Help Me Travel

Family Travel Secrets

By Art Robinson, Contributing Editor

Family Travel Tips From the Pros

The Disbergers have traveled over 7 million combined miles over the last twenty years as a family. Sounds like they qualify as pros when it comes to family travel.

They shared their stories and tips with CNN. Here are some things you might find helpful about budgeting, planning, and traveling with toddlers and teens.

‘You just budget’

By now, you may be wondering how a middle-class family affords this jet-setter lifestyle.

“This is something that’s within the means of a lot of folks,” says Dennis, a manager at a company that makes construction and mining equipment. “You just budget.” Martha’s job as a registered nurse offers her a schedule that’s flexible for travel.

This frugal family watches its spending. They avoid pricey things like new cars. When possible, they keep their travel plans flexible. When their flight is overbooked, they sometimes volunteer to give up their seats in exchange for freebies.

Martha offers this bit of advice: “Excedrin and deep breathing work. Wine helps. No — I’m teasing.”

Monica has another tip for Americans traveling in groups: If your companions start embarrassing you, pretend to be Canadian or Australian. “Our family can be pretty loud,” says Monica. “We don’t want America to look bad.”

But seriously, here are a few more tips courtesy of the Disbergers:

—Plan for the worst, says Dennis. Have contingencies for missed connections. Then when something happens, execute your options.

—If you need to book new flights after missed connections, don’t wait in line for an airline counter representative. Use the airline customer phone service.

—Always keep your keys and cell phone and charger with you. Don’t pack them in your luggage. You might lose them.

Disberger tips for traveling with toddlers:

—During flights, air pressure changes can turn kids crabby. Solution: give them lollipops. Toddlers will stay focused on the pops instead of the uncomfortable shifts in air pressure.

—Introduce your toddlers to the flight attendants.

- Give toddlers something to look forward to. The Disbergers gave their toddlers gifts when their flights reached the ocean. These “over-the-water” gifts have become a beloved Disberger tradition that extended from the kids’ childhood into adulthood.

Traveling with teens:

—Let them be in charge of some of the decisions, including where to go next, what to do or where to eat, says Dennis. Give them time to enjoy themselves with their iPods or a book. Dennis says he would pay his traveling teens from $2$5 per each 500 miles to ride in coach. It allowed mom and dad the luxury of first class. It also offered their teens some time alone, while giving them a chance to earn a little money.
– via CNN

More Tips for Family Travel

Here is another view from a family who travels with their young children. They have great ideas to share about pace, flexibility, packing and hotels. Some of their great ideas may help you on your next trip!

Slow Down

Plan for a slower pace than you might usually attempt if solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you can see and do with kids in tow. Don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary. The less you feel you have to see, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone. For the most part, the pace of the trip should be set to what your youngest child can handle. Build into your agenda time for stops along the way for bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and nap time. If you can avoid cranky children it will make for a much more pleasant experience

Be Flexible

Avoiding holiday periods and traveling off-season can yield big savings on flights and accommodation. Even if your kids are in school, consider traveling just outside of major school holiday periods. Give yourself the best chance to capture a cheap flight. Leaving a few days or even weeks before or after your ideal date could mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. Think about using airfare sales to help determine your family’s vacation destination and time of departure rather than the other way around. Sites like Kayak Explore and Airfarewatchdog can help. Just plug in your departure city and check out the list of available deals.

Pack Smart

Pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there. Roll clothes and stuff socks and underwear inside shoes. Wear your heaviest clothes on the flight. Encourage kids to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach travel skills. Select versatile and comfortable clothes and color-coordinated separates so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit. And pack bags with what is needed first on the top — a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day including a change of clothes in case of accidents

Hotel Tips

Pick a Kid Friendly Location –

Stay in a safe and central area that’s close to local attractions, food outlets, the beach, the park, and all preferably within walking distance. This will save you time, money, and your kids from getting bored. Savannah and Kalyra enjoying the hotel bed

Stay More Than 1 Night –

Many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.

Stay over Sunday –

Many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights.

Check for Family Deals –

Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.

A Pool and games room –

Kids love both of these options. Does the pool have any special features (like a slide or waterfalls)?

Make Sure it Has a Lift –

Carrying strollers, toys, and luggage up several flights of stairs is NO FUN!

What’s the room configuration? –

For our family of four two double beds is required or a portacot. If you have a baby make sure this is available, and for free.

Coupons and Discounts –

Check out the brochure shelf in the lobby and any tourist literature in your room for ways to shave a few bucks off the price of your family vacation.

Enroll in a Loyalty Program –

Many hotel chains are now offering free loyalty programs with incentives like earning free rooms after multiple stays. If you travel often and stay at the same chain, or one of its participating partners, you may save on future family vacations.

Check the Dining Options –

Does the hotel restaurant and room service have a kids’ menu?

TV Channels –

Does the hotel offer several family-oriented cable stations, like Disney, Nickelodeon, AMC, Discovery and Lifetime? Is there a movie library with kids’ movies?

Bathtub? –

You’ll want to be sure that your room will include a bathtub.

Laundry –

For longer vacations, check to see whether the hotel has coin operated machines for hotel guests. – via y Travel Blog

Have you traveled with your family this year? Do you plan to make a trip with them in the next year?

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