Sooner or later many of us find ourselves searching for the best travel deals. This is particularly true when traveling with kids. Family travel is costly and stressful.
The key to almost stress free travel with kids or without 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 make a budget.
I’m a travel agent always planning and searching for the best deals for my family and clients. Here are a few tips to help you plan.
(We learned these things when making travel arrangements for our family a few summers agp, our party included 2 children ages 6 and 12, and a 9 month old infant. Airline policies change constantly so check with them before you buy airline tickets.)
Making travel arrangements:
Inform yourself about ticket options for kids and know what to expect. Infants on your lap will save money but can be challenging. Infants and toddlers travel with lots of gear; 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.
Plan and reserve ground transportation and room accommodations at your destination. Compare your options and their rates.
- 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 the airline to avoid surprises.
- Know checked luggage fees, first and second bags are about $25 and $35 respectively. A third checked bag can jump to $100+. Airlines constantly change luggage fees and policies check them before you purchase and check again before you pack.
- If you have a “lap” child and purchase your tickets online, you must notify the airlines so that a “lap ticket” can be issued.
- “Lap” infants under 2 traveling internationallyare charged an infant fare. Infants paying a fare can usually check and carry-on bags.
- First checked bag is usually free on international flights but, infants may have a lower weight limit. Check with the airlines to be sure. (Flights within certain regions may not be considered international therefore international luggage policies may not apply. i.e. domestic weight limits are applied on travel between Barcelona and London on British Airways. But if your flight originates overseas with a layover somewhere, i.e. US to London to Barcelona, international policies will apply until you reach your final destination.)
- 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 at if the flight has empty seats. This seat assignment will be given at the gate just before boarding. Check with your airline if this is among their policies.
- 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.
- 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 one of 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. (If you didn’t check in your car seat in the hopes of getting a seat assignment for your child you can check it in at the gate if you don’t get that seat.)
- Strollers, car seats, and other luggage can be gate checked just before you enter the plane. Leave your tagged item just outside the aircraft door. Pick up your gate checked items as you exit the aircraft at your destination. If you have a lay over and are changing planes your gate checked item must be retrieved every time you exit an aircraft. You must gate check them again on your next flight.
- Strollers and car seats are considered “special” cargo and may not have the same lost luggage allowances as “regular” luggage has. In short the airlines may not compensate you for a lost or damaged stroller.
- Strollers and car seats checked in anywhere else but the gate can be picked up at baggage claim, they may not be on the carousel with the other luggage, you may have to go to the over size bag claim located in the baggage claim area.
- 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.
- Rental Car facilities are generally located off airport property. Rental Companies usually provide a free shuttle to their facility. Shuttles are located outside of baggage claim. Look for signs to their stops.
- Car Service Drivers wait outside baggage claim. They will have a sign with your name on it. Look for your driver as you exit baggage claim.
- 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.
- If you don’t have ground travel arrangements some hotels offer airport shuttles. Check with them before you book. Hotel shuttles are generally located outside of baggage claim. Look for signs to guide you to their stop.
- Consider hotels that include breakfast with the rate. It’s easier to know where breakfast is every morning than having to look for a place to feed hungry kids early in the morning.
- 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 this may be offset if you don’t need ground transportation and have to pay for parking.
- Some hotels have an extra charge for parking. Check with your hotel for parking fees when you book.
For more travel tips, recipes, and activities read my blog savvynana.com.
Let me help you plan your dream family vacation! Savvynanatravel.com! If you can dream it, I can plan it!
Tombstone, Arizona, the name evokes visions of gunfights, saloons, Wyatt Earp, the Clantons, Doc Holliday, and ghosts.
Everyone’s heard of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral and may have seen it depicted in the recent movie bearing the town’s name. But Tombstone is not just a remnant of the Wild West. It’s a real town with real people who’ve lived there through out history and live there still. This has earned Tombstone the epitaph “The Town Too Tough to Die.”
Ever since my younger daughter moved to Sierra Vista, Arizona we’ve found ourselves wandering the town of Tombstone every time we visit. It’s a quaint little town rich in Old West history. The history includes more than famous gunfighter Wyatt Earp and his pal Doc Holliday.
The town of Tombstone was founded in 1877 by prospector Ed Schieffelin when he struck silver in the surrounding area. Word spread and the town boomed. The town burned down twice in the 1880s and was rebuilt each time. It was filled with saloons, brothels, shops, and restaurants. The buildings along Allen Street, the town’s main street, are a mixture of original and rebuilt buildings. You feel the history as you walk around town. It’s said to be the most authentic Old West town left in America.
To learn more about Tombstone’s history click here.
We’ve spent many afternoons strolling down Allen Street browsing the shops and galleries. We stop for lunch or a snack at the Crystal Palace Saloon, dress up for photos at Can Can Old Time Photos, and of course pick up some fudge at the Fallen Angel Sweet Sin Parlor.
My grandsons love hanging out in Tombstone dressed in full Cowboy regalia. The friendly folks along Allen Street never fail to amuse them with tales of the Old West and even challenge them to a gun fight or two.
We usually park on Third Street. It’s very convenient because our first stop is always the Sarsaparilla Emporium for a bottle of this sweet soda.
It’s sold in many of the snack shops and restaurants but the boys love bellying up to the bar of the old shack.
We make our way to the O.K. Corral, they have a touristy show that re-enacts the fatal gunfight between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday against the Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury.
The actors recount the tale of that fateful day that left Billy, Tom, and Frank mortally wounded. The show is a bit corny, but the kids love it. Tickets are sold in the gift shop and includes admission to a narrated show about the town’s history, a small museum, and a copy of the Tombstone Epitaph paper published the day after the infamous fight.
There are other shows offered in Tombstone including one about a bank robbery, and another that re-enacts a stage coach robbery. There are also mine tours, stage coach rides, and of course ghost tours. They have different schedules and one can catch them all in a day if you so desired. We limit ourselves to one per visit.
As we stroll up Allen Street someone inevitably challenges our cowboys to a gunfight. We usually leave them to it and take some time to browse the different shops and galleries selling everything from artwork, clothing, footwear, infused oils and vinegars, and other souvenirs. We meet up for food and drink at the Crystal Palace Saloon, after all gun fighting is thirsty work.
Sometimes we stop by at the Photo shop where the boys dress up as cowboys, lawmen, or indians and have an old time photo taken and mounted on a “wanted” sign.
We always end the visit at the Fallen Angel Sweet Sin Parlor where they sell the best fudge in town.
We all enjoy our trips to Tombstone, it makes for a fun family outing as you learn a bit of Old West history.
For more information on Tombstone shops, restaurants, and tours click here!
A visit to Tombstone would not be complete without going on a ghost tour. We returned one evening without the kids for the famous Bird Cage Theater Ghost Tour.
To me its seems like a no brainer, when we take the kids to Disneyland or Disney World we stay at a Disney Resort. Disney Resorts are amazing, they keeps kids entertained with Mickey and friends wandering around the property and all that. The kids love it!
When we take the kids to other places we look for hotels and resorts that are kid friendly. There are lots of resorts out there that have added cool pools and kids’ clubs to entice families to spend their vacation dollars on their properties. It never occurred to me that there were amazing hotels your kids will love around the world! They have room geared for kids!
Here are some amazing hotels your kids will love! A stay at one of the hotels will surely make your vacation memorable!
Despicable Me Kid’s Suites at the Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Florida.
This hotel boasts Kid’s Suites as well as the only suites inspired by the movie Despicable Me. The 2 room suites give mom and dad their own private space while the kids enjoy sleeping in custom designed missile style beds. The hotel also boast 3 themed pools and water slides, and has a view of Universal Studios Orlando.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
The Jumbo Jet Hostel in Stockholm, Sweden allows them to do just that!What kid wouldn’t love to bed down in a real 747 jet? [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
All Harry Potter fans will love staying in The Wizard Chambers at the Georgian House in London, England.
The room includes an award winning English Breakfast. You can also book a muggle tour to make it a real Harry Potter getaway. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Stay in a room that brings fairy tales to life at La Balade des Gnomes in Durbury, Belgium.
They have rooms inside the Trojan Horse.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
The Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, California is dedicated to all things Lego.
Rooms with separate kids and adult areas are themed to blow the kids’ minds away.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Disney’s Aulani in Kapolei, Hawaii has fun pools, activities and Disney characters. Enough said![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Adventure Suites in North Conway, New Hampshire has many different themed suites that are fun for kids and adults! [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Stay in the Elephant Villa or Tree House Villa at the Kumbuk River in Buttala, Sri Lanka.
You might be treated to a real elephant passing by![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Sonic the Hedgehog themed rooms and other themed room at the Alton Towers Hotel in Staffordshire, England will amaze kids.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Dog Bark Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho is a B&B shaped like a dog.
The rooms are decorated with doggy do-dads. Great for the dog lovers in your family![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Nickelodeon Suites Resorts in Orlando, Florida celebrates all things Nickelodeon.
Themed suites, character dining and more.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Winvian Luxury Resort Cottages in Litchfield Hills, Connecticut has themed cottages including this one with a fully restored Coast Guard helicopter.
The kids will think it’s cool![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Pretty in Pink! Your little Princess will love to stay at the Barbie themed suite at The Palms in Las Vegas.
It will be like living in a real life Barbie World.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
The Eloise themed suite at The Plaza Hotel in New York City is inspired the children’s classic book of the same name.
If you prefer something less girly they also have a Medieval themed suite called Knights of the Plaza.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
It seems we find ourselves in Houston just about every year. Either to visit family or to catch a flight to Europe or the Middle East. When we stop by we usually spend a day or two, it’s a good place to rest between long flights.
That’s why I’m always looking for new places to see and things to do in Houston. Recently I found many interesting places to see in Houston.
I doubt we’ll have time to do them all, but we’ll certainly try to do some special Halloween activities, maybe even one of the Ghost Tours.
Here are some places to see in Houston to help you plan your next Houston getaway!
The Houston Zoo located in Hermann Park is one of the best zoos in Texas.
Children’s Museum of Houston has lots of interactive exhibits.
We recently spent a day there. The kids had a great time.
Located in Downtown Houston find many exhibits and activities at Discovery Green.
Walk with Dinosaurs at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Explore outer space at the Johnson Space Center.
Be sure to take the tram tours around the Space Center, they’re the highlights of the day!
Mingle with stingrays at the Downtown Aquarium.
Family fun and good eats at Dewberry Farm. Pumpkin Patch, Christmas tree farm, train ride, corn maze, and more!
Ride, shop, and dine on scrumptious seafood at the Kemah Boardwalk.
Located in Kemah not far from Galveston.
For more rides, food, and fun continue on to Galveston’s Pleasure Pier.
Explore the pyramids of Moody Gardens in Galveston. Lots of fun and educational activities and attractions located in the 3 pyramids.
Haunted Houston Tours
For a longer and more in depth tour take one of the 9 haunted tours Houston Historical Tours offers. They also have city tours, tunnel tours, and more.
Summer’s almost here and that means Road Trip! Wherever you’re headed this year don’t forget to include a stop at some of America’s Roadside Attractions. Some are really pretty cool!
When my kids were young we spent countless hours on the road on one of my husband’s annual coast to coast road trips. I don’t remember how many times we packed the kids up as soon as school let out, flew to the East Coast, rented a mini-van, and spent the month of June driving America’s highways and byways from Maine to California.
My husband insisted that was the only way to see the country. Looking back I have to admit he was right! Those road trips were definitely memorable, we still talk about them.
We’d spend hours planning the route, we took a different one each year. We always planned a route that would take us to new and interesting places. The roads we took at times had some unexpected, sometimes amusing, and sometimes bizarre road side attractions.
There’s lots of attractions out there from giant dinosaurs and elephants, to replicas of iconic buildings, to the world’s largest ball of twine. They help break the monotony of the seemingly endless road and provide interesting conversation along the way.
Here are a few road side attractions around the country. If you’re planning a road trip this summer there might be one along your way. If you have time they’re definitely worth a short stop, if only to let the kids out of the car to work off some stored energy. They’ll definitely be worth a good story or two once you reach your destination.
We’ve passed this many times and even stopped a few. The last time was when we took the grand kids to Disneyland. The boys loved it!
You can climb to the top of T-Rex and buy souvenirs in the gift shop located in the belly of Ms. Dinny supposedly the largest concrete Dino in the world.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Located on a patch of prairie in Alliance, Nebraska is a replica of England’s Stonehenge made from gray painted cars.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
The Corn Palace
Located in Mitchell, Nebraska the Corn Palace is decorated with corn husks and other grains.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Prada Marfa Store
Located on a lonely desert road 150 miles south east of El Paso is the Prada Marfa Store in Marfa, Texas. If you want to shop for designer duds, don’t stop here, it’s just a facade, the doors are permanently locked![spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Lucy the Elephant, Margate, New Jersey
You can climb up the gigantic pachyderm for views of the ocean.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, California
This donut shop has appeared in films and videos.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Giant sized Paul Bunyan statues are in many places. Akeley, Minnesota; Bangor, Maine; and Portland, Oregon. Babe the Blue Ox, joins him in Klamath, California, and Bemidji, Minnesota (pictured here).[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, Virginia.
Another Stonehenge replica is Foamhenge. It’s made of, you guessed it, foam blocks.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
The Enchanted Highway
Located on a 32-mile stretch of desolate road between Gladstone and Regent North Dakota is the Enchanted Highway, home to a series of whimsical scrap metal sculptures some of which are the largest in the world.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Lenny the Moose
Life-Sized Chocolate Moose, Lenny, in Scarborough, Maine is made from 1,700 pounds of chocolate.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Leaning Tower of Niles
This half-sized replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the Leaning Tower of Niles in Niles Illinois.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas
I think the name says it all! [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]
Coral Castle, Homestead, Florida.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Located not far from Miami on the South Dixie Highway this “castle” is made of over 1000 tons of oolite limestone.
International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell, New Mexico[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
A definite must see for all UFO buffs.