When heading out on vacation, the biggest decision you’ll make is how to get there. Do you drive or fly? If you fly, you can get there sooner and spend more time at your destination. Driving is more budget friendly, but it takes a couple of extra days out of your vacation time.
In my travels, I’ve driven and flown to dozens of destinations. On some airplane trips, I would have been satisfied with driving, and on some car trips, I wish I’d been born with wings. But for the most part, we made the best decision we could with the information and resources we had. If you’re trying to decide, here’s a handy 3-step formula you can use to help make your decision.
How far is your destination?
I typically won’t fly anywhere if I can make the drive in less than six hours. If I fly, I get to the airport two hours early, and it takes me at least 45 minutes to drive, park, and get inside. My flight will take at least one hour. Then I have to disembark, walk to the rental car counter, get my car, and drive to the hotel, all about two hours after the plane touches down. And if I take the hotel shuttle, then I’m without ground transportation.
This all takes at least 5.5 hours.
But if I drive, I can take the same amount of time, and have my car with me in a new city, which lets me explore on my own. I’m in control of my progress and circumstances.
Have you ever wondered where lost luggage goes? Contrary to stories you may have heard, it doesn’t get landfilled, and the airline staff don’t divvy up their findings at the office holiday party.
While only 2% of all checked luggage is ever truly “lost,” that’s still quite a lot of stuff that never finds its original owner.
Instead, all the lost luggage in the United States is taken to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. There the bags are opened, and their contents are sorted, tagged and sold to interested consumers for anywhere from 50 – 80% off. The Center processes roughly 1 million items per year. Items like jewelry, electronics, and even wedding gowns are sold in the Center. The rest is either thrown away or donated to charities.
For many people, pets are a part of the family. They would no sooner be left behind on vacation than one of the children.
But if you want to travel with your pet, whether by car or by plane, there are a few things I recommend you do to make sure your furry companion is comfortable and less stressed.
Traveling By Car
If you’re traveling by car, pack a pet carrier, whether a collapsible soft-sided or hard-sided model. Depending your pet’s size, the right carrier may not fit into your car, so make sure you test this out before purchasing one. You may not want to keep your pet in her carrier the entire trip, but if you do, there are a few things you need to remember.
- Keep your pet in the back seat. Air bags can cause serious injury in case of an accident.
- There are special “sky boxes” for small dogs, and I’ve seen seat belt harnesses for larger dogs. Cats should ride in enclosed carriers, however.
- Make several stops so your pet can have a bathroom break. They may be nervous about riding in a car, and may have to go more often than they do at home. Also, be sure to clean up after your animal. Don’t leave “anything” behind. Read more
When you travel with children, you long for the day that they’re old enough to have their own luggage and carry it or pull it behind them. When my kids were 4 or 5, we got them their own suitcase, complete with favorite cartoon character on it. It didn’t hold much, although we could fit a week’s worth of clothes into the tiny bag, and they could pull it behind them.
Now that they’re older, they’re responsible for packing their own suitcases when we travel. The only problem is, my 14-year-old son doesn’t want to be seen with a Thomas the Tank Engine suitcase anymore. Ditto for my daughters and their Hello Kitty bags.
When they were old enough, they wanted new suitcases to reflect their individuality and personal style. But as their father the travel writer, I got them bags that were functional and practical instead, without all the screened print designs. Here was my reasoning.
1. Your luggage will last for years. Your personal style will change.
I got my first suitcase when I was 27, and I carried it on flights for about 15 years. Then I got my first Travelpro bag and I was a convert. It was so much lighter and roomier. And because I took good care of it, I’m still carting it around with me.
How important is the family friendliness of an airline to you? For some family travelers, they see the plane as a means of getting from point A to point B. For others, vacation begins the moment they lock the front door, and flying is a part of the experience.
Either way, if you’ve only got a limited number of days to travel, there’s no reason to make even a few hours miserable. And as everyone knows, if
Mama the kids aren’t happy, then nobody’s happy.
Some airlines have figured this out. They’re working to be as family friendly and fun as possible, as a way to attract more vacationing families.
I saw a recent article on the Huffington Post about some family-friendly airlines around the world. They’re offering reduced child fares, children’s food menus, and even child-oriented entertainment, all geared toward infants, toddlers, and children under 12. Here are a few airlines to consider for your next family vacation.
I remember the first time I ever flew with any of my kids. We had just adopted our oldest daughter, Madison, at a year old, and were flying home from Bolivia with her. She had been such a good child during our month in Santa Cruz, so we assumed she would be fine on the airplane.
We may have overestimated her patience and goodwill just a little. Not too badly, but enough that we knew we needed to prepare next time.
I dodged that bullet when my wife, Toni, brought our second oldest daughter, Emma, home from Haiti five years later. She took that trip by herself, while I stayed home with Maddie.
But we had learned enough those times, so when Toni brought our son, Ben, back from Haiti two years later, his flight was about what you’d expect: some crying, some drama, but nothing she couldn’t handle. I, of course, stayed home to be with our girls, so I missed out on all the fun.
Thanks to technology, there are all new kinds of travel gadgets you can use to make your life easier on your next vacation. But this article isn’t yet another regurgitation of the same old “get a cheap tablet” advice. We all know those:
- A cheap tablet that uses wifi only.
- A portable DVD player for backseat video viewing.
- Better yet, a small laptop for DVD viewing; it can double as your travel laptop at the hotel.
Those are all great gadgets, and I highly recommend them. But there are are a few gadgets that you may not have considered. At the very least, they’ll make life easier, and maybe even save you some money.
Adults are pretty easy to entertain when we fly. We can read, watch TV or movies on our iPad, or play Words With Friends with our cousin in Spokane. Most adults have it pretty easy because we’re mature, we’re patient, and we don’t rely on others to entertain us for hours.
Flying with kids is a whole different ballgame.
Flying with kids is a whole different sport.
If you thought car travel was bad, taking kids on a plane trip can be much, much worse. That’s because the people in the car next to you don’t give you dirty looks or think you’re the Worst Humans On Earth because your child gets a little grumpy two hours into a five hour flight.
So how can you keep your kids entertained while they’re on the flight?
When it comes to vacation, packing for babies and toddlers can take twice as long and require twice as much stuff as a single adult. And packing for small children — 4, 5, 6 years old — can be a chore, because they want to take everything.
My brother, Andrew, has a three-year-old and one-year-old, and my Branding Yourself co-author, Kyle, recently had a baby. Andrew isn’t traveling much yet, but Kyle and his family have already been down to Florida. And of course, I remember my own days of traveling on a plane and in the car with my kids when they were young.
So here are a few pieces of Travel Dad advice I have for them when it comes to packing for babies, toddlers, and young families: