Let’s Go On Vacation! Tips for Traveling With Family
By Lisa Iannucci, CTW Features
Whether you’re planning a spring break road trip with the kids to an amusement park or a flight to an all-inclusive island resort, it’s exciting to think about a trip with the family. You are anxious to create a getaway where you’ll make memories you’ll remember for a lifetime.
The reality is that traveling with the family can bring about many challenges from packing everything you’ll need to keeping kids entertained on the road and handling everyone’s expectations of fun. Here are some tips to help make your trip a smooth and happy one.
“Give them choices of activities to do during the trip,” says Carrie McLaren, founder of Carrie on Travel. “Offer up options like zip lining or museums, rafting or guided tours – they may surprise you with their decisions.”
Think carefully when making all your flight arrangements. “Many clients are excited to tell me they found a great 6 a.m. flight, so they will land by 9 a.m. and have a full day to start exploring,” says Sandy Nussbaum, EZDis by Instant Impressions Travel Services. “When I walk them through the logistics (6 a.m flight, arrive at airport by 4 a.m., leave the house by 3:30 a.m., get up at 2:45 a.m.) they realize they will start the trip exhausted.”
While you are planning, plot what you will also do in case you are separated at an amusement park. “Talk to your kids about where to go or how to find an employee if you get separated,” says McLaren. “Also, if you are visiting Walt Disney World, for example, use a permanent marker to put your phone number on the inside of the MagicBands in case of emergencies.”
Pet On Board
You’re ready to hit the road or fly to your vacation destination, but what do you do with Fluffy and Fido? Take them with you or board them for the time you’re gone?
According to a new report by Volvo, 97 percent drive with their dogs, but many practice unsafe driving habits, including:
- 48 percentdo not own any safety driving gear for their dogs;
- 41 percentlet their dogs ride in the front seat;
- 23 percentbuckle their dogs in and only 5 percent have a built-in pet safety system; and
- 71 percent of pet owners agree that auto manufacturers should build more dog safety features into their vehicles.
Lindsey A. Wolko, the founder of Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia says that choosing to board a pet while you take a much-needed vacation depends on whether you have an existing relationship with a facility.
“There needs to be a level of trust,” says Wolko. “You can’t just decide to drop your dog off at a facility before you leave. We’ve heard of pets who have been injured or killed because of a lack of supervision. You have to select one with extreme care and caution.”
Wolko prefers to use a pet-sitting service. “I hire them to come into the home,” she says. “They visit and play with my pets and then stay overnight. I have a level of comfort that they aren’t being put in an unfamiliar environment. They are in their home.”
Deciding to take your dog or cat on vacation with you should be planned. “Some vacation spots are becoming more pet friendly,” she says. “Make sure you find out what kind amenities they have for pets.”
For example, Walt Disney World announced that in their pilot program, four out of their 26 Disney resort hotels now have designated dog-friendly rooms until October 15, 2018. The guests are given dog-friendly swag as well.
If you’re taking a road trip, Wolko always recommends bringing a portable crate or something to contain the pet in the hotel room. “Sometimes you can’t take them to every destination or to dinner,” she says. “You’ll have some level of comfort knowing they are secured. It’s not a good idea to put them in the bathroom, they can get destructive if they get nervous and scared.”
Unfortunately, the death of pets traveling by airplane have been in the news lately. According to a US Department of Transportation report, 24 animals died in the care of US carriers last year. “Research the airline and the data that’s available by the transportation folks,” says Wolko. “You want to look at the airline’s safety record.”
Wolko says to acclimate the pet to the carrier before traveling so they are calm and content. “If your pet is nervous while traveling, there are aromatherapy sprays that have been very successful when used at the vet,” she says. “Do not every drug your pet to travel. It’s not worth the risk.”
Make sure you take food, treats and bottled water. “Tape water can change from city to city,” she says. “Also, bring their favorite toy or blanket – something that smells like home.”
The Fourth of July is one of the most popular holidays for vacations and get togethers, but keep Fido and Fluffy away from the activities. “It can be shocking and terrifying to them and cause them to flee,” says Wolko. “If they are in the hotel room while you are at a fireworks display, put on music or the television for them to listen to, use the calming spray and leave them in a partially covered crate.”
For more tips and suggestions on traveling with your pet, visit http://www.centerforpetsafety.org.
Keep ‘em entertained
Whether you are driving or flying, you don’t want to hear “Are we there yet?” all the way to your destination. To prevent this grating question from being asked, it’s best to have some entertainment on hand. “Books on tape (or better yet, on Audible) can make the miles fly by,” says Sandra Foyt, storyteller and travel photographer and founder of www.GetawayMavens.com. “In our early road trips across the USA, we used a Storybook Travels guide to select children’s books and accompanying landmarks.”
McLaren is also a big believer in bringing activity kits for children instead of electronics on your travels. “Just coming prepared with a mini-coloring book, a few crayons and stickers is a great way to occupy kids when they get restless or bored,” she says. “For road trips, bring along an atlas or a guidebook for older kids. Let them be in charge of giving directions on how to get to each destination within your trip. They’ll love being a part of the journey and having a responsibility – even if you already know where you are going, just don’t tell them.”
Create plane exhaustion
If you’re flying to your vacation spot, it’s hard to keep children comfortable for hours on a plane. “Traveling with young children on a plane can be exhausting – for the parents,” says Sandra Foyt, storyteller and travel photographer and founder of www.GetawayMavens.com. “Help kids get ready for sitting on a plane by arriving at the airport with plenty of time so they can run around, bonus points for traveling through an airport with a playground on site. As for the flight, consider wrapping up small, inexpensive gifts and doling them out as needed. The surprise factor alone can be enough to earn a smile.”
Even the most well-laid plans can go awry when a child is cranky, parents are stressed, or some family members are bored with the activities.
“Everyone is out of their element and maybe overstimulated,” says Nussbaum. “Expect a meltdown from each person at some point in the trip, even Mom and Dad.”
Before you hit the road, set reasonable expectations, be prepared to make some changes and don’t expect vacation perfection. Nussbaum explained that she used to plan one amazing highlight but when a simple thing like chasing a butterfly was all her daughter talked about, she was disappointed in the trip. “I now remind myself before each trip that the great souvenir I could ever buy is the memories I make with my family,” she says.
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