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Taking the Kids -- Mother's Day doesn't have to be just once a year

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    Relaxing with a massage at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya Spa.Velas Resorts

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    A view of t he outdoor pool at Essex Resort.Essex Resort & Spa

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    Try a session of aerial yoga to wind down.Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

For once, I got something I really wanted for Mother's Day -- and it didn't involve anyone shopping for a gift I could do without.

I'm spending a May weekend with two of my three kids. Maybe that doesn't sound like much but when your kids live far from home, it's a big deal. I'm flying to the West Coast to make it happen. As for the third one -- he lives the closest, so I see him all the time.

I'm hoping we'll have a "Thanks for being a great mom!" day some other time -- or maybe that's wishful thinking. Really, any day can be Mother's Day -- like on your next family vacation. All you have to do is declare: "This day is for you, Mom!" (Or maybe it's this morning, this afternoon, etc.)

Any mom who has ever traveled with kids, especially young ones, squabbling ones or sulking teens, knows vacations can often be more work than staying home. I'll never forget the stressed mom who confessed poolside that "vacation was like home, except without a washing machine!"

Not to take anything away from helpful dads, but in my experience, moms take on the role of chief planner, mediator, cook, laundry service and first responder when someone gets sick or injured. (Let's hear it for trips where mom gets a vacation from the planning, cooking and entertaining the kids, like dude ranches, guided tours or adventure trips, suggests Nancy Schretter, creator of Family Travel Network.

"Dad and the kids can be more independent on the next trip -- packing their suitcase using a packing list, planning a couple of family activities as a surprise for mom," says Tawanna Browne Smith, the Maryland mom who is editor of www.momsguidetotravel.com. "Dad and the kids can organize all the necessary travel documents. ... All she has to do is show up!"

Wouldn't that be nice! So would a surprise gift certificate for a just-before-the-trip mani-pedi or a house cleaner so mom will come home after the trip to a clean house, suggests Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, a family vacations expert for About.com. (I'd also vote for Dad taking the car to be detailed after a road trip with young kids -- to get rid of all the crushed Goldfish and melted M&Ms!) Of course, Kelleher adds, "No mom would object to a spa treatment at the hotel or resort!"

Absolutely! "I would be really thankful if he would schedule a massage for me and take the kids for a few hours so I can have some alone time," says Chelsea Day, the mom of two toddlers who is pregnant with a third and oversees the blogger network Just Say Media.

That's easy enough to arrange. In fact, some resorts are offering Mother's Day packages all year -- like the one from the all-inclusive Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico that include VIP air transport, breakfast in bed and spa treatment, private romantic dinner and up to half price off for kids and teens. (Moms are guaranteed a break here because there is a kids' club and teens lounge.

Vermont's Essex Resort, which is also known for their cooking classes for kids, as well as adults, is touting a Spring Bling spa and lodging package that's good through June.

Let's not forget the expectant mom. A growing number of resorts offer "babymoon" packages year round, like the Inn on Fifth in Naples, Fla., including a makeover, mani-pedi, "cravings" basket and more. On the West Coast, Personality Hotels has just initiated San Francisco's first Pregnant & Pampered SF Package complete with a body pillow, coupon for a prenatal massage and I love this one -- a sundae at Ghirardelli's Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, an eco-friendly toy and even a gift certificate to stay at one of the group's hotel kid suites with the bouncing baby.

Kyle McCarthy, creator of Family Travel Forum, had an eminently practical gift for your next trip that moms will appreciate -- "a Power Inverter that provides AC from a car lighter to multiple USB and AC plugs -- along with an extension cord -- so that both front- and backseat passengers can charge their devices. ... That would so help keep the hotel's bathroom counter from being clogged by charging mobiles and cameras!"

Ditto for a case for your smartphone that extends battery life. "I can relax a little knowing my phone won't die on me when I'm relying on it for navigation," explains Chelsea Day.

How about the gift of family pictures? "Vacation memories are precious and moms generally are the ones taking the pictures," Schretter explains. "Many moms say when they look back through years of family pictures, they have very few of themselves because they are the ones taking the pictures!" She suggests the website Flytographer that can connect you with a local photographer.

Even something Dad buys for himself can ultimately be a gift for mom, like the 5.11 Bail Out Bag available from Amazon.com that Nate Day bought for himself, said Chelsea Day. "It sounds weird to suggest dad buy himself a diaper bag, but it is the nicest thing he can do ... now he can tote around snacks and bottles so it's not all on me!"

Got that dads? Happy Mother's Day!

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.