Bring This, Not That: Packing for Older Children

December 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

How and what should you pack for older children? When packing for children, the rule “less is more” is always true. Don’t pack for every contingency, plan for the worst and pack for that.

Once your kids get to be 7 or 8, they should be responsible for packing and carrying their own bags. However be sure to inspect the packing process or do a check after they’re done. If you leave it up to them, you may end up with a suitcase full of Legos or stuffed animals, and the wrong types of clothes for the climate you’re visiting. Have a conversation with your child about what he or she thinks they need. It can be a fun way to teach them to plan ahead.

Children's SuitcaseYou can also leave the carrying of the suitcase up to your child while you’re traveling. Don’t go overboard. Make sure your 7-year-old gets some assistance putting her carry-on in the overhead bin, but make sure she takes responsibility for knowing where it is. Again, you want to make sure she’s taking care of business, but having her keep track of her bag will give her a sense of responsibility.

For the flight itself, you can pack light. Bring some healthy snacks and perhaps one toy or book. And if you have a tablet device — iPad, Galaxy, or Kindle Fire — load a few movies, games, and favorite music to keep them occupied.

At this age, kids love entertaining themselves with video games, so sneak in some learning while you’re at it. Load some educational games and books and puzzles to keep your kid’s mind sharp.

Don’t forget that wi-fi may get spotty from time to time or not be available on your flight, so make sure you’ve downloaded the electronic goodies, rather than relying on streaming services. This way, they can switch between activities during the trip.

What else do you recommend for kids? Any other tips or suggestions? Leave a comment or comment on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Pixababy.com (Creative Commons)

Bring This, Not That: Packing for Young Children

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Many new parents are often tempted to pack almost the entire bedroom when planning to travel with their kids. They want to make sure they’re prepared for every contingency, every situation.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Your kids just don’t need as much stuff as you think they do to survive a flight — you only need the key essentials. There’s often a tendency by new parents to overdo it, because they want to have everything and anything they need.

English: A typical baby's diaper bag, over-sho...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dragging an enormous diaper bag around the airport, in addition to everything else you have, is just going to exhaust you, and you’ll end up not using most of it anyway. Pack what they need: enough diapers, formula or snacks, one change of clothes, and a small blanket. Everything else you need can be checked in your regular baggage.

The other big concern when traveling with small children is keeping them entertained. The very little ones don’t need much at all, maybe a toy and a rattle. Your best hope is that they fall asleep on the flight, so try to arrange your schedule to make that happen.

Toddlers generally need more to keep them occupied, so a tablet can come in handy. If you don’t currently have an iPad, Galaxy, or Kindle Fire, we recommend getting one for traveling with children. You’ll get to enjoy it as well, so it’s a win-win situation.

Load your tablet with your children’s favorite movies, and some new ones, some games and puzzles, and a few of their favorite tunes. With this setup, you could keep your toddler occupied for the entire trip.

If your child has a favorite toy or blanket they’re emotionally attached to, you absolutely must bring it along. Otherwise, the pain of separation will be loud and heart wrenching to you, your child, and everyone seated nearby.

Flying with Your Child

November 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As airlines continue to find new profit streams, more and more fees are being levied on every aspect of air travel, especially as it relates to convenience and comfort. Included in that list of conveniences is automatically receiving adjacent seat assignments when buying more than one ticket.

This can create nightmare scenarios if you’re not prepared. For example, two parents flying with a three year old and seven year old could face the possibility of everybody being seated separately.

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR t...

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi BKK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why parents need to plan ahead when buying tickets. The best thing to do when flying with children is buy tickets well in advance, after making sure your chosen airline has a system in place to reserve seats at time of purchase. If you buy far enough ahead, the chance of snagging adjacent seats is high. The chance that doing so will be free is not as high. Many airlines now charge extra for premium seats, including aisle and window seats. Or, you can fly Southwest, which doesn’t have reserved seats, but offers priority seating for travelers with children under four.

But everything doesn’t always go according to plan. Travel is sometimes last minute. And some parents have strict budgets in place. Should you not be able to reserve adjacent seats at the time of purchase, see if you can work with the airline to get seats with your kids. Call after you buy your tickets or arrive early on the day of the flight.

Even after all this effort, you may still find yourself on a flight with your kids in a different aisle. Many people will take pity on your plight and trade readily to keep your family together. But don’t assume the stranger sitting next to your kids is in the mood to trade seats, especially if he or she paid a premium to sit in the spot. Be prepared for a round of airplane “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Put your game face on and find someone else to trade with you. Or go prepared with a treat bag or gift cards to bribe the other person. Even if the person traded without blinking an eye, giving them a hearty thank you and a Starbucks gift card can make them feel better about helping you out.

How do you travel with your children? Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do to solve the problem? Leave us a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page.

Super Savvy Summer Travel Tips

June 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Warmer weather and longer days can only mean one thing: summertime is finally here!

While every family spends their summer days differently, one common thread is travel. Because the kids are out of school, the months of June and July are ripe for family vacations.

English: family vacation summer 2007

English: family vacation summer 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to get the most out of your next summer vacation, you need to thoroughly prepare beforehand so you know how to react no matter what life throws your way. To help you plan, here’s a short list of things to consider to make your next vacation go smoothly.

  • Scan and move any important travel documents to the cloud, including passports, travel insurance, medical records and anything else that can be needed in emergency situations. Storing these documents in a Google Drive, for example, will provide safekeeping and easy access. You can also use Dropbox or Evernote. You can also share these documents with family members and friends.
  • Pack a first aid kit. You never know when an injury may occur, so keep pain relievers, bandages, sunscreen, and any medications (inhalers, etc) in a water-resistant, cool environment. If traveling by car, keep a kit in the vehicle. If you’re hiking or enjoying the beach, keep the kit in a backpack or in another convenient place.
  • Plan for the worst-case scenario. Make sure everyone knows what to do in case someone in your family is separated from the group. For young children, it is generally advised that they stay in the same place and wait for a parent to come back and find them. For older children and teens, choose a location to meet in case of any separation or threat.
  • If traveling by car, be prepared for any mechanical failures. Bring jumper cables, a spare tire, tire iron, flashlight and safety flares in case your vehicle breaks down. It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of water and a blanket in your vehicle in case you are stuck for long periods of time without help.
  • For small children, bring snacks, toys or books to keep them entertained on long drives or flights.

We could go on and on and on with all the different tips and ideas for family summer travel, but experience is the best teacher. Enjoy your summer and travel safe!

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Another Airline Rolls Out a ‘No-Kids’ Zone

December 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve had a long, busy trip and are planning to keep sleeping until you land in your home airport. You’ve just boarded your flight, have stowed your bags, buckled your seatbelt and have just begun to nod off when you’re jolted awake by a blood-curdling scream from two rows back. Ah yes, the infamous in-flight screaming baby.

Whether you’re a parent trying to calm down your child or a fellow passenger trying to tune out the noise, dealing with a screaming child in-flight can be a stressful experience. With this in mind, some airlines in Asia have begun offering “no-kid zones.” This past summer, the budget airline Scoot (a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) began offering a new seating zone on their airplanes – the appropriately named ScootinSilence.

A Malaysia-Singapore Airlines Boeing 707 at Zu...

A Malaysia-Singapore Airlines Boeing 707 at Zurich 1972. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ScootinSilence section, which is only open to passengers over the age of 12, is positioned directly behind business class and occupies four rows. The 41 seat section costs an additional $15 per ticket, but for those looking to spend their flight napping, the investment may be worth it. When asked about this decision in a recent interview with The Australian, Scoot’s CEO Campbell Wilson said, “No offence to our young guests or those travelling with them — you still have the rest of the aircraft.”

Scoot isn’t the first airline to put restrictions on their younger passengers. If you’re a parent looking to fly first class on Malaysia Airlines with your young ones, you’re out of luck. Recently, the airline opted to ban children under the age 12 from sitting in the first class upper deck of some of their flights. When asked about the decision, the Malaysia Airlines stated they made the move after receiving too many noise complaints from first class passengers. As an alternative, the airline offers a 350-seat “family friendly” economy zone on the lower deck with facilities to suit families. These include eight toilets and its own entrance, separate to the one used by first class passengers.

We’d love to hear your feedback. Do you think this is a good idea? Parents, would you prefer to be seated in a “kid friendly” section, or do you think this type of seating arrangement is unfair? Share with us in the comments section below or post your thoughts to our Facebook page.

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Luxury Travel Is Making a Comeback

April 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Say farewell to the “Staycation” – for many travelers, budget-friendly tours of one’s own city have become a thing of the past. Not only has travel increased overall, but consumers are actually investing in luxury travel again, thanks to income levels returning to pre-recession levels.

Just how much is luxury travel increasing? According to an article in The (London) Guardian), the sales of luxury experiences grew 50% faster than the demand for physical goods. This change can be partially attributed to demographics – namely, the fact that the consumers who drove the luxury boom in the 1990s are now beginning to retire. Instead of acquiring material goods, affluent Baby Boomers are more interested in investing in life experiences.

Maharajas' Express Luxury Train (India)

Maharajas’ Express Luxury Train (India) (Photo credit: Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars)

Demographics aside, many travel experts have noticed an overall increase in consumer confidence, meaning that travelers feel comfortable investing in high ticket, once-in-a-lifetime trips. In a recent Travel Weekly article, Dan Mahar, CEO of Tauck, a luxury travel operator in Connecticut, said “In the post-meltdown era, there’s been a resetting of priorities.

In other words, consumers, particularly the affluent, are focusing more than ever before on making memories and spending time with friends and family.

According to the Travel Weekly article, this year’s luxury travel hotspots are all over the map, including exotic eastern locales such as Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Once overlooked Eastern European hidden gems such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are also becoming quite popular, as are exotic once-in-a-lifetime experiential trips such as safari trips to Botswana.

Another surprising trend is a large increase in consumers booking trips on luxury cruise lines. When it comes to visiting exotic locales via the high seas, travelers are willing to overlook the cruise industry’s recent woes. In fact, many travelers are booking cruises that run upwards of one month. Such cruises visit multiple exotic destinations on all seven continents, making them an appealing option for those that want to get a bit of variety during their trip.

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The Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

March 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re like many business travelers in recent years, you may have found yourself visiting the same city for a conference every business-leisure-1300x900year without spending any time outside of the conference circuit. However, the blurring of lines between business and leisure travel is becoming more common, as business travelers are finding ways to optimize their travel time and experiences.

With the arrival of online travel companies more than a decade ago, and mobile technology enabling even wider access to great travel deals, it is becoming more common for business travelers to take an extra day on one end or the other of a business trip to see some tourist attractions, try a few local restaurants, or visit a museum.

If you can take advantage of a day or more of leisure time while on a business trip, why not try it? For example, you could invite your spouse or significant other to join you on your trip, since you may be more likely to try a new restaurant or activity if you’re with a companion. Combining a business trip with a vacation (even a short vacation) makes sense in a lot of ways.

From a travel standpoint, it may be better for you to kill two birds with one stone. Why book multiple flights and hotels when you can cut costs and simplify your travel experience by adding on some leisure time before or after a business trip? This makes sense from a financial standpoint too — it’s less expensive to take a vacation since your company will cover at least some of the cost of the trip, even if it’s just getting you out there and back home.

And while it’s true that modern day business travelers are adding leisure time on to business trips, the reverse is also true – people are more and more frequently fitting work time into vacations. Often, travelers are deciding to schedule an afternoon of networking meetings into a vacation. That way, depending on a company’s travel and expense policy, some part of the trip can be expensed (or if self-employed, deducted on their taxes), and employees can feel like they aren’t abandoning their jobs.

Although there is a movement in favor of “unplugging” during vacations, the benefits to combining leisure and business travel can’t be ignored. After all, if you’re spending time traveling for any reason, you may as well get the most value possible out of your — and your company’s — time and money.

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Family-Friendly Travel Gadgets

November 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve talked about traveling with little kids before, and Fodor’s recently came out with an article about the best gadgets for kids on the go. These are great for keeping your little ones distracted on a long flight or car trip. Here are a few of our favorites:

Crayola MyPhones

These kid-friendly headphones serve a dual purpose: First, they’re customizable with special markers, stickers and paper inserts. Second, when they’re done decorating, they can listen to their tunes on the headphones they created — comfortably, and at a safe volume.

Kurio Kids Tablet

It’s kid-friendly, but it’s a real Android tablet with games, e-books, Internet capability and more! You can create eight different profiles for the whole family to use this gadget, and with parental controls on app downloads and more, you can let your kids of all ages surf independently and maintain your peace of mind.

Kids Cooler Backpack

Give your children a little independence with a backpack they can carry themselves, with compartments for everything they could need during your journey. The best part: The front pocket is insulated and protects snack foods from getting crushed among the other items you’ve packed.

4moms Breeze Playard

Many pack-and-plays for babies don’t live up to their name…the packing is simple enough, but when it’s time to play, you’ve got a real challenge on your hands. The Breeze is a portable crib with a removable bassinet, changing pad and travel case — all in one easy-to-open package.

Our Two Cents

On the practical end of things, one of the best gadgets you can get for your kids doesn’t involve keeping them entertained; it’s more about keeping them comfortable.

We can think of two special tools for keeping kids comfy and feeling great during your travels, especially if they’re new to long trips.

The first is EarPlanes, which are ear plugs that control pressure in your ears during takeoff and landing. They make special sizes just for kids! The second is Austin House’s Motion-Less wristband, which helps control motion sickness during long car rides, cruises or flights.

Traveling with kids can be tricky, and it requires a lot of extra preparation, but making memories with your family when your kids are still young can be well worth it.

If you’re a frequent family traveler, what toys, games, tools and tips do you have for folks who are new to traveling with young kids? Share them in the comments.

What Your Luggage Says About You [INFOGRAPHIC]

May 1, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

It’s always interesting to see what people carry with them when they travel. Most of our customers are business types, and we’re always on the lookout to see whose pulling a Travelpro bag behind them. But there are so many people traveling for so many different reasons that you start to see all kinds of luggage and bags on a trip.

We were interested to hear about this infographic from HomeAway.com about what a traveler’s luggage says about them. We hope you enjoy it.

 

Homeaway Infographic - What your luggage says about you

Travel Ideas infographic from HomeAway

Disney World Travel Tips

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s the one vacation every parent feels obligated to take: the trip to Disney World. But, with the huge crowds, long lines and steamy Florida climate, will you survive it?

Absolutely! With a little research, you’ll not only survive your Orlando pilgrimage, you’ll thrive, as will your kids and their memories.

Tree of Life, centerpiece of Walt Disney World...

Image via Wikipedia

First, you’ll need to determine whether to stay on-site at one of the resort hotels, or off-site in less expensive lodging. If your budget allows, staying “in the world” offers many advantages.

You can ride the monorail to and from the park, access the park when non-lodging visitors can’t, and have any items you purchase in the park delivered directly to your room, sparing you the inconvenience of lugging them around all day.

Many first time visitors don’t realize that Disney World consists of four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) and two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach). With so much to see, it’s important that you prioritize your time.

When planning your itinerary, consider the age and height requirements of the attractions your kids want to see, and make sure their favorite rides aren’t closed for maintenance. Walt Disney World’s official website — disneyworld.disney.go.com — is a excellent planning tool, as is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and similar guidebooks.

Other proven tips for maximizing your Disney World experience, thanks to About.com include:

  • Pick your park according to “Extra Magic Hour.” Each day, one of the four theme parks opens early for Disney World resort guests only. If you’re staying onsite, take advantage of the early opening . If not, avoid that park for most of the day.
  • Get to the theme parks early. This advice is especially important for Disney’s water parks, which can be packed by noon at peak times of year, and for the Animal Kingdom theme park, which closes early.
  • Take a break in the afternoon. Go to the park of your choice early in the morning; return to your hotel during the heat of the day; then return to the park in the evening. Three of the theme parks have special night-time events.
  • Use Fastpasses where they’re available. A “Fastpass” is a time-specific pass to certain rides and shows. They’re free and save you from standing in line for the most popular rides.
  • Use Advanced Reservations for restaurant meals.
  • Use the Disney Transportation System. Every hour air-conditioned buses carry people from one park to another, and to and from the Disney resorts at no charge. Also free, the monorail and boat shuttles are excellent ways to get around.

Finally, consider the hopper passes, the passes that let you “hop” from one park to the other during the same day. Visit the Magic Kingdom during the day and then head over to Epcot’s World Showcase for dinner. We know a few families who do this on a daily basis, enjoying dinner in Italy, Germany, Japan, and Morocco on different nights of the week.

Don’t dread your Disney duty. Plan properly, and enjoy the magic.

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