The travel season is here! Since many parents are set to travel with kids for the holidays, we were lucky to host a discussion with the award-winning writer, Pauline Frommer, about successful travel with kids. She shared tips, best practices, and some pitfalls to avoid.
Frommer, who has been traveling since she was four months old, passed on tips, knowledge, and philosophy of planning a family vacation with small children in today’s world. With years of experience in writing guides she wished she had on her trips, she said always keeps in mind how to do things properly, yet spend less, and see more.
Travel with kids: Where to go (and not to go)
Frommer insisted we understand the “Golden Time” for travel is NOW, or at least until the children are 2 years old. Go when and where you (adults) want to go. When your child is under 2, you do not need to seek out family-friendly destinations, yet. It will not exactly be “pre-baby” type of travel, but you will gain a different type of enjoyment and appreciation for traveling, and for the world with your “little tiny cutie”… And most travel does not charge extra for baby’s under two!
Frommer shared these four locations off the top of her head as great domestic destinations for families: New Orleans, Yellowstone National Park, Washington, D.C. and Orlando the city — not just Disney which she called a disaster for kids under the age of 4.
International travel is successful when you understand the value a culture/country puts onto family. South and Central America, Ireland, Italy and France were the few destinations Frommer mentioned with the value of family. This perhaps translates to a higher level of tolerance traveling with children. Also, understand that some restaurants may not allow children, so have a plan B.
Travel with kids: Modes of transportation
Not recommended for children under 2 years of age. Dads, you will be paying for things that the family will not be able to enjoy. Be careful of the “all inclusive” pitches, for many aspects of the cruise are considered extras, and your bill under the door at docking time can destroy your budget.
There are a large supply of ships and cabins not being sold due glut on the market as well as the economic pull back, so perhaps you can negotiate a better deal than advertised.
We are nomadic people and kids love the ever-changing scenery. From my personal experience, you want to travel with kids songs in the CD player, toys, bottles, snacks, willingness to point out and talk about stuff ( red car, big truck, trees, cows, etc.) willingness to sing songs ( Old McDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc.).
Again, from my personal experience it is also smart to travel during normal nap times. Start out an hour before the nap and understand children will often begin fighting the nap by fussing and refusing any help you offer for no particular reason. Then BAM, they are asleep. For longer trips, map out where you are going and estimate how far along you’ll be in 3, 4 and 5 hours. What state parks or rest stops are “just off the beaten path” where you all can enjoy getting out of the car to let your child “stretch legs” for a while, have lunch, change diapers, etc. so the next leg of the trip will be most enjoyable for all. Understand and realize where a non-baby trip that used to take you 3 hours, may take you 5 hours with your baby. You’ll be a great Dad when the grand-parents see children arriving with a smile instead of crying their eyes out.
Although prices for airplane travel are still below what they were a few years ago, you can be surprised what airlines charge for today (seat assignments, baggage, peak travel times, etc.)…and sometimes you don’t realize it until your 30,000 feet up. This can make airline travel more expensive than ever! Frommer recommended using aggregator sites for airline travel. Aggregators sniff out different travel sites for the best rates, may be more objective than travel booking sites because they don’t have preferred partners, and don’t receive commissions if a purchase is made through them. Orbitz and Travelocity are major Travel Booking sites, not aggregators. Search the web for Travel Aggregator sites. But please contact your airline directly to know what you can be charged for … including knowing if you will be charged for using the restroom on board!
There are many aspects to plane travel that make travel with kids tricky and trying. You can’t help it, you have to bring stuff, so being organized will help you get through the security checkpoints with the least amount of hassle. Frommer suggested, “traveling light.” Also, remember that you’ll never see the people you see at the airport check-points ever again…so do what you need to do, stay focused, and do not let anyone rush you.
Ok, now that we are on the plane, Dads have the next environment to control. Frommer thought sedation for a baby on a plane, even it is a long trip, is a “bad idea.” Here are some ideas and strategies to help dads make the trip easier. Like birthday presents, wrap a number of your child’s favorite toys. Give them out over the course the flight. Discovering something new can keep a child occupied for quite some time. During take off and landing allow the child to suck on something (pacifier or nipple of milk bottle) as a way to tolerate the change in cabin pressure.
Heck, incorporate some of the same tricks you might use in the car. Don’t ever forget, if a person gives you a hard time because of your baby, it’s their problem. Baby’s pick up on your every feeling you have, and if you are quick and impatient, it’s not good for the baby. Remember that a dirty look from another passenger for a baby being a baby is bad karma. As we learned from Frommer, an entertaining way to diffuse the “dirty looker” is to say, “my daughter is going to be a doctor some day…I just hope you will not be her patient later in your life.”
Airplane seats can accommodate car seats with swinging arm rests. Bringing your own car seat to your destination is important for having confidence if you intend to rent a car, and will save you from a lot of problems (i.e. car rental car seat is old). It’s also an added safety feature for your baby’s travel.
As mentioned earlier, you have to bring stuff, but you can limit the stuff you bring. Want versus need. It’ll be very helpful if do a bit of research and understand where you can find your “baby supplies” in your destination city. One dad mentioned “baby care” rental companies to help with providing you and your child the “comforts of home” like renting a crib, high chair, stroller, or jumparoo, and to cut down on stuff you bring. Search the web for Baby Supply Rental.
Travel with kids: Researching your destination
And if you do intend to rent a car, don’t be afraid to find local car rental companies, versus the top national companies. You can save a bit of money. Check out breezenet.com for a clear understanding of prices by national and local companies.
Frommer’s last cool suggestion for traveling with kids was to find an apartment that you could swap/rent from someone that already has kids. It would reduce nearly all the “stuff” you would want to bring and perhaps save you a few bucks. For the kids, new locations and new toys are exciting. Yes, a bit more research and communication needs to take place so you can run your own house-hold: where to go shopping for food, cooking, garbage removal, laundry, etc. But perhaps it is worth it to get a “local understanding” of the town that would otherwise be missed staying at the hotel.
Lastly, another valuable tip mentioned by Frommer was to understand the communication that might need to take place with your children about traveling, service received, and respect given during the trip. In my own words, you are the role models for your children and how you act and what you say, will be duplicated.
The NYC Dads Group sure appreciates Pauline Frommer’s time, wisdom, and open discussion about a part of our family’s life that can be easily overlooked, causing horrible memories instead of a families joy of travel, and respect for people as well as the world.