Savvy Travel Decisions

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KIDS IN TOW-FAMILY TRAVEL

One of life’s joys is sharing travel experiences with your children as they mature.  Everyone is guilty, however, of prematurely taking their newborn to zoos and Disneyworld without regard to whether the child is old enough to enjoy the experience.  Whoa!  Travel?  Yes, but appropriate family vacation experiences.

Family travel should not be the end of Mom and Dad’s exclusive time together for adult-only vacations.  The grandparents will welcome grandchildren while you enjoy time together.

Few infant children would enjoy an ocean cruise, an out of town convention, a weekend in Vegas, a few days in San Francisco and Napa, or an opera tour of Italy!

 

Many parents make the mistake of planning a vacation around children and completely neglect to include escapism and time for adult pleasures.  If Mom and Dad wish to dine out at a nice restaurant or attend a play or musical on vacation, where do they secure a reliable babysitter?  Do you not do things that you would otherwise enjoy on a vacation because your children are in tow?

 

Timing vacations can become problematic once your children are of school age.  Are you restricted to summer and school vacation periods: Easter and Christmas?  Some teachers and schools are cooperative when parents request school absences for 7 - 14 day vacations during the school year, provided the student does his/her homework assignments and makes up exams.  Otherwise, you won’t be traveling to Arizona or Florida during the winter months!  The older the student, the more difficulty timing becomes, particularly once the student is in high school.

 

Family travel, in itself, carefully planned, can be very educational.  Actual visits to Washington, D.C., Williamsburg, Presidential libraries, Plymouth Plantation, the historical sites of Philadelphia and Boston, historical re-enactments, Civil War Battlefields, a Native American Indian reservation, our National Parks, and the like firsthand experiences, can not only enhance, but surpass book knowledge.

 

As parents, do your homework.  Involve your children in some of the advanced tour planning.  Have them read appropriate books preparatory to what they will be seeing and doing.  Try to incorporate hands-on participatory sightseeing.  Do not try to do too many things in a given day - be flexible.  Getting to your vacation destination can be either a tedious and grueling, or an enjoyable experience.  Get off the freeways and search out the unique, regional Americana.

If driving, try to break up the day with a fun and interesting sight en route.  Do not drive excessive miles in a given day.  With a little advanced planning, you can incorporate a fun and unique regional family luncheon stop that you’ll long remember.

Pack some educational travel toys/games to keep your young ones busy in the car as you drive to your destination.

A simple one that will keep them busy is to list on paper the various makes and types of vehicles: (Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, etc) or (pickups, semi-trucks, private passenger sedans and SUV’s) and have your children count and record the number as you drive along the highway.

 

When traveling, never leave your children, regardless of age, unattended.  There are scary people lurking on the horizon in search of unwary traveling families.

 

Instill the necessity for proper and polite behavior and respect for others in your children’s demeanor.  There is nothing worse than screaming, uncontrolled, undisciplined brats disrupting the serenity of others.  As an adult and parent, control your children!  Praise rather than disdain expressed by others will add immeasurably to the enjoyment of your family’s vacation experience.  Be proud parents.  Be respectful of others.

 

Most important, is your vacation destination appropriate for family travel?

 

Every family vacation does not need to be expensive or grandiose: a day or weekend visit to a nearby state park, a picnic, a day fishing, bicycling, hiking, skiing, or camping are all great family activities. 

 

 

 

 

 

CHILDREN FLYING SOLO (AN UNACCOMPANIED MINOR):

 

 

 

Children flying sans parents or legal guardian can be either a pleasurable or a scary, traumatic experience for youngsters, depending on the arrangements. The anticipation of visiting Granny, Grandpa, Mommy or Daddy, quickly dissipates once left alone in the airport terminal.    Most airlines require prior approval for unaccompanied children and proper documentation.   Airline personnel assigned to the child, once free, now entails an extra fee with some airlines, varying from $50-$150 per flight.

 

 

 

Definition of a Unaccompanied Minor typically means age 5-12 but in some cases as old as 15.

 

 

 

A few guidelines:

 

 

 

 

 

  • Reservations cannot be made online.  You must contact a travel agent or airline travel desk to book and provide required documentation.

  • It can become very complicated, almost impossible, if multiple airlines are involved.  Flights must be non-stop or direct (non-change-of-plane service).

  • Plan on a UM fee of $50-150 per flight plus the cost of the airfare.

  • Required documentation:

 

 

 

  1. The Child’s name

  2. Your relationship to the Child

  3. Home Address of Child

  4. Your telephone number

  5. Child’s date of birth (birth certificate will be required at airport check-in)

  6. Information regarding person dropping off and picking up Child.  The person responsible at the destination must meet the Child at the flight arrival gate and provide photo I.D.

  7. Contact information for an alternate designee at the Child’s destination. 

 

 

 

  • Drop off person must check-in at airport for UM identification and boarding pass.  You must accompany the child to the flight gate and remain with the Child until the boarding process is complete and the child is onboard the aircraft.

  • In the event of a flight cancellation, the Child will be denied boarding and is the reponsibilityof the drop off person to make alternative flight arrangements.