of the word "mature" is the ability to delay gratification.

Compromise is the name of the game here. Find something for everyone in your family or group that plays to their individual interests and favorite activities. You can't please all of the people all of the time is a good cliché to keep in mind.

If you're the one in your traveling party who always does the planning, facilitating and organizing, make sure you get input from each person going on the trip or, if they're the type of person who's as hard to get a hold of as a doughnut in the break room, you should still make the effort.

Leave email and voicemail messages, so that when you're on the trip and he or she comes to you to complain -- and you know they will -- you can point to the electronic footsteps you left as evidence of your efforts.

No. 4: Try not to do too much

Most of us "Johnny Lunchboxes" and "Sally Punchclocks" don't get a lot of time off for our vacations.

We have to make some tough logistical decisions about our holiday based on money, time away from work, transportation, lodging, food, etc.

Because of this, it's tempting to try to see and do everything there is to see and do because you only have a small amount of time, and God only knows when you'll be able to take another vacation.

Relax. It's summertime. You don't have to set your alarm clock if you don't want to; you don't have to cook and clean; you don't have to do anything, really. Vacation time is your time. Do what you love. If you're one of those people who just has to schedule everything, schedule in some down time.

No. 3: Don't let problems get you down

How many times have you heard the phrase, "Getting there is half the fun"?

If you've never heard this phrase, chances are excellent that you've heard one similar like, "Why spend all that money to fly first class when coach gets there at the same time for a lot less money?" Or, "Man! When we look back on this, we are going to laugh so hard!"

These are some of the phrases we all use to try and make ourselves feel better about our unfortunate lot in life.

It pays to remind yourself that you're on vacation while you're on vacation. Vacations are never perfect. There will be problems. Don't drive yourself nuts trying to have the first ever perfect vacation. At least you're not at work, right?

No. 2: Be flexible

Try not to schedule everything. Dealing with uncertainty is difficult for some people, and that's cool. No problemo. Go ahead and schedule and plan and organize to your heart's content. Agendas and to-do lists are wonderful ways to ensure that you don't miss or forget anything.

Bring your printed, color-coded schedule along each day, but -- and this is the hard part -- be open to changing it on the fly. Believe it or not, there are a number of stubborn rascals that just don't conform to agendas, such as the weather, time and illness. What if your money or traveler's checks are lost or stolen? What if you missed the bus or train to your scheduled destination that day?

Not everything that can disrupt your schedule is a bad thing. What if you're an antiques collector and you happen to walk past an intriguing pawn shop or flea market? Be flexible.

No. 1: Don't fear the familiar

Go with what's worked in the past. This is often referred to as a backup plan or, less kindly, a cop-out, and maybe there's some truth to that, but if you and your fellow travelers have found one destination that everyone (or at least almost everyone) thoroughly enjoys, then stick with it.

There are people in this world of ours who take their vacations at the same place each and every year, and that's cool. There are also people who go someplace different each and every year, and that's cool too.

Most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle: We have some tried-and-true vacation spots, but we also have other destinations on our to-do lists. And that is also cool.

But the bottom line is don't be afraid of the known. There's always something new to be found in any destination if you look hard enough.