The best family travel advice for the year aheadFebruary 12, 2019
I’ve spent an hour talking about the subject of family travel advice on NPR. I’ve corresponded with other family travelers for hours. But more importantly, in the years that I’ve been on the road, my kids — ages 12, 14, and 16 — have shared their best family travel advice with yours truly. Lucky me!
Here’s the thing: There’s no best family travel advice. Everyone’s experience is different, just like everyone’s family is different. But there are, to put it in business jargon, a few best practices. OK, call it “best advice” if you want.
So as this feature turns one, I thought I’d review the best family travel advice I’ve dispensed in the past year. If I had to sum it up, here’s what I’d say: Take care of your basic needs, mind your manners and explain the reason for your trip to the fam. Everything else is details.
You can never get enough entertainment, food — or rest
When people hear that I’ve been traveling with three kids for the last eight years, they often ask me the secret to keeping it together. I don’t hesitate.
“Give them plenty of food and rest,” I say.
I know, I sound like a doctor. But let’s unpack that advice a little.
When you’re traveling, you’re surrounded by food. Junk food. Burgers, fries, hot dogs, chips — they are filled with chemicals and preservatives and make kids irritable.
That’s why I always stock up before I go anywhere. Quiz your kids about their favorite foods — make sure the choices are healthy — and then buy twice what you think you need. I guarantee it’ll be gone by the time you arrive.
Rest is important too. Most serious fights between siblings break out after a deficit of rest — a long plane ride, a marathon drive.
Boredom can be a factor. That’s why I recommend a device thoughtfully stocked with movies and documentaries. More important, bring books. Real books that don’t require a screen or batteries. Because devices run out of power, and you can only stare out the window for a finite amount of time.
In other words, take care of your basic needs. If you fail to do so, you’ll pay the price soon. Can you say “chaos”?
Politeness can take you far
As a consumer advocate, I often talk about the value of politeness when you’re trying to resolve a dispute. But it’s never more important than when everyone else is being rude.
Case in point: Last year, my kids and I were stuck in New York’s JFK airport when JetBlue Airways canceled a connecting flight back home. I stood in a long line and watched in horror as angry passengers chewed out the ticket agents.
After a one-hour wait, it was our turn. I took a deep breath and, even though I wanted to give the agent a piece of my mind, I turned on the charm. JetBlue (with an assist from my capable travel agent) quickly fixed the problem, covering a hotel and meals, and paying for my next flight out. Something tells me the yellers didn’t get…