We’ve faced a brutal stretch of winter weather here in the Tri-State. We’ve still got a ways to go until springtime, but if you’re thinking about getting away from the dreary conditions and into the sunshine, we’ve got tips and suggestions on how to plan your next vacation. With all that goes with it – the expectations, the preparation, the anticipation and the aggravation – there’s a lot to consider. CBSNewYork spoke with Kim Orlando of Traveling Mom for tips and tricks to make your dream vacation a reality. By Shari Simpson-Cabelin.

Where to go?

There are things to consider when narrowing down a short list of possible vacation destinations:

1. Your budget
2. Your family’s interests
3. The amount of time that you will have, including travel time
4. How much (or how little) planning you want to do
5. How much (or how little) time you want to spend with your kids and how much time they want to spend with you (teenagers, anyone?)

There are sites that can actually do some of this work for you like the very new and very fun Wanderfly, which lets you enter budget, interests and time, and then spits out a bunch of trip possibilities. Or you can just listen to experts like Kim Orlando who gives her top 5 destinations for a winter vacation for New Yorkers:

1. Atlantis, Bahamas
2. Vermont
3. Florida
4. London
5. A cruise

If the thought of forking over the big bucks for a sunny beach or a European trip gives you a stomachache, Orlando was quick to say that distance/dollars are not necessary for a great family vacation. There are a number of very close locations that will make a family feel like they’ve seriously escaped the city grind. Here are the top five:

1. Great Wolf Lodge, Poconos
2. Hershey Park, PA
3. CocoKey Resort, NJ
4. Mohonk Mountain House, NY
5. Split Rock Resort with H20ooohh! Indoor Water Park, PA

And for any family vacation, the main decision: all-inclusive or self-planned? There is a great deal of dollar value in all-inclusive vacations while there is a great deal of flexibility and satisfaction in planning the details yourself. Your choice.

What to bring?

There are plenty of “Packing List” Web sites out there, like The Family Vacation Survival Guide, and Orlando has a few essentials of her own.

Her first tip: Pack a power strip for crowded airports and hotels.

And while some might think the best traveling snacks are anything that keep the kids happy – and quiet – Orlando disagrees. She recommends healthy snacks like fruit, cheese and whole grain crackers. One thing you don’t want in the midst of traveling are “kids who are spike-y and crash-y,” as she put it.

With this in mind, do let kids have some input into snacks and travel items. Letting your kids pack their own backpacks with favorite foods, toys and a lightweight change of clothes makes them feel like they are a part of the planning and the trip. And bring lots of electronics, but make sure that kids spend a decent amount of the trip “unplugged”, particularly teenagers for whom electronics are like a “breathing apparatus”.

But the most important thing to take on a family vacation, according to Orlando, is travel insurance. If you have small children, there’s always the chance that he or she will get sick the day before the big trip. Also, if a flight is canceled, you don’t want to get stuck in an airport for days with kids.

Try Travel Guard. Take into consideration their tagline: Because a vacation can take a year to save for, and only a second to ruin. Be sure to get a MedEvac plan that provides medical coverage and air evacuation services, including medical transportation to the nearest adequate medical facility and then home if necessary.

What To Know

Orlando laughed when asked what New York families should know about winter family travel. She laughed, “Well, I assume they know to dress warmly.”

Her other suggestion: Try not to travel on peak days; do your best to travel a few days before and after the insane New York road and airport traffic.

And while it is important to plan ahead, it is also important to leave room for spontaneity.

“We are a last minute society,” Orlando said. “If you can be flexible, last minute deals on Kayak and Easy Click can save you some big bucks.”

Orlando opts not to use travel agencies when booking her own family vacations, but admits they can be extremely helpful because of their expertise and relationships with airlines, hotels, etc. Just make sure to use one with a great reputation like Liberty Travel or Travelcraft .

Lastly, Traveling Mom had an opinion about why travel is so important for kids. “I won’t use the word ‘educational,’” she said. “But travel expands kids’ perspective and they don’t have to go far to do it. Travel teaches you a lot about yourself; it’s you, but in a new situation, a new environment. Oh, and it’s fun.”

Shari Simpson-Cabelin blogs at Earth Mother just means I’m dusty (http://www.dustyearthmother.com/)


Leave a Reply