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November 2011
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February 2012

Family TravelLet me first start by saying that I’m a seasoned business traveler. However, all of that experience left me unprepared for the first family vacation with my newly blended family - which includes three children. I lived and learned and hope you’ll benefit from my experience.

The security line on the outbound flight was just the beginning of the adventure. Grandma had very kindly packed the kids up for the trip. I made the completely off-the-mark assumption that she was up to date on security protocols. Each child had a minimum of one item that flagged their bags in the security line – juice boxes, plastic bottles with Snapple, and a water bottle to name a few. All of these items were lovingly packed with the best of intentions by a Grandma just wanting them to have their favorite beverages available to them on the trip.

As it turned out, I was the worst offender of all. My purse got the dreaded “bag check.” As each item got pulled out, I wondered what in the world that I, the road warrior, could have possibly missed. As the sleek black case got removed from the bottom of my purse, I gasped in horror. “Oh no, I left my darts in my purse from dart team last week,” I exclaimed. My face turned shades of red that I didn’t even know were possible.

This trip was off to an interesting start for sure.

When we finally arrived at our destination in Sunny California, 6 hours of flying were behind us. And so was our sanity. The kids were unprepared to now have to hike another hour and a half in the rental car. So began the choruses of “he touched me” and “shut up.” On top of it all, we had completely failed on our food intake. Not only were the children cranky, but so were Mom and Dad.

We crammed a lot of activities into our trip – typically more than one in a day. For example, it seemed like a great idea at the time to combine seeing Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive and the Griffith Observatory into one day. After all, who wants to drive in L.A. traffic twice? It seemed like such as efficient plan. If we had a dollar for every time we got short with one another that day, the trip would be paid for and we could probably afford a small vacation home in Southern California to boot.

So, what tips do I have for your family travels over the holidays?

  1. Do a quick check of all of the carry-on bags right before you leave the house. Kids have a funny way of sneaking things into their backpacks when you’re not looking. Grandmas are equally guilty.
  2. Plan activities for the car and plane rides. If you don’t have room to pack actual games, you can make games out of seeing how many different state license plates or certain restaurants you see. 
  3. Check online to see if there are area passes that you can purchase for multiple activities. As it turned out, we could have saved about $50 a person if we realized these passes existed for our trip.
  4. Don’t pack your bags too full on the way out the door. As much as you say you’ll resist the temptation to buy tchotchkes, your children will look at you with those big eyes and you will fail. Miserably. Leave room for these lovely treasures to get packed in your suitcases for the trip home.
  5. Bring way more batteries than you think you’ll need for the camera. Don’t forget an extra large storage card or a laptop and camera cable.
  6. While you can’t bring your favorite drinks onto planes, you can bring snacks. Pack plenty of snack bags for your entire trip so no one gets cranky due to hungriness.
  7. Grin and bear it. While you’re sure to drive each other nuts on your trip, as soon as you get home, only happy memories will remain. Studies have been done that show that as adults, we rarely remember the presents we were given, but almost always remember family vacations. You are giving your family the best gift of all as you create these memories that will last a lifetime. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays on behalf of all of us at Travel Insurance Services and USI Affinity. Enjoy your trip – whether it is across the country or across town to Grandma’s house.

Cuddle Class Image from Air New ZealandIf you happen to be flying from Los Angeles to Auckland and need to cuddle with your honey to get some sleep, you’re in luck! Air New Zealand is now offering you this opportunity on the airline's new Boeing 777-300ER jets in seating being called “Cuddle Class.” While it’s not exactly the giant, cozy bed you might be accustomed to at home, the airline seeks to help you get your winks by also providing you with a seat covering, fleece blanket and two full-size pillows to make Cuddle Class as comfortable as possible.

So how exactly does this work? Couples purchase their two seats plus the third seat next to them (usually around half of the price the seat would cost if you bought it solo). You and your favorite cuddler then lay sideways (yes, with your feet hanging into the aisle). Since the airline also had to make the aisle smaller to accommodate the three-seat layout, those middle-of-the-night bathroom trips might be even more challenging as you wade through the sea of feet blocking your path.

Although the systems of most travel agents haven’t been adjusted to handle booking seats in Cuddle Class, you will be able to book your flight directly through the airline.

Not planning on traveling to New Zealand anytime soon, but still looking to make your airline snooze time more comfortable? Here are a few tips:

  • If you’re willing and able to do your duties in an emergency, exit rows usually offer a little more leg room to stretch out and snooze. 

  • Find a travel kit to meet your sleeping needs. We found a great one that holds a blanket, eye mask and inflatable pillow inside a soft zipped case that becomes the pillowcase.

  • Some people find a “C” shaped travel pillow just what they need to support their necks while they slumber off.

  • Keep your shades on to help block out the light a little so your body doesn’t think it’s time to be awake. 

Let us know your favorite tips and tricks for catching a few Z’s when you’re in the air.