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Family Travel Tips

by Lux Joseph 16. May 2014

CME makes travel arrangements each and every day to bring loved one’s back home. At the same time, you may be arranging travel for an upcoming family trip. Anyone who's ever taken a family trip knows they have the potential to be both stressful and rewarding at the same time. We all have fond memories of embarrassing family photo opportunities and harmonizing in the backseat to pass the time, along with not-so-fond memories of airport hassles and bungled arrangements.

The secret to a successful family trip lies not only with extensive preparation but smart planning. This is the same approach we take when planning a medical escort repatriation and we have some tips that will help you plan a smooth vacation. Designing a vacation that appeals to a range of age groups can be quite challenging. How can you find family-friendly accommodations? How do you determine which destinations will appeal to both adults and children? How do you make it through the airport without pulling your hair out?

Rest assured, it is possible for families to have their "dream vacation," and more and more families are asking their travel agents for help. Approximately 77 percent of ASTA agents surveyed recently said they were currently booking more family vacation travel as compared to the previous year. In response to this increasing demand, an influx of new and varied intergenerational travel products have been introduced. And from theme parks to cruises to European vacations, there's something for every family.

At CME, we use our in-house travel department to make all the arrangements for our medical escort repatriations. We encourage you to contact your travel agent as they can help you explore your options and choose the vacation that's ideal for all your loved ones. Agents are one-stop-shopping - they offer planning services that include air, hotel, sightseeing, cruises and more. They also have a wealth of travel information and advice such as visa requirements, packing tips, travel insurance and international permit requirements for drivers. And agents are there to offer follow-up help if something should go wrong and can alert vacationers to scams. Plus, your travel agent can help you land the best group rates available on the vacation that's right for you.

The first step in planning your family vacation is to designate a group leader. As the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth," so appointing one person to be in charge is the best way to prevent possible spats. At CME, each individual in our office has a special role in putting together the repatriation for our clients. By selecting a key individual for your family vacation this individual will have responsibilities ranging from shopping around for the best group deals to holding on to everyone's tickets and coupons. Even if you decide not to appoint a leader, keep in mind that it's best to deal with one travel agent - you'll avoid potential confusion and get the best rates.

Families should book their flights well in advance so that they can get the best price and the most hassle-free arrangements. Whenever possible, groups should opt for non-stop flights even if it costs more. The stress of regrouping after members run to the bathroom, gift shops and food stands isn't worth the few dollars you'll save. It's always a good idea to invest in trip cancellation insurance, particularly when traveling with a group. CME always looks for the most direct routing to move our patients. This eliminates the hassle of potentially missing connections and ensures the most safe and secure transport flight.

Allow plenty of time for check-in and also between connecting flights. Arriving early to board together prevents last minute delays and confusion. We strongly suggest our medical escorts arrive three hours prior to an international departure and two hours prior to a domestic departure.  It would be great to consider establishing a buddy system to ensure that no one gets left behind.

When it comes to choosing accommodations, consider all-inclusive cruises or resorts - they're the ideal way to organize the big trip. All-inclusive venues usually have a variety of activities and foods that appeal to every age. Cruises have become instant family favorites because all activities are preplanned so you'll spend more quality time together. Condominiums can simplify group planning and typically provide accommodations like multiple bedrooms and full-kitchens that are ideal for value and convenience. Also look for resorts that advertise children's programs, not just children's facilities. Children's programs include planned activities in addition to such amenities as a gameroom or playground. A travel agent can recommend family-friendly accommodations to meet your family's needs.

When booking a room, be sure to ask for connecting rather than adjoining rooms. Connecting rooms have a door between them whereas adjoining rooms are side-by-side with no connecting door. Also ask for a room with a refrigerator - this is especially important for families traveling with infants who will need formula and juice. Since we all know how expensive food can be at resorts, you'll also save money by keeping snacks around for hungry teenagers.

When planning activities, families are encouraged to be open to new ideas or as one agent recommended, "Have a good sense of humor and keep it!" Family members should take turns choosing the group's activities - they might even discover an interest they never knew they had. And don't forget to include children in the decision-making process. This will make them feel that this is their vacation, too, and they're not just stuck tagging along on the adults' trip. Plan back-up and optional activities for those times when everyone begins to moan and the kids start teasing each other.

Also be sure to factor in down-time so that individuals have the opportunity to pursue their own interests. Don't attempt to do everything together. Giving people their space can go a long way toward promoting group harmony.

Families traveling with infants and small children require significantly more planning, not to mention packing, but the reward of spending undivided time together is well worth it. Reserve a crib in advance and make sure there's a laundry room on the premises where you'll be staying. This will allow you to pack fewer baby clothes. Packing a light umbrella stroller and a child-carrying backpack are among the easiest ways to get around. Car seats are also recommended since they help settle little ones during feedings and quiet time. If you think you might need extra help on the plane, ask for a seat in the back. Flight attendants tend to sit there when not serving passengers.

Don't go overboard packing toys. Children tend to lose interest in them quickly, and they take up a lot of room. Pack a few small favorites and don't forget a cherished book and blanket. Always keep snacks easily accessible in a purse or fanny pack. Children might not like the food offered in foreign restaurants, hotels or on planes. A great tip for parents is to freeze juice boxes if they will be taking a long flight or walking around all day. Pack a goodie bag with surprises to distract little ones who get fussy on the plane.

Traveling with teens also requires planning. Encourage them to pack snacks, books and a CD or cassette headset in their carry-on luggage. Consider allowing older children to bring along a friend - that may help build their enthusiasm for the trip.

Whether traveling with teens or tots, parents should chronicle all vital medical information and make copies of important prescriptions. Have pagers or cellular phones available in case someone gets lost or left behind. If you don't own either, check with your travel agent about renting them. Never allow members to go anywhere alone. Remember the old camp adage: "There's safety in numbers."

Although there are many factors to consider when booking travel for the entire family, a travel agent can help make the planning stages as pleasant and exciting as your actual trip. From locating kid-friendly hotels to booking a room with a refrigerator, your experienced travel agent can take care of all the details and arrangements - even the ones you hadn't thought of. So, all you have to do is relax and enjoy your trip.


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