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Family Travel
Picking a Hotel | Making Family Travel More Enjoyable | Keeping Baby Healthy and Happy During a Long Flight | Packing Essentials for Parents


  Picking a Hotel

You may think of the hotel as just a place to sleep. But picking the right accommodation is key to planning a family trip. That cozy bed and breakfast may seem romantic on paper, but if your kids are bored to tears, nobody's going to have any fun.


Look for accommodations that are family-friendly. Find out in advance if your hotel offers a supervised children's program with safe, educational, and fun activities, and care-givers who are trained in childcare and emergency procedures.

Other features to seek out are adjoining rooms or suite accommodations, a children's swimming pool, babysitting services, rollaway cots and cribs, and child-safe electrical outlets.

  Making Family Travel More Enjoyable

"Enjoyable Family Trip"--was that an oxymoron when you were growing up and taking trips with your siblings? Maybe it was, but it doesn't have to be. There are many things you can do to make travel as a family more stress-free, fun, and memorable.


First of all, be realistic about the kind of vacation that will be suitable for your family. Choose a vacation that offers attractions and activities that are age-appropriate for your children, as well as interesting and entertaining for all of you. For example, a trip to Washington, D.C. might seem to be the perfect educational family trip. But keep in mind that children under the age of six probably won't enjoy walking up and down the Mall in 90-degree weather, touring one huge monument after another, and listening to adult tour guides talk endlessly. And if your children are unhappy, you inevitably will be too.

Involve your children in the vacation-planning process. Well in advance of your departure date, encourage them to learn all about your destination, with the help of books, maps, videos, TV programs, and the Internet. Point out places of interest that you will be visiting, and read together about the local culture and attractions.

Let your children have a say in deciding what clothing and other items they bring along. If possible, try to allow each child to have his or her own bag of clothing, accessories, and toiletries for the journey. It's also a good idea to let your child bring along a favorite unbreakable toy or a cherished storybook; these familiar objects usually prove very comforting to children away from home.

To keep your child healthy and comfortable during the rigors of travel, be sure to bring any necessary prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescription, in their original containers. Don't forget general first-aid equipment, including sunblock, insect repellant, a thermometer, children's pain reliever, antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes, anti-diarrheal medicine if you're traveling outside the country, allergy preparations as necessary, and ipecac to induce vomiting in case of poisoning. During car trips, encourage your children to look out the window to minimize car sickness, and during plane take-offs and landings encourage them to nurse, suck on pacifiers or candies, or chew gum to help equalize the changing pressure in their ears.

If your travel plans involve long hours on a plane or in a car, you'll need to have certain items on hand. To keep your children occupied and entertained en route, bring along non-bulky items such as playing cards, video games, stuffed animals, coloring books, and crayons. You should also carry an overnight bag with a change of play clothes, a swimsuit, night clothes, and diapers for each child, so that you can make your kids comfortable immediately upon arriving, rather than having to unpack and search through your luggage while your children grow more restless and cranky. Also be sure to carry moist towelettes or baby wipes; they'll serve double duty if you have to make a pit stop at a lavatory that has less than satisfactory sanitary conditions.

During the vacation itself, encourage your children, especially older ones, to take part in planning each day's activities. You might want to give each child a disposable camera for the trip, along with guidance on using it, so he or she can collect his or her own travel memories. After the trip, these photos can be placed in an album dedicated solely to the child's vacation photos.

Plan some grown-up time for the adults. If competent childcare services are offered by your hotel, take advantage of them and treat yourself to a couple of afternoons or an evening to focus on activities and relaxation for just yourself or for you and your partner. You'll most likely return to your role as leader of the pack more easygoing and less frazzled.

Above all, plan for the fact that traveling with the whole family will be different from traveling only with other adults. Traveling can be hard work even for adults, and if your kids are like most, they will at some point get tired and cranky, will quarrel with each other, will change their minds about what they want to do at a whim, and will suddenly realize they need to go potty when you've finally made it to the head of the It's a Small World line. So don't try to force the good times: Keep each day's itinerary flexible; be sure to schedule some "down time" when everyone can relax; and remember that a successful family vacation depends not on the amount of territory you can cover, but on the quality of time you spend together.

  Keeping Baby Healthy and Happy During a Long Flight

Flying with an infant can be all work and no play: The infant's confused by the noise, turbulence, and altitude; you're rattled by the change in your comfort zone, surroundings, and schedule. But even with all this, the fact remains that infants travel by plane every day. Parents and their children get through it unscathed, and so will you. It just takes patience, flexibility, and a good dose of planning to avoid pitfalls and attend to problems as they arise.

Before You Leave Home

When making your flight reservations, you'll be faced with a few options. Most major airlines allow children under the age of 24 months to travel free, provided that they sit on their parent's lap during the flight. However, you may luck out if the seat next to you is empty--in this case, your child may occupy it, as long as you've brought a car seat along. (Be sure to attach an index card to the car seat with your name, address, and phone number)

Infants traveling on most international flights need to have a so-called "infant ticket." While these special tickets vary in price from airline to airline, they usually cost about 10 percent of a regular adult fare and allow the child to travel on the lap of the accompanying adult. Again, one infant is allowed per traveling adult. Infant tickets need to be purchased prior to departure and can be arranged through the airline.

If the thought of having your baby on your lap for six hours isn't appealing, you may want to play it safe and reserve a seat for your little one. (Discounted fares for infants--up to 50 percent off adult fares--are available on most major airlines.) And, if possible, plan your itinerary around the baby's sleep schedule and request a bulkhead seat for additional space.

On international flights, some major airlines provide bassinets (large enough to accommodate a six-month-old baby) free of charge. Keep in mind that they may only be used when the Fasten Seat Belt sign is turned off. Just remember to request a seat near the bassinet area when making your reservations.

When packing for your trip, make sure to bring a separate diaper bag along with all the necessities. Of course, wet-wipes, rash cream, pacifier, bottle, Band-Aids, prescription medicines, diapers, pediatrician's telephone number, healthy snacks (for mom), and a change of clothes for both you and your baby are all must-have items. For safety reasons, always carry a recent photo of your child with you. And don't forget to pack a blanket for your baby to cozy up to, as airplane cabins can get quite chilly.

On the day of your flight, allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport--you'll need the extra minutes to organize yourself, your belongings, and your baby. At the gate, take advantage of pre-boarding and get yourselves comfortably situated before the plane takes off.

While the Baby's on Board

During takeoff and landing, try nursing or bottle-feeding your infant, as the baby will likely need to be comforted most during those times. Also, drinking or eating helps to alleviate any ear pain caused by the pressure as the cabin adjusts to the altitude. Flight attendants may warm bottles for you, providing they have the time to do it, but you'll have to furnish your own formula and baby food.

The hum of a plane in flight and its slight lurching and bouncing actually help to soothe some babies. But there is a good possibility that your infant will respond to her confusing environment by shrieking and wailing. Give her a pacifier, try to feed her, distract her with a toy, hold her close, get up and walk around the cabin--do whatever usually works to calm your baby down.

If your efforts to console her fail, apologize to those around you and keep your cool. Your baby is likely to sense your irritation through the tone of your voice and the tension in your body, which may prompt her to cry harder. Relax and know that this, too, shall pass.

And lastly, remember this: People all over the world are charmed by infants. Just smile, introduce your baby to fellow travelers, and enjoy some quality time with your little one.

  Packing Essentials for Parents

To keep your child healthy and comfortable during the rigors of travel, be sure to bring any necessary prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescription, in their original containers. Don't forget general first-aid equipment, including sunblock, insect repellant, a thermometer, children's pain reliever, antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes, anti-diarrheal medicine if you're traveling outside the country, allergy preparations as necessary, and ipecac to induce vomiting in case of poisoning.

To keep your children occupied and entertained en route, bring along non-bulky items such as playing cards, video games, stuffed animals, coloring books, and crayons.

You should also carry an overnight bag with a change of play clothes, a swimsuit, night clothes, and diapers for each child, so that you can make your kids comfortable immediately upon arriving, rather than having to unpack and search through your luggage while your children grow more restless and cranky. Also be sure to carry moist towelettes or baby wipes; they'll serve double duty if you have to make a pit stop at a lavatory that has less than satisfactory sanitary conditions.

Let your children have some say in deciding what clothing and other items they bring along. Children find familiar things very comforting, which can really come in handy on a trip far from home.

 


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