Family Travel Basics

Family Vacation Planning Guide

Family-Friendly Travel

Every parent knows that the right type of family vacation depends on the age of the children. This Web Guide to Family-Friendly Travel can help make family travel decisions easy. For resources and information on where to go and what to do with babies, toddlers, school-age kids and teens; for gear and services to make the going (and returning) easier; and for family vacation planning tips and tricks on how to navigate all types of travel with your kids, use this Web Guide to the world of family-friendly travel.

Family Travel Basics

Having young ones in tow changes everything, from how and when you travel to where you go and what you can do there. Before you plan your trip, it's a good idea to see what practiced veterans and industry experts have to say.

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  • The Web's top family travel sites are the perfect place to begin your research. Each has a wide selection of trip ideas, resources, and articles.
  • If the world is your oyster and you haven't decided what type of trip you want to take, these are the best places to start for general information on everything from pamper-yourselves-silly exotic resorts to down-and-dirty volunteer vacations. Once you've narrowed your choices, or if you have specific requirements or limitations, you can head to a more subject-specific site like the ones listed in the other sections of this guide.
  • Using a service can take a lot of the guesswork out of planning a trip with your family, something especially helpful for not-so-seasoned family travelers. But with tour agencies, as with any other business or service you're using for the first time, ask for references or check with the Better Business Bureau before you make a commitment.

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Types of Family Vacations

When you're traveling with the family, don't think of yourself as limited; there are many types of vacations for you and the crew to enjoy, including cruises, family bed and breakfasts, disney vacations, and European journeys. Use these sites to explore the possibilities.

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  • If you're a history buff as well as an amusement park fan, you'll love the Web site for the National Amusement Park Historical Association, where you can find all kinds of facts and figures, plus lists of the oldest operating amusement parks and roller coasters.
  • Keep weather in mind when you're planning your cruise. Hurricane seasons seem to be starting earlier and ending later than they once did.
  • If you haven't been to a Disney park since you were a kid, be prepared for a souped-up experience that requires a lot more attention to detail. Case in point: the Princess Storybook Breakfast at Walt Disney World, where little girls get a chance to dine with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. Reservations are taken up to 180 days in advance-and are normally full within five minutes of the phone lines opening up each day. The silver lining: the mega-park that is Disney World is no longer just for kids. You'll find world-class gold courses, luxury spa service, and fine dining here, too.
  • It's true that many B&Bs don't welcome small children. Be sure to be upfront about your needs when booking a stay so there are no surprises for anyone once you arrive.
  • For information on traveling in Europe, check out the official tourism sites for individual countries and larger cities, in addition to the sites listed below. And do your part to dispel the stigma of the ugly American by being sensitive to different cultures' attitudes toward families and children.
  • Thanks to the EU and the convenience of the Euro, traveling from country to country within Europe has never been easier. Take advantage of this and make it a multi-cultural journey.
  • When most people think of family-friendly destinations, Disney is one of the first things that jumps to mind. We've included four sites here that will help you plan your Disney trip, and you'll find far more tips and sites for Disney vacations in our findingDulcinea Disney Travel Guide.

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Alternative Family Vacations

For some, traveling together is all the strenuous activity they need. But if you want to bond with, or simply exhaust, your children, a vacation rich in outdoor pursuits, entertainment, and adventure may be just what you need. The sites below outline trips suitable to your family's specific needs.

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  • Volunteer vacations with families are doable, but take some extra care and planning to ensure the trips are appropriate and worthwhile for everyone in your family. Ask for references from other families with children who are similar ages before booking a trip to work with a particular volunteer group.
  • Campsites you've known and loved before you had a family may require a second look to ensure they're kid-friendly. Keep in mind rough terrain, access to restrooms, and proximity to places where you can stock up on extra supplies like diapers if necessary.
  • Make sure children unfamiliar with the great outdoors are versed in the hazards that come along with camping, like poison ivy and wild animals.
  • For bonus points, see if your trip can be applied toward your child's school credit for volunteer hours.
  • Don't overlook foreign travel for a ranch vacation-there are plenty of places outside of the Old West where you can chow down by the chuckwagon.
  • Farm trips can be especially educational for young kids, providing them a connection to their food source. Be sure young children in particular are ready to be in an environment with live animals.

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Age Group Travel

Traveling with seniors and teenagers requires special planning and consideration.  You'll want to keep them interested and safe at the same time. This section features trips and planning advice for travel with teens and grandparents, from trusted sources.

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  • Get teens involved in the planning by encouraging them to do Web searches and participate in teen discussion pages on many of the family travel sites.
  • You'll all have a better time if you give your teen some of the privacy and leeway that adults are afforded when they travel, rather than doing things like relegating them to kids' tables come dinnertime.
  • In addition to online travel sites, associations like the AARP may offer more resources for seniors interested in vacationing with their grandchildren.

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Family Travel Requirements

You've booked the trip-now what about all the logistical details? The Web is a great tool for finding information about kids' passport regulations, airline rules, and everything you probably didn't think about before you had children. The sites in this section help you cover all of the bases.

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  • To prevent undue stress and added surcharges, don't wait until the last minute to research what sorts of gears and documents you need to travel with your kids. The Web is a great tool to help you manage your trip and set a timetable to get all the things you'll need in place.
  • On the Web you'll find helpful tips and packing lists, product recommendations, and agencies that can rent, ship, and sell gear for families with babies and small children. If you opt for to use a service, be sure to ask for references or check with the Better Business Bureau before you hand over your credit card information.
  • Keep in mind that less is more. Small kids and babies don't need every travel accessory that's geared to them, and you'll all be happier if your load is light. If you feel that they really need something that you may only use once or twice, search sites like Craigslist and eBay for the sale of gently used items.
  • To find more agencies in a particular locale, check with that area's tourism office or your hotel concierge.
  • Parents know what works best-and what doesn't. Look for advice from people who've road-tested products and travel frequently with their own families.
  • Review safety concerns with kids before you travel. New and different environments can be disorienting to kids.

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Family Travel Safety

Family travel raises concerns about keeping the kids safe. Whether it's securely buckling car seats, making sure roads are clear, or having proper international travel identification, you've got a lot to think about. Use the Web sites below to ease your mind.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Traveling off the beaten path is exciting, but if you're going abroad, especially if you're visiting Third World countries, be sure you have taken all the necessary health precautions. Be up-to-date with vaccinations, and prepare any gear and supplies you may need for your family.
  • Be sure everyone is up to date on vaccinations and you're aware of possible allergies in an unfamiliar environment. Bring along extra prescription medications, too, if you need them.
  • The Web is a great tool for the latest, most up-to-date information on everything from gear recalls to travel advisories. Use it to your advantage.

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