Travel Agent Tips for Planning a Family Vacation
By: Suzanne Bradley
Working with a travel agency can be difficult if you are planning a family vacation. Typically, couples without children are much more flexible, so if you have kids, make sure your travel agency can accommodate your special travel needs. Here are some tips for planning a family vacation with a travel agency:
Tip #1: Let your agent know the ages your children will be during the vacation.
When you book a trip, you typically are working at least a few months in advance. While this may not seem like a big deal for you, in that time, your child’s age may change. Your travel agent needs to know this information. Sometimes, prices only apply to children in a certain age group, so if your child goes from being 12 to 13, a new fee structure may apply. In addition, if your child turns 18 before the trip, doors for new activities may open. The same is true for other ages. For example, a swim with the dolphins activity may specify that a child under the age of 14 needs to be accompanied by a guardian. If your child has a birthday before the vacation, you may be able to do that activity because he or she now meets the requirements. Be mindful of the documents your child needs to travel too, as they may change at different ages.
Tip #2: Talk about specific scheduling concerns.
Some children are very set in their schedules. If this is the case, you need to let your travel agency know the best time for flights and other travel. You want this to be a good experience for everyone. While you may have to make some adjustments, if it is just as easy for you to book an afternoon flight as it is to book an evening flight, you may want to specify your preference based on when your child normally eats and sleeps.
Tip #3: Be age appropriate.
Sometimes, travel agents try to talk you into purchasing tickets with neat entertainment options. That’s great…but can your kids go? Make sure that anything you plan before you leave is age appropriate. You can’t very well call a babysitter when you are on vacation! Also consider the hotel in which you stay. With a few children under the age of ten, a five-star hotel might not make as much sense as a family-friendly resort.
Tip #4: Book your flight early.
The sooner you book you flight, the more options you will have. This doesn’t just have to do with scheduling. If you get your tickets early enough, you may also be able to request seating together or near the airplane’s bathroom. Booking early also helps prevent problems should the flight be overbooked. When that happens, the last people to book their flights get bumped to a different flight, and you don’t want your group to be split up if you’re traveling with kids.
Tip #5: Look for Disney alternatives.
Disney World is the quintessential family vacation. This is not your only option, though. Disney vacations can be expensive when you consider all the money you’ll spend on merchandise and "extras" for the kids. That place is built to get parents to spend money. Other alternatives can still be fun for your kids without being quite as expensive. Make it clear from the start that you want something as fun as Disney, but without going to that theme park. If Disney is the only child-friendly package they have available, you might want to work with a different travel agency.
Tip #6: Sign a flexible agreement.
If you’re traveling with young children, it is usually a good idea to sign as flexible of an agreement as possible. Kids get sick, break bones, and otherwise cause travel problems fairly regularly, and if you have to cancel your vacation, you don’t want to end up paying for it in full. Most travel agencies will require a deposit, but look for one that will transfer that money to a different travel date if you have to change your plans. That way, if junior comes down with the flu you can switch your vacation to another month without losing any money.
Tip #7: Work with a child-friendly agency.
Before you start working with a travel agency, ask them about their experience working with families. A company that offers a number of amusement park packages is probably a better company for you than one who primarily books spring break trips. Most agencies have experience with families to some extent, but the best travel agency for you will have booked many family trips in the past. Their extra experience will give you tons of perks when you travel as a family.
Shawn Thomas is a freelance writer who writes about the travel industry and vacation tips, often discussing a particular aspect of the travel industry such as working with travel agents.
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