Family Travel Tips for the Novice (Sponsored Post)

Jet Set Vacations

When I was young, family vacations consisted of piling into the station wagon every summer and heading south to Florida. Daytona, Panama Beach, Daytona, Miami.  Beach vacations were all that I knew.  We hardly ever flew anywhere, except to Philadelphia where my grandparents lived.  If we weren’t visiting them, they always flew down to join us wherever we were going.  Traveling with extended family made the trips extra-special.  They also make for extra-special memories.

Somehow, despite ever leaving the country before I was 16, I have managed to develop and pursue a love of travel that entails annual trips abroad with my British husband and kids.  My kids are so used to going abroad that they now remove their own shoes and take off their jackets before boarding a plane.  I must admit that travel has gotten exceedingly easier as they’ve aged and matured, but it still takes an incredible amount of thought process and planning to make sure that we all have a good time.
Here are ten great tips for creating a fun family vacation free of distractions:
1.  BE FLEXIBLE and willing to change your plans as needed. When the kids got tired at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, we got on a bus and took a tour of the city; in Reykjavik, when the kids weren’t into seeing the sights, we went to an indoor geothermal pool, actually several, complete with water slides; in Prague, we headed right to the park after a day of sight-seeing became visibly too much (meltdowns).  Know your children, know their schedules.  Think of the whole experience as an adventure, and your kids will too.
2. Book your flights using a trusted source like Jet Set Vacations, and always aim for direct flights over non-stop.  Many times when you use miles, you tend to have to change planes several times to get the exchange.  Note that it is very hard to do this when traveling with young ones.  One time, on our way back from Italy when my daughter was 1-1/2, we had to change planes three times.  After many lay-overs getting our connections on top of the time on the flights, it took us about 17 hours to get back.
3. Book travel insurance before you leave, particularly if you are traveling abroad.  We typically use Travelex.  It usually costs around $100 per trip and saves a lot of worry about keeping up with your belongings, which there are many of when traveling with kids.  On the flight back from Italy mentioned above, we left a borrowed DVD player on the plane and were able to claim it back on our insurance.  Check under the beds, plane seats, tables you dine at for any left items.  Once, when leaving Prague, we were literally standing in the train station when my daughter realized she had left her blanket at the hotel many miles away.  My husband had to jump in a cab and return to the hotel to go get it.  She had it since birth and we couldn’t take the chance of breaking her routine even further by not having it at night for comfort.
4. Select your seats as soon as you can.  Don’t show up at the airport expecting to all sit together.  On our flight to San Diego recently, we were all separated and had to ask people to switch seats to be near the children.  It’s surprising how many people will not move, even in a situation that involves frightened kids.  It usually works out, but not always and we’ve sat across the plane from each other in pairs.
5.  Before you leave, visit your favorite toy store (or even local drug store like CVS) and stock up on new coloring books, art projects, DVDs, small toys. Also, load up your iPhones, iTouches and iPads!  I’ve even been to the $1 store before a trip and bought each child about $10 worth of toys that lasted the whole trip.  A friend of mine suggested this once, and it works. When times get tough on the plane, pull out a new toy as a distraction.  And most importantly, charge all your electronics before you leave and make sure they are ready to use: DVD players, iTouch or iPhones, DS Nintendos, your cell phone.  Both of our kids have their own specially selected suitcase in which they place their prized possessions for a trip.  They are responsible for bringing it everywhere and packing it up before we leave a hotel.  It gives them a sense of independence.
6.  Plan your days around your child’s schedules.  If you go abroad, allow for catch-up on your first day.  Everyone should sleep in or take a nap in order to make up for the lost time from one zone to another.  A good sleep will make all the difference for everyone.  Try to plan your sight-seeing around your child’s nap, too.  There aren’t a lot of tricks to the sleep issue.  We’ve been on many trips where our kids kept us up all night.  Eating and sleep can be off for the first few days but it will all work itself out.  It’s important to get them on a schedule as soon as you can but expect a few “moments”.
7. Pack extra snacks in your luggage. You’ll be glad to have familiar munchies in places where the food is very different and it will save you money.  Also, bring a bag of snacks on the plane in your hand-luggage as you never know what you’re going to get on mid-air these days.  On our flight to Reykjavik, we found out at the last minute before boarding that we would not get anything but drinks in the sky.  We had to run to the food court and buy dinner.
8. When renting a car (like at Alamo), bring your own car seat with you. Airlines don’t charge extra for car seats or strollers!  Car rental agencies charge a daily fee to rent a car seat, and chances are it won’t be of as good quality as your own. Don’t forget to dress the kids in loose-fitting, comfortable shoes and clothes and bring an extra sweater with you. We usually give them their suitcases or take toys out for them to occupy themselves on a road trip or bring the portable DVD player and place it between the two front seats for their entertainment.  Make sure you bring you bring your portable GPS which works all over the world.  We brought ours to the South of France a few years ago and it really saved the day and got us all around Provence and the coast.
9. We always plan accommodations before we leave home so we know exactly what we are getting and how much we will be spending. Obviously with children, it’s good to have space in a room for them to run around and play in.  There are plenty of kid-friendly accommodations online, as well as money-saving strategies and travel deals.  When you arrive at the hotel, inquire about any perks for the kids — some hotels will offer a free room for children staying with adult or even free meals.   Once your kids are old enough to stay on their own with a babysitter, you can visit all-inclusive resorts with “Kid’s Clubs” that your children will love.  When our kids were very, very young, we traveled to Jamaica and Mexico and stayed in two such hotels.  The kids had just as much of a good time as we did and were able to drink cocktails by the pool and go on speed boat rides while they were being looked after.  We have also stayed either with friends in their vacation homes or have rented chalets which are perfect for ski trips with other families.  Bringing two families together on a trip can be a real treat.  While the kids are off playing, swimming, exploring, the adults can sit back and drink wine in a jacuzzi, which is what we have done in Park City and Lake Tahoe after a long day of skiing.
10.  Lastly, take a good guidebook, or do valuable research online with family-friendly information about restaurants and attractions. The newer the better to ensure accuracy, so check its publication date.  We used Frommer’s Iceland while traveling in Iceland a few months ago and it led us to some very good restaurants with healthy options.  Also, check admission and hours for museums and attraction before you make the trek.  It’s not fun t to get somewhere and not be able to get in — especially when it’s your only chance to see it while abroad.
JetSetVacations.com is a travel wholesaler with 15 years of experience that can serve all of your travel booking needs whether you’re looking for a family adventure, quick weekend away, or romantic trip for two.  Every booking provides you with white glove service which includes a vacation concierge to assist you with your needs while you are on vacation.  They guarantee the lowest rates to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica and specialize in helping families travel on a budget.  Readers can learn more and enter to win $1,000 vacation credit and more by participating in the JetSetVacations.com Twitter Party this Wednesday night from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET. For more information visit: http://bit.ly/ijMbgq.

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Global Influence and I have been compensated for my participation.



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  1. Great information! Its really need to have an adventurous tour with kids to experience them the fun of adventures.

  2. I also remember trips in the family Volvo stationwagon. These are great travel tips!

  3. Glad I found this blog. Here’s my two cents: When I was a kid, my Dad always booked vacations to Europe with ABC tours. They give amazing prices as well as tours throughout your vacation with discounted prices on great local restaurants and cool tour guides.

    The best part about it is you don’t HAVE to stay with the group. You can choose to go with them or just do stuff on your own!



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