Fly the family-friendly skies
If your family typically flies to get to your vacation destination and you have become a whiz at booking flights and making sure everyone is on board with the plan, you get a gold star—and by the way, can you help the rest of us?
Many parents aren’t sure how to begin to find great deals on airfare and wonder what they need to know to have a successful getaway with the family.
The good news is planning that getaway doesn’t have to be stressful if you follow some simple tips.
Phone a friend.
Don’t go through the planning phase alone. “You may want to go with a travel agent because they have access to all the fares at their fingertips and if you want them to be more involved, they can help you find what you are looking for and hoping to gain whether it is relaxation, adventure or learning cooking,” said Brigitte Ullom, travel agent at First World Travel Pro in Harrisburg.
The agent can map your trip, schedule a car rental and coordinate connecting flights. “If you are traveling internationally, we will look into what kind of foreign currency you will need and how to obtain it,” said Shawn Kaup, director of marketing and public relations at AAA Central Penn. The agent will also look into time changes and find regional travel guides.
Have a plan
While some families may be able to go with the flow when traveling and navigate through their destination on a whim, most families will want to have a plan to ensure that everyone in the family finds something to enjoy.
Experts suggest making a trip itinerary. And the larger an area your trip will cover, the more detailed your itinerary should be. “If you are going to Orlando to the Harry Potter theme park, it would be a lot different than going to Alaska,” Kaup said.
Accommodations should be planned out as well. Is your family comfortable with something along the lines of an Econolodge or do you desire a five-star hotel?
And what about the four-legged members of your family? Will they be traveling with you? Will your destination accommodate them? “If you are traveling with a pet, we could help coordinate that, as well as other special needs like handicap accessible restrooms,” Kaup said.
Will your family be traveling out of the country? For international travel, you will want to learn about passport requirements and required health documentation as well as airport regulations, whether you are going to travel domestic or overseas. Passports can take several months to receive, so make application well in advance of your trips.
After you’ve settled on your destination and have come up with a plan, make sure to follow the rules and guidelines for carrying baggage on flights. “There is a 3-3-1 rule for flying that means you can have three ounces or smaller for containers, liquid or gel; a quart-sized clear plastic top-top bag holding three ounces of smaller containers; and then one bag per traveler placed in the security bin,” Kaup explained. If you declare larger liquids like medications, baby formula, food or breast milk, they are allowable within reasonable quantities. Check with your airline for specific guidelines.
Prepare the kids
The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes the importance of knowing what to expect and being prepared when traveling by plane.
Talk to your child before heading off to the airport about the security screening process to relieve any unnecessary fears. Be sure your child knows that his bags and personal items will be put in the X-ray machine, come out at the other end and be returned to him.
The AAP suggests allowing your family extra time to get through security when traveling with little ones. Older kids should be reminded that it is against the law to make threats or joke about things such as carrying bombs onboard. The AAP warns that threats made jokingly—even by a child—can result in the entire family being delayed or fined.
Make sure your child has packed toys and snacks to stay busy during the flight and that she brings a bottle, drinking water or chewing gum to soothe ear pain during take-off and landing.
And just like when you are in the car, your child should be properly restrained with a safety seat that is appropriate for his age, weight and height. If he is over 40 pounds, he is able to use the aircraft seatbelt.
Finally, if you are traveling internationally, you should check with your pediatrician to see if your child needs any additional vaccines and to confirm that he is up to date on his routine vaccinations.
With proper planning and precautions, your dream family trip is just a phone call or internet visit away.
Jamie Lober who spends her summers with friends and family in sunny South Florida.