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Travel - Tykemart

Travel - Tykemart (4)

TykeMart bloggers are world class travelers.  They’ve traveled with kids on planes, trains, automobiles, and cruise ships.  They share tips to help you find the best travel deals to stretch your vacation dollars.  They write about popular travel destinations; where to stay and eat, and what to see and do with the kids once you get there. Road trips to shore trips, our bloggers are talking about it. Infants to teens, our bloggers share budget friendly ideas to keep kids of all ages entertained on the road.  Feel free to join in the conversation, tell us about your favorite vacation ideas and share your travel tips.

Children categories

Cruising - Tykemart (3)
Cruising - Tykemart

TykeMart bloggers are seasoned cruisers.  They have cruised with kids on many of the major cruise lines that cater to the North American market.  
They share tips to help you find the best cruise deals.  They share tips to help you get the most out of your cruise and stretch your vacation dollars.  
From Alaska to Asia and points in between, our bloggers have cruised there.  Learn little secrets that make your family cruise memorable.  
Feel free to join in the conversation, tell us about your favorite vacation ideas and share your cruise tips.

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Sooner or later many of us find ourselves online searching for the best travel deals. This is especially true when traveling with kids.  Family travel can be costly and stressful. 

 

The key to almost stress free travel with kids is planning.  Know before you go!  Avoid surprise charges; know luggage fees and limits; know airline, car rental, and hotel policies and amenities.  Pack wisely and budget around the “extras”. 

 

I’m online several times a year searching for the best deals when planning vacations with my kids and grandkids.  Here are a few tips to help you plan.

 

 

Making travel arrangements:

 

Be informed about ticket options for kids and know what to expect.  Infants on your lap saves money but can make travel challenging. Babies travel with strollers, diapers, and feeding supplies.  Not only do you have to carry and keep track of baby, you must carry her stuff as well.  Toddlers aren’t much easier, but at least they can carry some of their things. 

 

 

 

Air travel:

 

 

  • Child fares can cost more than discounted adult fares, especially from consolidators like Orbitz.com.  Compare fares between consolidators and the airlines’ sites. 

 

  • Consolidators don’t allow online booking for unaccompanied minors – you must call them or the airlines for instructions on how to proceed
  • Infants under 2 traveling domestically on your lap usually travel free but may not have any bag allowances.  Check with your airline to avoid surprises.
  • Know checked luggage fees, first and second bags are usually $25 and $35 respectively.  A third checked bag can jump to $100+.  Airlines constantly change luggage fees check luggage policies before you purchase and again before you pack.

 

  • If you have a “lap” child and purchase tickets online, you must notify the airlines so that a “lap ticket” can be issued.

 

  •   “Lap” infants under 2 traveling internationally are charged an infant fare.  Infants paying a fare can usually check and carry-on bags.

 

  •  First check bag is usually free on international flights but, infants may have a lower weight limit.  Check with the airlines to be sure.  Travel within a specific region may not be considered "international" by the airlines even if flying to different countries (i.e. Barcelona to London, Paris to Denmark, etc.)  This means "domestic" baggage policies and charges may apply.  However if your originating flight is from a different region and you connect somewhere then the international luggage policies will be followed (i.e.  New York to Barcelona with a connection in London)

 

  • Consolidators do not show a “lap” child fare for international travel, you must call them or the airlines for the fare. 

 

  • Booking on the airline’s site, such as United.com, allows you to include your “lap” child with your reservation and will quote the child an international fare.  They will also issue a “lap ticket”.

 

  • A “lap” child may be assigned a seat before boarding if the flight has empty seats.  Check with your airline if this is among their policies.These seats will be assigned at the gate if it is available.

 

  • Children 2 and above must pay a fare and must have a seat.  They have the same luggage allowances as adults.  Check with your airline to be sure.

 

  • You may purchase a seat for your child under 2, in this case the child will have luggage allowances.

 

  • Check luggage dimensions and weight limits.  You’re usually allowed 2 carry-on bags, a small suitcase and a personal item (purse, laptop case, or camera bag).  Items must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. When traveling with lap infants check with the airlines if the non-paying infant is allowed a diaper bag as well, if not you must pack creatively.

 

  • If your child has a paid seat his FAA approved car seat can be strapped to the plane seat.  The car seat must be labeled “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”.  Flight attendants look for this label, you may run into problems if it’s missing.  If you get lucky and your "lap" child gets assigned a seat at the gate you can use your car seat if you haven't already checked it in.  Should your child not get a seat you can gate check your car seat.

 

  • To fit a coach seat the car seat should not be wider than 16”, lifting the armrest may accommodate a slightly wider car seat.  Check with the manufacturer for instructions on how to install it on an airplane seat.

 

  • Some airlines offer child meals on international flights it must be ordered before your flight. 

 

  • Some airlines provide portable cradles for infants to use during the flight.  Check with your airlines to see if they have them.  Make sure your seat assignment will accommodate its placement.

 

  • Check your seat assignment when you get your ticket.  Children are not allowed to sit in exit rows.  If you’re seated in those rows you will be moved, it’s easier to change seats before your departure date.  If that’s not possible, the gate agents will re-assign seats, but you may not get what you want, or large groups may be separated.

 

  • Exit row seats and those in front of and behind them are sometimes cooler than the rest of the plane.  If you’re in any of these rows you might want to bring a jacket or blanket to keep warm during your flight.

 

  • Car Seats and strollers are checked free at check-in or at the gate.  Be sure tags have your name and contact information. Consider purchasing a cover or bag for your gear to keep them clean in transit.  Luggage handlers rarely treat items with care.  Checked strollers and car seats are considered "special items", airlines may not pay for damage.

 

Ground Travel:

 

  • If you don’t bring your own car seat you must contact the car rental or car service to request one.  You can add car seats to your car reservations, there is a daily rental fee.  Most car services I have used provide car seats for free, just let them know you need one.
  • If you are renting a car from an airport location look for the signs for your rental company's shuttle.  In most larger airports car rental facilities are located outside airport property and companies provide free shuttle service to their lots.  You may bring your luggage on the shuttle, in most cases you must load your own luggage onto the shuttle.  When we travel with several kids and have a lot of luggage we find it easier for one of the adults to pick up the rental and return for the others at the luggage claim area.
  • If the hotel/resort you will be staying at offers airport shuttles look for signs in baggage claim directing you to hotel shuttles. 
  • If you have hired a car service look for your driver.  Drivers usually wait right outside of baggage claim, they will be holding a sign with your name.
  • If you've opted to take a taxi head to the taxi stand located outside of the baggage claim.

 

Accommodations:

 

  • Check children’s sleeping accommodations – some hotels provide cribs, and cots but may charge extra for them.

 

  • You can bring your own portable crib; you must check it in at the airport.  It will be considered luggage and may incur fees. Check with your airlines.

 

  • Domestic hotels usually have larger rooms than foreign hotels.  They usually allow kids to stay free with parents.  Foreign hotels may charge per child and may limit occupancy to 3 people per room.

 

  • Consider hotels that include breakfast with the rate.

 

  • Consider a suite or executive level room.  Included extras like breakfast, cocktails, and snacks  might be worth the higher rate. 

 

  • Hotels closer to attractions may have higher rates but the cost may be offset if you don’t need ground transportation and have to pay for parking.

All the bags are packed, you’re ready to go.  All that’s left is getting to the airport on time and then the family vacation finally begins.  Or does it?  In my experience the vacation doesn’t really begin until we get to our destination.  I often find myself asking “Am I’m having fun yet?” as I navigate the airport with luggage and kids in tow.

Air travel is supposed to be simple and hassle free, with online check-in and security pre-screening we’re supposed to zip thru the process, buckle our seat belts, and enjoy the flight.  This might be true for the fortunate few flying first and business class or have some type of premier access, they have special lines with virtually no waiting.  The rest of us who booked economy have to hurry up and wait in line after line; check-in, baggage drop-off, security, and boarding.  The process may be tiresome when traveling solo, but a nightmare when traveling with kids.  It can turn into a nightmare should you run into unexpected snafus. 

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way to help keep you sane en route to your destination. 

 

At the Airport:

 

 

  • Arrive early so you have plenty of time to check-in, drop-off luggage, go thru security, and find your gate.  You may encounter long lines at baggage drop-off and security checkpoints even if you checked in online.
  •  Airports are busy if you travel with an adventurous toddler or with multiple children consider using a safety harness or a “rideoncarryon” to keep children safe and within sight.  It’s easy to get distracted and kids wander off.  Even if he didn’t wander far small children are hard to spot in busy places, not to mention losing sight of parents is a traumatic experience for a child. 

 

  •  Some airports have special security lines for families traveling with infants and small children.  Watch for signs or listen to personnel directing you to them.  Some airports don’t require children to remove shoes, jackets, and belts.  Security personnel will let you know their requirements.
  •  Children must be taken out of strollers; strollers are inspected by security personnel, either x-rayed or manually.

 

  •  Parents may be able to go thru security with baby in a carrier or sling; or the carrier may have to go thru x-ray and baby carried in front of the parent.
  • Breast milk, juice, and formula are exempt from the TSA rule limiting liquid containers to 3.4 fluid ounces when carried on the plane. You make take larger amounts of these liquids but you will have to present them to security personnel for inspection.  Thankfully they no longer require parents and children to perform a taste-test before allowing them thru.
  • ·         Find gate seats close to the jet way.  It avoids struggling thru hoards of people blocking the way waiting for their turn to board.

 

 

  • If you have a stroller and/or car seat you will not use on the aircraft you can gate check them as you board.  The gate agent tags your item and gives you a claim ticket.  Leave your item just outside the aircraft door.  Fold your stroller; luggage handlers may not be able to and will toss strollers in the luggage compartment in any condition.  Airlines consider these items “fragile” and my not reimburse damages.  Pick up your item at the same place when you reach your destination.
     
    Photo by Carmina Ahmed
     
  •           At the gate waiting to board take note of restroom locations.  Sooner or later someone will have to “go right now!”

     

     

    •        Set up temporary “camp” at the gate so children can be comfortable.  Keep them entertained where you can keep an eye on them and your belongings.

     

     

    •         You might be able to charge mobile devices at the gate.  Some gates have charging stations with multiple outlets for passenger use.  These are busy hubs, you may have to wait your turn.
    •       Most airlines no longer pre-board families with kids.   Some might board families after first class and premier card holders.  If you need the extra time to board ask the gate agents if it’s possible, they might say “yes”

  Photo by Carmina Ahmed

On Board:

  •  Once you’ve boarded the aircraft have your child sit on the seat while you stow your carry-ons.  If your child is too young to sit on the seat and needs to be carried it might be a good idea to take your seat while other passengers board, you can stow your gear when the aisle is less crowded.  If the flight is full you could try to ask for assistance from a flight attendant or fellow passengers to help you stow your bag in the overhead compartment before they all fill up.

 Photo by Carmina Ahmed

  • During take-off and landing the change of altitude can cause pain in the ears.  Offering your child a bottle or pacifier at those times will unblock the tubes and offer your baby some relief. You could also nurse your child at this time.
  • It would be good to ask the flight attendant which restroom is equipped with a changing table.  Not all aircraft are equipped with them. 
  • During the flight if there is no turbulence and the seat belt signs remain off you can walk your infant in the aisles so you can stretch your legs and give your baby a different view.
  • As a courtesy to others try to keep your child calm and relatively quiet throughout the flight.  No one wants to listen to a screaming baby for 10 hours, especially on red-eyes when everyone is trying to sleep.
  • Aircraft aisles are busy with service carts, flight attendants, and passengers moving thru.  Keep toddlers out of the aisles when food and beverages are being served, after meals, and just before landing when passengers are rushing to the restrooms.  Once everyone settles in for the flight and if the seat belt signs are turned off you can walk up and down the aisles with your child if it keeps him entertained.
  • If your party is occupying several seats lifting the armrests give you a bit more room and will allow smaller children to lie down and sleep.

Photo by Carmina Ahmed
 
  • If there are empty seats on board you could ask the flight attendants if you and your child can move to those seats to be more comfortable.  They are usually accommodating as long as the empty seats are not crew seats, their unions require crew rest areas on long haul flights if the aircraft is not sold out.

Delays, Canceled or Missed Flights, and other travel snafus:

  • Flight delays and cancellations happen, particularly in the winter when bad weather can strand passengers for days.  If your flight is cancelled or delayed, stay calm, getting upset gets you nowhere fast and it trickles down to your kids making the problem ten times worse.  Relax, you are not alone, all the other passengers are in the same situation.  It is a good idea to check on your flight before you leave home, if it is delayed or canceled it saves a trip to the airport.  Stay home and head out to the airport at the appropriate time.  If you are already at the airport you might be able to go home and re-group.  It is easier to make alternate travel arrangements in the comfort of your home thru the internet or on the phone.  No matter how long they put you on hold it beats standing in the long lines at the airport with a tired and cranky child.  If you are still at home or can go home I don’t recommend heading back to the airport until you have a confirmed seat on another flight, traveling stand-by with small kids, particularly if you are a large group, is nerve racking and stressful. 
  • Confirm your return flight before you head out to the airport.  If it is delayed or canceled you can make arrangements with your hotel or resort to stay later and go to the airport at the appropriate time. 
  • Missing a connecting flight, or a canceled/delayed connecting flight is the most aggravating, you’re stuck.  If you miss a connecting flight by minutes I find that going to the gate where the flight left from is easier than standing in line at the customer service counter.  If you’re lucky enough to find the agent still at the gate he or she will help you re-book your missed connection.  On international flights you will usually be met by airline representatives who will walk you to the transfer desk where agents are available to re-book you.  If neither option is available you are pretty much stuck in the long customer service lines unless you have internet or phone access and can re-book on line or over the phone.  Some airlines offer hotel and meal vouchers if they cannot re-book you on a flight that departs the same day.  Vouchers are usually not offered if a flight is delayed or canceled due to weather.  Check with your airlines to see how soon they can get you back on your way or what amenities they are offering.  Whatever you do remain calm, yelling at the agents can leave you and your family stranded for days.
  •  Airlines are famous for losing luggage.  If you can’t find your luggage on the carousel head to the baggage claim office.  They will need your ID and claim ticket to fill out a claim form.  They are usually pretty good at finding your luggage as luggage tags are now scanned into their system, it just may not be in the same state or country you are in.  When you file a claim they will ask you to fill out a form telling them where you will be staying.  If you are away from home some airlines give you a survival kit that contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving kit, and a t-shirt to tide you over until they deliver your luggage to your hotel.  Don’t expect to get luggage for at least a day or two.  If you’ve packed extra clothes in your carry-on you should be ok.  Your hotel or resort might be able to provide you with toiletries, if not many hotels have a small shop in the lobby where you can purchase some necessities or the staff can point you to the nearest store.  
  • If you have purchased travel insurance lost luggage, delayed and canceled flights, as well as medical emergencies will probably be covered.  Check with the plan provider to find out what the benefits are and how to use them should you find your travel plans interrupted for the above reasons.  One of the companies that sell travel insurance is www.travelguard.com.

Air travel with kids can be stressful but with a lots of planning and sensible packing it’s possible to arrive at your destination without losing your sanity.  I find that having a sense of humor and a relaxed attitude makes it a fun and memorable experience for you and your kids.

Do you have any travel tips to share?  I’d love to hear from you. 

 

 

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