Tuesday, July 17th, 2007 at 11:31 am in Family Travel.
Ah, summer — sunshine, swimming pools, screaming infants on airplanes. More than one-third of U.S. travelers vacationed with their kids last year, a 44 percent jump in a single decade, and even more are expected this year, despite some daunting family travel headlines: soaring gas prices, airport security hassles and, of course, the family whose tantrum-throwing 4-year-old forced an emergency landing and the family whose chatty 2-year-old got them kicked off a plane.
Most of us can figure out family travel basics — pack twice as many diapers, wipes and Cheerios (and formula, if you’re bottle feeding) as you think you need in your airplane carry-on. There’s no Pampers black market aboard Jet Blue if you get grounded on the tarmac or stuck in a holding pattern. But Eileen Ogintz, syndicated columnist, mom and author of seven family travel books, offers some other helpful travel tips that could mean the difference between happy trails and, er, travails.
Plan on taking the stroller all the way up to the airport boarding gate, for example. It makes traversing the airport easier and you can check the little four-wheeler right at the gate, which means it’ll be the first thing off the plane too. Avoid airport security nightmares by preparing young children for the process. “Explain how she’ll have to let security agents ‘take a picture’ of her blankie or favorite stuffed animal,” says Ogintz. “Explain she has to ‘help’ the pilot and flight attendants by buckling up in her seat when asked.”
Consider traveling with family or friends, so you can swap childcare and get the occasional romantic dinner out. Theme parks are multi-generational crowd-pleasers, but make sure it’s clear who’s paying for what and where to rendezvous — bring cell phones or walkie-talkies to coordinate.
Car travel? Visit the AAA web site to find the cheapest gas, best routes and cool travel suggestions, then scale the whole thing back a notch.
“This is a vacation, not an endurance contest,” says Ogintz. Leave yourself plenty of time for splashing in the hotel pool or simply having a lazy morning.
And when you’re losing your mind, your suitcase has burst, your infant won’t stop squalling, just remember … you could be traveling with Britney Spears. Yeah, we thought that would make you feel better.
Want more? Check out Ogintz’ Top 40 family travel tips or get ideas for outdoor adventures, city fun and other travel ideas on her website.
– Jackie Burrell