Whether you and the family are traveling to visit relatives, day-tripping to the beach, or going on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, traveling together can have its ups and downs. My own family has traveled more than 15,000 miles over the past year, all cross-country road miles, so I’m somewhat of an expert on the subject.
Another travel expert, Bob Diener, has a few things to say on the subject as well. He’s the founder of Getaroom.com and a 25-year travel veteran. His tips range from boredom avoidance to saving money, and more. Here are just a few of his best tips for families. (I’ve added a few tips of my own, italicized!)
- Never pay extra for kids! Every hotel has a different policy regarding allowing kids to stay free—some as high as 19 years old! But some charge for ages 2 and above. Avoid the extra charges by checking the kids charge policy first.
- Always remember to charge video games, iPads, iPods, cell phones and other electronic games the night before a trip. These can keep the kids happy and occupied the entire trip.
- Always bring extra food. Avoid being stuck with no food while stalled on the runway or when stores are closed and the kids get hungry. Bring plenty of snacks.
- Kids under 2 fly free in the US—this is a great bargain. But be careful outside the US! Most carriers charge at least 10% of the fare for kids.
- Try to travel when lines and airports are not busy so you are not rushed with the kids. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the best days to travel. The lines are shorter and fares may be cheaper.
- Always look for hotels with pools when traveling with kids. Most sites with advanced search allow you to filter hotels for those with swimming pools.
- Getaroom.com has many vacation rental properties that can accommodate the entire family at around $100 /night with kitchen – so you don’t have to pay for expensive restaurants.
- Be careful of parking, Wi-Fi, and other add-on charges – find properties that offer these for free. Call ahead to double check. Wi-Fi charges can usually be avoided, but you have to park somewhere and often, the hotel parking lot is the safest one in the immediate area.
- Many hotels offer free food for kids – this adds up. Take advantage of hotels with free breakfasts. Some chains offer outstanding hot breakfasts and usually boast about this on their websites.
- Want internet on your flight at a cheaper rate? Visit gogoair.com for a 15% savings.
What are his top three tips for traveling with a baby?
- Kids under 2 travel for free within the US, but don’t make the mistake when of assuming they are free when going oversees – each one will usually cost 10% of the ticket price.
- It is easier to take dry formula and add water after going through security.
- Bring a stroller where the seat is detachable – so easy to travel with on the plane, car.
What types of services might be available to families that new parents may not know about or think to ask for?
- Many hotels have babysitting services. Many resorts have special programs for babies so you can get out and not worry about the baby. They may also offer day-camp type activities throughout the day and even evening activities that allow for parents to get out and enjoy a quiet dinner.
- Consider a suite hotel where you will have 2 rooms, often for the price of one. You can talk, watch TV, etc. while the baby is not bothered in the other room.
When is the best time to travel with a baby?
- You need more time and don’t want crowds. Go mid-day when there is no rush. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are good days, but Saturday is the quietest travel day and best for traveling with a baby.
- When traveling with a baby, you’ll be packing more stuff, so give yourself plenty of time for every step of the travel process.
What are the three (or five) most common mistakes first-time parents make when traveling with their little one?
- They assume they can find diapers, baby wipes and other supplies. Don’t assume. Bring your own supplies and enough for the trip. You don’t want to be switching formula or scrambling for wipes.
- Lisa’s experience: I disagree. I used to pack a full week’s worth of diapers when we took my daughter on vacations, and one day my husband said, “You know, they sell Huggies in San Diego.” After that, I just packed enough supplies to get us through the first couple of days and since we either had a rental car or our own, it was super easy to pick up what we needed.
- Don’t put the essentials like wipes and diapers in checked luggage – you need these with you.
- Don’t be stressed about having the baby. The baby usually takes the clue from the parent and if the parent is calm, the baby is often calm.
- Make the baby part of your trip. I took my first child with me on many trips for her first two years and even brought her to meetings. Most people love babies, so they will admire your courage in taking the baby. I closed many deals because I brought my daughter and she made everyone soften up at the meeting.
How can parents minimize stress during their trip?
- Leave double the normal time. If you can afford a nanny, take the nanny. Arrange for babysitting and anything else you need ahead of time.
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