Monday, July 20, 2009

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 AIRPORTAllow 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.


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.


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: 2003 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 CDs of their favorite songs or books. Most importantly, keep children involved in the vacation process. Save everything collected on vacation - brochures, napkins, ticket stubs - 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.

MOST IMPORTANTLY...Maintain a good sense of humor while traveling to give your children a vacation to remember in spite of any unforeseen obstacles. Remember that problems do arise and accidents do happen, but being prepared and keeping ASTA's Travel Tips in mind may help avoid hassles and undue stress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Disney Travel Tips

Taking A Family Trip To Disney World

Taking the family to Disney can be one of the happiest times you spend with your children but it can also be the hardest. The same fun which creates smiles also provokes over stimulation, exhaustion and general crankiness in both child and parent. And as with many things, big fun can also mean a big price tag. Admission into the Magic Kingdom for a family of four costs almost $200 for one day without any discounts or special rates. Add on sodas, snacks, souvenirs, hotel and travel to and from Orlando and your Disney World vacation can leave you wishing upon a star.

Seasoned parents will tell you that there are secrets to maximizing the magic of your Disney World vacation. Here are just a few:

Stay at one of the Disney hotels located on the Monorail Although the transportation system within Disney is easy to navigate, accommodations located on the monorail system allow you to get back to your room quickly and with few stops. Nap time is easy to fit into the schedule when you are only one monorail stop away. For family with older children, the close proximity of your room provides a level of comfort when the family decides to split up or when a teenager wants to stay in the park long after you've gone back to shower. Disney offers three properties with direct access to the monorail: Contemporary Hotels, The Polynesian Hotel and The Floridian.

Gain early access to the park by staying at a Disney hotel Staying at a Disney hotel comes with Guest privileges. Each day, Disney offers early admission into Guests who stay at a Disney property. This privilege allows you to get the most popular rides out of the way prior to the park opening to the public. For early risers, try booking a breakfast with the Characters in the park at The Crystal Palace or Cinderella's Castle.

Begin at the back of the park It's a known fact that people will stop at the first attraction they reach so start at the back and work forward. For parents with young children it's wise to ride Dumbo's ride as early as possible. The line is always long later in the day. Leave the shows and indoor attractions for the hottest part of the day when you'll appreciate the cool air conditioning.
Discover Disney fun outside of the park This is easiest to do with younger children. There are plenty of fun things to do outside of the parks. Take the bus over to Fort Wilderness Campground for some free fun. There is a general store, over-sized petting zoo and several well designed playgrounds. In the evening, try the Mickey character dinner at the Contemporary hotel. Book your reservations so that dinner will be over at 8:45pm and then take a walk outside to the parking lot. From the Valet stand you will have the best and least crowded view of the Magic Kingdom's Fireworks. (Make sure to confirm the days and times of fireworks.)

Take a break A full day at Epcot, The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom or MGM Studios can take a great deal of energy. You'll find that the day will be more enjoyable if you leave the park at midday to recharge your batteries with a short nap or dip in the hotel pool. Re-enter the park late afternoon when others are leaving or having dinner. You'll find the lines will be shorter and you'll be more tolerant too.

Purchase multiple day passes Disney admission passes never expire and it's always cheaper to purchase multiple day park passes. Use what you need on this visit and save the card for future trips. Florida residents have the opportunity to save on tickets in the off-seasons. Visit for complete pricing on admissions and vacation packages.

Buy your Disney t-shirts prior to arriving at the park Visit your local Wal-Mart, Target or K-Mart prior to leaving for the land of Mickey. You are certain to find a t-shirt of your child's favorite character on a sale rack. Surprise your kids with a new shirt while unpacking. They'll feel like they've received a souvenir and you'll be pleased with your frugal accomplishment