It's summertime, and the travel is not always so easy. Tourist attractions are crowded and TSA is busy. So, we asked travel agents for some ideas on how to beat the crowds and the heat to have the best family vacation ever. Here’s what they said:
1. Plan ahead.
Use your precious travel time wisely by doing as much in advance as possible, suggests Roy Gal of Memories Forever Travel Group in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Book your excursions and tours and even restaurants before you leave home, or ask your travel agent to do it for you.
2. Don’t miss the boat. Or the plane.
Make sure to leave enough travel time to arrive at the airport or cruise ship no matter how bad the summer traffic might be, says Laurie Ann Delaney Bahna of Cruises, Inc., in Plainview, New York. And at Amanda’s Travels in Lawrence, Kansas, owner Amanda Storm suggests that “even though most agents will put your documents in a day-by-day order, you still need to remember to read them. If there is something very important for you to see, make an appointment on your electronic calendar (with a reminder 12 hours and 3 hours prior) or set an alarm on your phone. Traveling for long periods of time can make you lose track of days. It would be so sad if you miss out on the tour you have been waiting to see because you get your days mixed up.”
3. Check your travel documents.
Make sure the expiration date on your passport is more than six months past your return date, and that you have any necessary paperwork to travel to your destination. If you are traveling with minors who have different last names from yours or without one parent, bring a notarized letter giving you permission to take them, and their birth certificate and passport, says Phyllis Samowitz of SmartFlyer. And check the spelling of your name on all your flight reservations and documents in advance.
4. Say yes to travel insurance.
Summer storms or sudden illness can ruin both your best-laid plans and your budget. Buy some peace of mind by opting for a travel insurance plan, says Marge Lenau, owner of Wonderland Family Vacations, LLC, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
5. The more the merrier.
Make it a true family trip by inviting extended family and friends to join you. The cousins and friends will help keep the kids entertained and “you can throw all the kids in that adjoining room and actually save some money and get a great vacation,” suggests Heather Di Pietro, owner of TravelSalesGroup in Charlotte, North Carolina. But, adds Helen Prochilo, owner of Promal Vacations in Long Beach, New York, “it’s imperative to book early — six months or more, depending on where you are going — to get the cabins or rooms you need” for even a small group.
6. Bring along some basic first aid.
“Sunburn can really ruin your vacation, and sunscreen is an expensive purchase if you need to buy it,” so bring more than you think you will need, says Toni Day, president of Toni Tours Inc. in Levittown, New York. If you are headed to a cruise ship or foreign destination, pack some Band-Aids, aspirin, decongestants and Imodium, too, says Travelstore owner Cathy Udovch in Irvine, California. “Cruise ship medical facilities charge an arm and a leg, and trying to negotiate a pharmacy in another country can be daunting.”
7. Take a picture.
Carry a photo of your passport in case you lose the original when you travel abroad. And if you are traveling with children, take a picture of them in the morning just in case you get separated and others have to help you look for them, suggests Kelley Austin, owner of a Cruise Planners franchise in Navasota, Texas.
8. Remember to have fun.
“If you make a jam-packed schedule, it won’t feel like a vacation. Take time to breathe and let things happen on their own,” suggests Ashley Bennington, a mother of four kids under 12, at JCo Travel LLC in Rochester, New York. “Some of the best memories are made when you are doing nothing but being together.” At Go Away Often Travel in Nanuet, New York, Memory Creator Scott Walters puts it succinctly: “Lower your expectations. Expect delays, meltdowns and crowds. Pack your patience. Know that in most cases, if you miss something, it will be there next time.”