The family travel season is about to be in full swing.
Parents everywhere are gearing up for road trips, summer camps, national park outings and air travel.
Dad and travel expert Jim Mazza, Chief Operating Officer for TRAVELSAVERS, a retail chain of more than 2,500 independently owned, full-service travel agencies, offered a few words of wisdom for those who plan to board a flight in the weeks and months ahead.
Book an early flight.
As a dad, Mazza knows small kids are at their best earlier in the day before exhaustion sets in for them (and their parents). More than that, and important for travelers of every age, delays often build as the day goes on, particularly in the Northeast.
Understand the fare you are booking.
For many travelers, especially cost-conscious families, price matters. It may seem like the right thing to book the least expensive fare that pops up, but these are often “branded fares” which come with tough restrictions including seat choice, leg room and baggage allowance.
You'll find more air travel tips here
Tipping can be an important line item in a family vacation budget. Travelers are often eager to show appreciation for exceptional service. But how much and when to offer this symbol of gratitude can be perplexing.
Consider this input from travel industry experts:
On any adventure tour, a good guide can make for a great trip. “I like to tell guests that if you feel your guides played a major role in your enjoyment of the trip, you should direct a gratuity to the trip leader. He or she will distribute it fairly and evenly to the crew,” advises Karen Johnson, a manager for Holiday River Expeditions. “An average tip is $10-$20 per guest, per day.”
“At Austin Adventures, we encourage guests to tip what they feel is appropriate given a guide’s performance on a tour. We offer $15 to $25 per day, per guest, as a guideline,” explained Austin founder, Dan Austin. “We also note that tips are a significant part of a guide’s income.” When booking an adventure trip, ask in advance for tipping guidelines and determine whether cash is required or credit card payments are possible.
Contact: www.BikeRaft.com; www.AustinAdventures.com
Small Ship Cruising.
“Typically, at the end of a cruise there is an opportunity to provide gratuities to the guides and crew,” explains Todd Smith, Director of AdventureSmith Explorations. “Gratuities aboard small ships are often pooled among crew members. Tip pools sometimes include officers and guides, while others do not. Some ships will take credit cards while others prefer cash or checks. Check to see if gratuities are included in the price of the voyage. If not, 5 to ten percent of the rate paid is an average amount to consider setting aside to show gratitude for superior service. ”
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) recommends offering the bell staff one to five dollars per bag when escorted to your room. Leave a tip of one to five dollars each day for the housekeeping crew (or more if the kids have created a little havoc). Need something extra? Offer two dollars for one item delivered or five dollars for more. No need to ante up for the replacement of a broken hairdryer or a missing light bulb. In the restaurant, tipping servers 15 to 20 percent is the norm.
“Tipping the concierge $20 and up, depending on their level of service is good practice,” suggests Richard Wales, Director of Operations, at The St. Regis Aspen Resort.
“They are the ones who will be able to get you the most coveted dinner reservations around town.”
Experts suggest offering car rental shuttle drivers $2 to $4 per bag if they provide bag assistance. Plan for $2 to $5 for help from a Skycap, offering the higher amount for heavier bags or late arrivals. Should you or someone in your party need wheelchair assistance, consider a tip of $10 to $20, depending on the time and circumstances involved.
Traveling in Europe.
“Tipping has become commonplace for hospitality service around the world, and is a universal sign of appreciation for good service” says Steve Born, Vice President of Marketing for the Globus family of brands. “As a guideline, we suggest the equivalent of two dollars in the local currency for our Monograms tour guides per outing, per person. For other services, like restaurants and taxis, we suggest rounding up the tab by the equivalent of a few dollars. Typically in Europe, restaurant tips are left in cash and not added to the credit card.”
Your fishing guide.
It is customary to tip your professional river fishing guide or boat Captain. And like many other services, a 10-20% gratuity is most common.
"Most fishing guides are dedicated teachers and fish freaks who would rather be on the water helping you than most anywhere else," explained Joe Dilschneider, the owner of Troutstalkers, a Montana-based fly-fishing outfitter. "A vast majority of them will work hard to help you have a successful outing. Just remember; success isn’t always narrowly defined by your catch!"
But like any service-oriented profession, personal rapport and compatibility matter and there is definitely a broad spectrum of personality types and talent out there in the world of fishing guides.
"If you feel that your guide put forth a solid effort to help you have and enjoyable and successful day, then tipping them generously will feel good and they will usually show you their gratitude and welcome you back in the future," explained the Ennis, Montana-based pro. "A connection based on shared adventure, and a love of the game is after-all what most guides really want from you. That's where the real payoff is. If however you are disappointed with your experience, then you shouldn't feel obligated to give a generous tip. Your guide will certainly notice if your tip is unusually small... or big. Hopefully it will encourage them to consider their own professional performance and always strive to improve!"
Note: When unsure of how much or when to offer a gratuity, it never hurts to ask. Many tour and cruise operators provide suggestions and guidelines in pre-trip planning documents.
TIPS FROM THE NATIONAL SKI PATROL
Since 1938, the 501(c)3 non-profit, National Ski Patrol (NSP), has dedicated itself to providing service and safety to the outdoor community. As the preeminent authority for serving the outdoor recreation industry, NSP provides the highest quality Outdoor Emergency Care education and credentialing care to safety services providers. Ski and Snowboard Patrollers keep both you, and the mountain safe. Next time you see them on the mountain or ride with them on a chair lift, stop and talk with them. They're friendly people willing to share their knowledge of the resort with you. They can even give you some tips on great gear and where might be a good place for you to ski and ride based on your ability level. Check out these Safety Tips written to give you some snowsmarts and in collaboration with the NSP Safety Team. For more information, please visit nsp.org.
Since 1938, the National Ski Patrol has been advocating safe practices on the slopes so that skiers and snowboarders like you, can enjoy the most out of the mountain terrain. So, to share the message of how to have fun, while staying safe, NSP developed the slogan "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe!"
What does "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe" mean? Well, while it can mean a multitude of things depending on what situation you're in and what terrain you're on, the basis of it can be summed up in 3 key points.
1) Prepare for conditions.
Knowing what type of terrain you and your equipment can handle is extremely important when playing it safe. To be Snowsmart, know your ability level and where that appropriate terrain is on the mountain.
2) Reduce your risk of injury.
To reduce the risk of injury, always wear a helmet. Helmets can reduce your risk of head injury by 35-50%. You can avoid risk of injury in other ways too, including tuning your equipment, skiing with a friend, being aware of other skiers and riders on the slope and being aware of your surroundings and on mountain signage.
3) Prevent emergency situations.
Situations on the mountain can quickly turn into emergencies without warning. Unexpected weather changes, backcountry and side country skiing areas, and getting down the mountain with an injury are just a few factors that may turn into emergencies if you are not prepared. Preparing for situations such as these can help tremendously and can be as simple as being aware of weather forecasts, carrying a reliable communication device while on the mountain, snowboarding with a friend, and knowing how to contact Ski Patrol.
These safety tips are just part of being snowsmart! Before you even head out the door you need to have a few things lined up, like what you are going to wear and knowing how to dress for conditions outside.
Having the right equipment is important too. Borrowing is not the best idea, but renting is a great way to try different gear and see what you like before spending money on purchasing your own skis, board, boots, poles, and helmet. The National Ski Patrol highly recommends wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, but encourages those participating in the sports to realize that helmets do have limitations and are not a complete answer for slope safety. Check out this helmet fact sheet from the National Ski Areas Associationto get more information on the benefits of wearing a helmet.
In addition to the proper use of helmets, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has developed Your Responsiblity Code to help snow sports enthusiasts avoid injury and make their experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.
If you're adventuring in the backcountry you must be knowledgeable in avalanche safety and the equipment used to help keep you safe; NSP provides information and classes on backcountry avalanche safety.
Find out more from the National Ski Patrol.
When the family takes a trip, it can be hard to leave Fido or Fluffy behind.
However, when making travel decisions, choose what is safest and most comfortable for your pet. For instance, unless you'll be able to spend a lot of time with your dog, he'll probably be happier at home than tagging along on your trip. As a rule, cats are always better off in their own home.
Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.
Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:
1. Preparation breeds confidence.
Involve your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, web sites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit now or in the future. When you or other friends or family travel for business or pleasure, make a point to show your children the destinations on a map and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will help build their growing understanding of the world.
2. Knowledge is power.
When planning your own journey, chart a road trip using your favorite mapping technology and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested routing and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight on line. Consider making each child responsible for their own boarding pass. (For younger children perhaps printing an extra as back up is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk about preparing for and moving through airport security.
3. Bestow Responsibility.
Discuss your travel plans and encourage your children to create a packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination.
4. Communication is key.
Before leaving home, make sure the whole family understands how you will navigate to your destination. Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose their way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms.
Consider bestowing each member of the family with a cell phone and instructions for use. Should challenges occur, share your problem solving skills and solutions with the children. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
5. Go Local
Research your destination before departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home. Seek out tour operators and lodging options that share your travel sensibilities.
Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Visit local farmer’s markets.
Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.
In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.
Early steps in retirement planning pay big benefits later
You may feel like retirement is a long, long, long time away. Too many people put off making decisions about how they will spend their money and their financial future. Even if you are fresh out of high school, you can start making plans for what matters to you - travel, exploration and your retirement. If you want your money to be there when you need it - for family vacations, a healthy retirement or pursuing new interests, you must plan ahead.
Considering a family cruise?
Here are ten tips to consider:
1) Know your cruise specialist:
According to a report from the
Cruise Lines International Association, 68 percent of cruise vacations
are booked through travel agents.
When researching a travel agent to book your cruise , make sure they are knowledgeable about the
cruise lines and destinations and have access to the best pricing and promotional offers such as onboard cash, spa treatments and reduced
deposits. Make sure your specialist is the right fit for you and your
2) Book your cruise early:
The saying "the early bird catches the
worm" certainly applies to booking cruises. Booking early will provide
you with benefits such as more stateroom choices, dining options, special perks and
3) Be cautious about last minute deals:
While the prices may be lower with last minute deals, the room selections are not prime. You must also
remember that airfare is not included in the price of the vacation and
booking last minute airfare can be costly.
4) Carefully review the itinerary:
If an itinerary doesn't address your needs, it may not be the right cruise for you. For example, if
someone wants to spend more time relaxing onboard, the itinerary should
include more sea days than ports-of-call. To maximize your experience in
every port, each stop should last a minimum of eight to ten hours.
5) Research the identification needed for each country:
While a passport is always needed, visa requirements may be tricky. Some countries require visas, but
others do not. To check visa requirements,
6) Understand what is not included with the cruise:
When booking a family trip that includes a cruise,
vacation goers must pay the government fees. Remember to take
the price of tipping, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, kid’s activities and shore
excursions into consideration, as they are often not included in the
7) Be comfortable with your accommodations:
Make sure to research all of the stateroom options before making your ultimate selection.
Accommodation choices on ships include an interior room, which has no
window or natural light, an oceanview room, which has one large window
that cannot be opened, a balcony room, regular suites and a penthouse
suite. Ask about rooms that are best suited for families.
It is also important to know that the cheapest and most expensive options typically sell out first.
8) Get to know your cruise line choices:
Choosing the wrong cruise line for your family vacation is a common mistake.
Sometimes, consumers will make a decision based on their familiarity of the name without investigating the type of people that typically take vacations on that particular line.
For example, some cruise lines cater more towards families with plenty of great programming that will interest your clan, while others cater to seniors or a younger demographic. Make sure you make the right
choice for your vacation needs, suggests Geraldine Ree, Senior Vice
President of Sales and Marketing for Expedia CruiseShipCenters.
9) Take time to see the city you embark and disembark from.
When booking a cruise, people make the mistake of arriving in the city a few hours before the ship sets sail and
making flight arrangements to leave as soon as the ship docks. The embarkation and disembarkation cities are
an important part of the vacation experience and it is worthwhile for you to arrive a day before the cruise leaves
and stay for an extra day after the cruise docks. Your cruise specialist can help you plan your
10) You don't always need the ocean for a cruise:
Consumers can book a cruise to almost any place where there is a body of water. As a matter
of fact, river cruises continue to gain in popularity as the smaller ships offer a more intimate cruising experience.
Popular destinations for river cruises include Danube (Austria),
Rhine (Germany), France and Russia.
Are you or someone in your family planning a destination wedding?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests you carefully consider how you might pass through security with carry-ons that might include a magnificent dress, killer shoes, and just the right shade of nail polish.
Going Yard, The Ultimate Guide for Major League Baseball Road Trips, provides the information you’ve been searching for about the ballparks you love and the cities that host them. When it comes to little known facts about these famous fields, author Stan Fridstein has uncovered a treasure trove. Here are a few of his gems:
Bet you didn’t know:
Going Yard helps those completely consumed or only mildly interested in our national sport to optimize their travel experience. Visit every stadium and deal with issues like budgeting, logistics, securing tickets, tours, key facts and sites in each stadium and things to do in each and every city when not at the game. This is your go-to guide for baseball road trips.
You can find Going Yard here.
1. Just do it!
In addition to expanding your child’s awareness through travel, exotic family vacations inevitably strengthen family ties and create dinner conversations to last a lifetime.
2. Visit schools or sports events: Nothing helps a child understand a destination better than meeting their peers. I love to arrange school visits or visits to local community sports events. Usually the local kids are just as fascinated by my kids as my kids are by them!
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Now is not the time to worry about a balanced diet or the usual house rules. It’s a vacation. Rest assured that your kids are gaining invaluable exposure, so if they eat nothing but fish sticks and French fries for two weeks and it makes them happy (yes, one of my kids did this once in Indonesia) they will come out of it no worse for the wear.
4. Have a great guide – Part 1: Having a knowledgeable guide is like bringing a wonderful educator along with you. They can truly bring the destination to life through their stories and knowledge, making a lasting impact on young minds. Case in point: I was in Dubai and Istanbul last year with my daughter. Most people don’t think of culture or history when they think of Dubai, but we had such a wonderful and passionate guide that my daughter and I walked away with a great respect for the Emirati people and their culture. Meanwhile, we were on our own in Istanbul, a city that one normally thinks of as being filled with amazing history, but my daughter did not make the same connection there. She actually wants to move to Dubai when she is
5.Have a great guide - Part 2: Yes, there is something to be said to wandering around lost in a new city, but if you are traveling with kids who can get tired, hungry and grumpy, everyone’s sanity can be saved by having a guide take you around who will not only impart knowledge, but will pick up on when little ones are tired or hungry and adjust the schedule accordingly, sometimes getting you back to the home base or nearest restaurant as quickly as possible!
6. Scheduling is everything: Don’t overdo it. Include some downtime in every day for your family to digest what they are taking in, and move at a slower pace than you would if you were on your own. It may be your first trip to China, it doesn’t have to be your last!
7. Hotel Selection: Picking the right property is critical so that when you have downtime you aren’t crammed into a tiny hotel room. Look for hotels that have a great indoor or outdoor pool, bigger rooms, or are located near parks or open areas to run around!
8. TV is a cultural exchange: A little TV viewing can give the parents a welcome break and your kids can see another aspect of the culture you are visiting. My kids still talk about familiar cartoon characters speaking in Thai and the crazy Japanese TV shows they have stumbled upon.
9. Don’t force it: If your kid doesn’t want to do something, let them have a little ownership of the situation. My 7 year old opted out of a monk cleansing in Cambodia once, and as the rest of us stood there in sarongs freezing and wet, we had to think she was the smart one.
10. HAVE FUN: That’s really the point isn’t it? Relax and enjoy and your kids will remember the trip forever.
Leslie Overton is a mother and the General Manager of Absolute Travel.