Monthly Archives: November 2016

How To Planning The Greatest Family Vocation

tricky thing about family vacations is that they include your family. And with your family comes school and work schedules, video games and cookbooks, rock concerts and the big football game that can’t be missed. With these conflicting schedules and widespread interests, you’ll definitely need time to map it all out.

The goal is simple – make everyone happy with an unforgettable trip to the perfect destination. Achieving that goal can be daunting, especially when all the travel planning falls on you. But it is obtainable, as long as you know what your family enjoys and what travel options you have at your disposal. In the end, seeing your children’s faces light up makes it all worth the effort.

Before planning your family’s next vacation, check out this advice from ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know that planning the perfect vacation is easier with time and good advice on your side.

Great Family Vacations Start with Great Family Planning
At the heart of every good, stress-free vacation experience is the perfect plan. If you want a perfect plan that your entire family will love, then get them to help you make it. The more input you get from each family member, the better. Your children may surprise you with some of things they suggest to do on vacation. If the destination or activity is already set, have your kids research online or at the library for exciting things to do while you’re all there.

Once the family plan is in place, keep your kids involved by putting them in charge of at least one aspect of the trip. If they’re good with maps, make them the navigator. Do they have an eye for photos? Make them the official vacation photographer, in charge of not only taking photos during the trip, but also of compiling the album once you return. They will enjoy the responsibility of the project and the trust you give them to accomplish it.

Setting Your Sights – Where in the World Will You Go?
In Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says, “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.” Well, a Jedi might not crave them, but your kids do. The good news is that there are millions of exciting adventures in this world for you to choose from. The bad news is that there are millions of exciting adventures in this world for you to choose from.

Paring down the list is priority number one. Consider your budget, timeframe and expectations. Are beaches calling your name? How about something in the park variety, be it an amusement, theme, water or National one? Is international travel in your future? Family friendly cruise or resort? With all those in mind, check out these options below sent in by travel agents around the globe.

Yosemiti NPFollow Your Sense of Adventure at a National Park
America’s 388 National Parks are not just the great outdoors, they’re the greatest outdoors, and always a family favorite. From glaciers and geysers to canyons and deserts, there is something that will wow every age group. At the tip of your travel tongue may be Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but dig a little deeper and you will find many surprises.

Your children will actually enjoy learning at a National Park. They’ll become minor geologists in the dark depths of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. Watch their eyes erupt with wonder at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. History comes alive by tracing footprints at Antietam National Battlefield or watching oil droplets bubble to the surface of Pearl Harbor above the USS Arizona Memorial. Experience white water action over class V rapids through magnificent gorges and valleys at Gauley River National Recreation Area. Or, conquer the ice age as a family by hiking along Glacier National.

National Parks are perfect for kids. Most of the larger parks run Junior Ranger Programs, allowing kids to participate in fun activities while learning about the area’s natural habitat and historic significance. Other parks offer nature walks and wildlife talks specifically geared toward children to show them that nature has more to offer than video games.

All Aboard! Cruising Family Style
Cruise ships are a family vacation planner’s best friends. Picture a floating, mega-resort with tons to do for everyone in a confined space where you know your kids are supervised and safe. Many cruise lines offer voyages designed specifically for families, with expanded activity programs and shore excursions for all age groups and waterslides, ice rinks and climbing walls that keep kids and parents happy for days.

Some cruises have even developed onboard programs that not only feature family together time, but also arrange crucial alone time for parents. Together, parents and kids can participate in mock game shows, story hours, treasure hunts and other activities. Later, adults can schedule a massage or spend time on the sun deck knowing their kids are enjoying a host of supervised games and activities. To find a family cruise line to your liking, talk to a travel agent who specializes in cruises.

ElephantsSomething Wild This Way Comes – African Safaris
For something a bit out of the ordinary, many travel agents rave about African safaris. There’s a long list of wilderness adventures available in every degree of comfort, adventure and budget. Safaris range from luxury holidays, where elegant lodges and fine wines share time with tracking giraffes from a sturdy, open-roof vehicle, to mobile camping safaris where you follow predators or stake out the great wildebeest migration, sleeping in tents at a different locale each night.

Just mention the word “safari” to your kids and watch their eyes grow as large as a lion’s as they roar with approval. Each safari is judged by the thrilling wildlife it encounters, and many come through with high marks as they safely bring your family into the playgrounds of zebras, lions, elephants, hippos, rhinos, gorillas, cheetahs and a whole ark-full of other animals. So many beasts roam these lands that the ground itself feels alive.

Travel Agents – Your New Favorite Aunt
When you’re ready to make the most of your next vacation, open your arms to a new member of the family – your neighborhood travel agent. Your travel agent can save you so much time and money while relieving stress that you may want to invite him or her over for next Thanksgiving.

Know More About Traveling With Grandkids

Befitting their titles, grandparents and their grandchildren should engage in grand relationships. Since the dawn of man, grandparents lived in multigenerational communities, living and working alongside their children and grandchildren. They were not “in the way” or a “nuisance;” instead they served as teachers, advisers and role models – key figures that positively shaped the lives of their grandchildren.

Times have changed and families are now spread across the country, forcing grandparents to constantly seek new ways to cultivate relationships and share special experiences with their grandchildren. The answer: intergenerational travel, where grandparents plan vacations with only their grandchildren, leaving the parents at home.

Intergenerational travel is a win-win-win situation: parents get a well-needed break; grandparents get quality time with the grandkids; and the grandkids get a week without homework, learning about the world with their grandparents. Yet while more and more seniors are leading active lives, it can be difficult to match the energy and interest level of a child for an entire week.

So if you want to take a “grand” vacation but are worried about keeping a grandchild entertained, check out these trusted travel tips from the American Society of Travel Agents. Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know that children love shiny toys, and there is no better shiny toy than an exciting vacation with loved ones.

Tips to Travel By
Create a Multi-Generational Itinerary – Too often seniors plan activities to solely please the children, running themselves ragged to keep the trip in a high gear of constant fun. But if you become unhappy, the kids will soon follow. A travel agent will help you craft an itinerary that appeals to both generations, paying special attention to natural attractions, like mountains and canyons, and historical sites, like lost temples and medieval castles.

Consult the Parents – It may be awkward to turn to your own children for advice, but talking with your grandchild’s parents is a critical step in planning a successful trip. Parents know their children’s favorite activities and subjects, along with their sleeping and eating habits.

You’re the Guardian, So Be Prepared – One lesson travel agents teach time and time again is to always have proper identification and medical histories wherever you go, for emergencies enjoy being unpredictable. During the vacation, you are 100 percent responsible for the children, so make sure you have their proper identification, health insurance, contact information, recent photos and notarized authorization from their parents in case they need medical attention. All identifying documents for the children should comply with the latest federal requirements for passports and other entry/exit documents. Also, it’s your job to know their medications and dietary needs backwards and forwards.

Finally, some countries do not allow entry of minors not accompanied by both parents unless the children have written, notarized permission from the absent parents. The rules vary from country to country, so consult your travel agent before your trip.

Play Favorites – Since a child’s energy level escalates exponentially with each additional child in the room, it’s wise take no more than two grandchildren at time, or even just one. As much as you would to include all eight grandkids, in reality you should play favorites and take only a few at a time. You can always plan more vacations for the others.

Keep the Kids Excited – Just like a movie studio builds excitement for an upcoming release, so should you with your impending excursion. Have your grandchildren help plan the trip by reading guidebooks or visiting your travel agent’s office together. As the date approaches, send your grandchild e-mails about the activities or maps and pictures of the destination in the mail.

Take a Warm-Up Trip – Before traveling alone with your grandchildren for an entire week or two, discover how you all travel together by taking a day trip or have them stay over for a weekend. If this short trip is more sour than sweet, maybe your grandchildren are not ready for a longer journey away from home. If that’s the case, don’t give up. Simply take more and more day trips until the group learns to have fun together.

Like E.T., Phone Home – An effective way to alleviate homesickness is to make periodic phone calls to the parents and let the kids gush about the day’s exciting adventures. The parents will feel better knowing their children are in good hands, and you’ll feel better listening to the kids rave about the activities you planned.

You Need Downtime, Too – Many places provide supervised activities for kids. If the resort or cruise offers these, take them up on that offer and get some much-needed rest.

Music to Their Ears – If you’re traveling by car, especially with teens, let them enjoy their portable CD and MP3 players. Trust us – you won’t like what they’re listening to. And don’t try and force Sinatra on a teen either. They will lean to appreciate Old Blue Eyes later in life; everyone does.

Plan B? Call Your Agent
When life serves you lemons, your travel agent has a lemon squeezer, clean glasses and a bucket of ice. Many unforeseen factors – an illness, hurricanes, unscheduled closings – can dampen a vacation, no matter how thoroughly it was planned. When one of these occasions arises, stay positive, pull your travel agent’s card out of your purse and give her a call. A travel agent has Plans B-through-Z at her fingertips.

Final Tip – Use a Travel Agent
Intergenerational travel is not a phrase created for this Web site; it’s a gratifying market that many resorts, cruises and travel agents enjoy sustaining. If the idea of an intergenerational trip with your grandkids sounds appealing, but you feel uneasy about planning such a complex journey on your own, then turn to a trusted travel agent who specializes in family travel.

A travel agent can set up a fun-filled itinerary that will stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration and, most importantly, let you and your grandchild bond like never before. Using a world of experience, travel agents know which cruise lines, safaris or theme parks are the most family friendly, for your travel agent has most likely taken her own children there.

Should You Know About Some Tips On Traveling With Children

Family vacations can create long-lasting memories and fun learning experiences for parents and children alike. But traveling with children can sometimes be a test of preparedness — and of patience. The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has created a list of suggestions to help make the sometimes daunting task of preparing for a trip with the kids manageable and fun for the entire family.

BEFORE LEAVING
Create anticipation for the family trip by starting a countdown calendar with perhaps a photo or illustration of the destination. Let kids pack their own bags. Decide what type of clothing (preferably loose and comfortable), but allow them to choose their favorites and to pack a special toy. In a carry-on bag, pack some hard candies and gum, hand wipes, tissues, books, paper, markers in a small, tightly sealed plastic bag and perhaps a surprise toy for each child.

Update immunizations for the entire family. If traveling abroad, check with public health authorities for advisable additional vaccines. Depending on the destination and duration of stay, the following immunizations may be recommended (although some cannot be given to infants and young children):

Hepatitis B vaccine
Typhoid vaccine
Hepatitis A vaccine
Immune globulin
Yellow Fever vaccine
Japanese B Encephalitis vaccine
Meningococcal vaccine
Rabies vaccine

AT THE AIRPORT
Allow plenty of time for check-in and also between connecting flights. Arriving early to board together prevents last minute delays and confusion, especially with the new security regulations. Be sure to have a safety plan in case anyone gets separated at the airport. Discuss where to meet and what to do.

TOP VACATION DESTINATIONS FOR KIDS (8-13)
1. Disney* – 100%
2. Cruises – 41%
3. Orlando – 28.2%
4. Hawaii – 23.7%
5. Cancun – 18.1%

* includes all Disney parks and Disney Cruises
Source: ASTA-member travel agents survey
Review screening procedures with children before entering security checkpoints so they will not be frightened by the process. Every person, including children and babies, must undergo screening at security checkpoints. Also, all child-related equipment must go through the X-ray machine. To speed the process along, remove children from their strollers/infant carriers and collapse/fold the equipment so it may be examined or put through the machine. When going through metal detectors, with an infant, have one parent hold the baby and walk through the machine. Do not hand off the baby under the detector, or hand the baby to the screener to hold. Children who can walk should go through the metal detector independently. For older children, it is important to stress that the process should be taken seriously and that threats made even as a joke could result in law enforcement being summoned.

ON THE FLIGHT
Bring a child/infant seat on board that meets current safety standards and is not more than 16 inches wide. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that children weighing less than 40 pounds be placed in child/infant seats.

The best coach seats to have when flying with small children are the first row in economy class. There’s a lot of legroom, and you’ll be removed from most of the plane when the kids get cranky from the long flight. If the front row seats are not available, place children away from the aisle, preferably between responsible adults. Also, remember to get up, stretch and walk around with kids often during the flight, but do not allow children to walk around unsupervised.
TOP VACATION DESTINATIONS FOR TEENAGERS (13+)
1. Disney* – 57.4%
2. Cruises – 48%
3. Cancun – 36.7%
4. Hawaii – 27.2%
5. Orlando – 22.9%

* includes all Disney parks and Disney Cruises
Source: Survey of ASTA-member travel agents
Getting your seat assignment in advance can help ensure families are seated together and that children and adults will be seated next to each other. If a flight is full and obtaining seat assignments in advance is not a possibility, advise the airline personnel at the airport. The airline may need to ask other passengers to change seats so children are not seated apart from parents.

Bring bottled water to drink and lotion to apply to skin to rehydrate during the dry flight; gum, pacifiers and bottles to reduce air pressure on the children’s ears; and a variety of toys in carry-on bags to keep the child’s interest from waning.

IF TRAVELING BY CAR
Make it comfortable by bringing pillows and blankets. Stop frequently at rest stops to stretch and make use of restrooms. Play games like “I Spy.” Make sure the car is stocked with paper, pencils, plenty of engaging toys and tapes or Children in the carCDs of their favorite songs or books. Most importantly, keep children involved in the vacation process. Save everything collected on vacation – brochures, napkins, ticketstubs – and have children paste them into a scrapbook.

Plan ahead with the rental company to make sure they offer car seats and installation. If not, you’ll have to bring your own in addition to a collapsible stroller. If nothing else, a simple call to the rental car company may save you the hassle of bringing along one extra piece of equipment.

ONCE THERE
Have a daily schedule planned with some flexible, free time for each family member. Provide friends or relatives with phone numbers and addresses of hotels where the family will stay, transportation information and emergency contact information. If possible, each member of the family should have a cell phone or walkie-talkie to keep in touch at all times. Coming up with an emergency plan or meeting point is also a good idea in case family members become separated.

AT THE HOTEL
Put safety first by avoiding a myriad of possible accidents. Bring outlet protectors and make a sweep of balconies and bathrooms for any potential dangers. Hide away small objects, accessible medications and cleaners children could get their hands on. Familiarize yourself with the hotel’s fire and emergency evacuation routes and procedures.

SOME EXTRA PRECAUTIONS
If your vacation includes a trip to a pool, ocean, water park or any other place involving water, the number one rule is to never let children venture off alone. Even if they know how to swim, children should wear a life jacket at all times. Also, it is important to know what is in the water, such as chemicals or jellyfish. Very cold temperatures, currents, and sudden drop-offs are all things to avoid, especially with children.

Always bring a hat with a wide brim and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to shield children’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Sun poisoning can ruin any vacation.

It is important to bring along needed medications. Diarrhea treatments (although these should not be given to very young children), pain relievers, insect repellants, antihistamines and adhesive bandages are good staples. Consult your doctor about “over the counter” remedies before using them. Bringing a doctor’s number, even if traveling to a foreign country, is a good idea, as well.

To prevent diseases spread by drinking contaminated water, use only bottled or boiled water to mix formula and juices, or simply go with pre-mixed liquid formula whenever possible, if an infant is not being nursed.