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Americans are gearing up for Labor Day weekend. According to AAA, 33 million people will travel 50 miles or more – the highest level for this holiday weekend since the start of the recession in 2007. Cars will be the main mode of transportation for holiday revelers. The AAA survey revealed that 85 percent of travelers plan to drive to their destination. If you’re going to be one of those drivers and are dreading the familiar wails of “Are we there yet?” from your young backseat passengers, these handy apps might be the answer to your headache-free road trip prayers. Keep the kids distracted with these car games for your iPhone and iPod Touch:
Parents want vacations to run smoothly. No one should get sick, hurt, or lost. Sometimes the latter is the hardest to avoid. Families have wanderers, eager-beavers, and inherently independent little ones that need special attention, especially in crowded places. Modern Family fans will remember the scene when Lily, a young child, runs around Disneyland, driving her fathers mad. They resigned to buying her a pair of high heeled princess shoes to slow her down. My parents chose the leash.
Taking a toddler on a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation just got more expensive. The operator announced that it will now charge the same fare for children under two years of age that it does for all children. Previously, toddlers were charged only a portion of that fare plus taxes and fees. The change brings Norwegian in line with the practices of Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines, but it stills seems like a cash grab and a deterrent to parents of young children. Norwegian had a chance to differentiate itself in the cruise market, but instead chose to alienate a segment of its customers. Read more
Following up on last week’s announcement that the days of taking off your shoes in the airport security line are numbered, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress yesterday that the TSA will institute new policies at airport security checkpoints for children under 12. In the coming months, kids will no longer have to take off their shoes to go through security, and overall will be subjected to fewer pat-downs. The new procedures are part of efforts to take less time scrutinizing “low-risk” passengers so the TSA can increase focus on those that could pose a security threat, Napolitano said. A widely publicized video last April of a 6-year-old receiving a rigorous pat-down prompted calls for changes to how the TSA treats children. Napolitano cautioned that all passengers, regardless of risk level, may be subjected to random checks, but overall we’re happy to hear airport security will soon be less intrusive for kids.
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When people find out I’m a travel writer they typically say that they know where they’re going from now on for travel information, but the truth is, said people seldom learn more from me than I do from them.
That was the case a couple weeks ago after learning from a mom at my kids’ school that she had just arranged to take her husband and two young sons to Paris over the winter break. Amid the yelling of hundreds of winter-weary, cabin-feverish kids in the school cafeteria I extracted the mom’s lodging strategy, which I thought made a great deal of sense – so much so that I also solicited complementary tips from Trip Chicks co-owner Ann Lombardi (www.twitter.com/thetripchicks), whose advice you’ll find herein and in Paris with Kids, Part 1.
If you’re dreaming of a California ski vacation with kids, Lake Tahoe offers an array of fantastic resorts for families. The stunning scenery is a plus, but what makes this area exceptionally kid-friendly for ski vacations is the resort set-up and the huge selection of accommodation options including cabins, condos, and amenity-packed hotels.
The main ski resorts in Lake Tahoe are located on the North and South shores of the lake. It’s not easy to get from one side of the lake to the other over the winter months, so families should choose one side as a home-base.
Which destination is best for families? Everyone has a different answer to this question. In short, both sides of the lake have excellent resorts for kids. I grew up going to the North Shore and that’s what I know best. Here’s a review of three family favorites in that area.
During a winter school break you and yours have four choices: do nothing, escape nearby, go where it’s warm, or head someplace as cold as or colder than where you are. The latter makes sense if you’re a family that skis together, but otherwise you may need a bit of motivation. So try this: A vacation package including five nights in a premium suite at the well above-average Omni Chicago Hotel, plus airfare, for around $400 per person.
The Omni’s got a swell indoor pool, all the free Wi-Fi you can drink in the lobby, and the also free Omni Kids Program that yields activity books and snacks for the kids as well as complimentary suite childproofing, should you need it. Plus, the suite itself – aside from having the parental essentials of a minibar and a 37-inch plasma flat-screen TV – realistically sleeps five, with two doubles and a sofa sleeper and no extra occupancy fees for kids 17 and younger. Read more
If your hometown is suffused by a wintry chill, the idea of a family vacation to Antigua may pack appeal. But before your thoughts turn to beachside resorts, let’s clarify that I don’t mean the English-speaking Caribbean island of Antigua, but the relatively warm colonial town of La Antigua Guatemala, where speaking English will be secondary to learning Spanish at one of several schools.
“The great bonder for families is all to plunge into a new activity from scratch, and for many kids seeing pop stumble over a new language can be fun, memorable, and educational,” suggests Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor at Lonely Planet. A few Spanish-language schools in La Antigua provide not just traditional instruction but also an immersive home stay, where Reid says “four hours of study, room and board with a local family runs from $125 per person.” That’s per week.
If it’s cold where you live and you’re looking down the barrel of a week-long staycation with your children between Christmas and New Year’s, you have to know that your expenses are going to add up rapidly. My math is only rudimentary (my wife’s fond of saying that “Paul and finance don’t go together”) but I figure the cost of my family’s restaurant meals, hot drinks and snacks for outings lasting longer than 20 minutes, plus miscellaneous “I feel guilty for not taking you all somewhere warm” treats will set me back about $125 daily. If this budget seems indulgently high, perhaps that validates my wife’s comment. But I suspect many of you will end up confronting similar costs if you remain home in the cold next week. So here’s an idea. Find a nearby Marriott with an indoor pool that’s participating in the chain’s Escape! Family Time package.
If your kids are pretty healthy throughout the year but always manage to get sick immediately before a holiday vacation, I probably won’t be able to stop you from getting aggravated or invoking Murphy’s Law. But I can assure that you’re not alone and that your child’s ill-timed illness has little to do with Murphy.
“Holiday colds and flus just in time for the holidays may be due in part to depleted immune systems,” says registered nurse and author Anya Clowers (www.jetwithkids.com). “Eating junk food, drinking festive drinks, crazy busy schedules, and cold weather combined with shared space indoors and on airplanes creates the perfect environment for viruses to take over,” she says, adding that ensuring that your family’s getting ample sleep, hydrating, and observing “good hand washing do make a difference” during your trip. Read more
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