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Travel, as we once knew it, is officially back after nearly two years of crickets during the height of the pandemic. Luckily for families, this finally means an opportunity for long-awaited family vacations. Unfortunately, that’s not to say that the prospect of taking your family on a plane, train or even a road trip and staying the night somewhere else isn’t nerve-wracking. It’s more than understandable for parents to have reservations. This is especially true for families traveling with kids under the age of 5 who do not have the option of being vaccinated.
“Traveling internationally or taking a cruise is going to involve additional testing, so parents have to know the requirements of each country or destination they’re visiting and plan well in advance,” says Kayla LeClerc, owner of Whimsical Wishes Travel Concierge. “Adults traveling without kids, conversely, have more freedom (especially if they’re vaccinated) and can stress less about the potential hiccups of traveling with kids.”
One of the biggest challenges, according to Jennifer Spatz, founder and CEO of Global Family Travels LLC, is that each destination has a different set of rules for COVID19 entry requirements, not just in general, but also as they apply to children and COVID testing rules, which makes planning travel for families extremely complicated. “Navigating such an uncertain and complex travel landscape has made the services of experienced travel advisors, once referred to as travel agents, even more essential than ever,” she says.
Knowing the testing requirements of each country or destination is important, but so is being prepared. Whether you’ve already gone on your fair share of family vacations or are embarking on your first, here are travel expert’s best-kept tips for taking your first family vacay post-COVID.
The demand for travel is like nothing experts have seen in the last few years. In fact, many are still clearing a backlog of rescheduled 2020-2021 vacations. For this reason, inventory can be limited. That resort you’ve read about that has the best kids club and beautiful white sandy beach? Chances are everyone else has read about it, too and they’re just as excited about booking their next vacation as you are,” says LeClerc. “Don’t let them beat you to your first choice of destination, dates, resorts, rooms, etc.!”
If you see a hotel with rates that look too good to be true, it very well is. “Often hotels offer a significant discount if you’re willing to book a non-refundable rate and pay in advance,” says LeClerc. “In my opinion, now is not the time to be making plans that are inflexible, not for any amount of savings.” She recommends making sure your investment is protected as much as possible, preferably with a flexible policy for cancelling or at least rescheduling your vacation, if you need to.
Even if you’re the type who loves to plan every single detail of your family vacations, consider leaving it up to a travel pro, at least while the pandemic is still here. “We are reading, researching, and communicating about travel every day, so we are staying on top of the changing environment as well as hearing first hand stories of how families are still traveling,” says Jennifer Waigand, of Travel Reimagined, an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel. “Even if you're not 100 percent sure if you're going to travel or how comfortable you feel, reach out to a professional travel advisor.”
You’re going on vacation—you deserve to relax, explore and enjoy your destination. In the thick of COVID, this can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you’ve spent time sheltering in place. To minimize your anxiety or the discomfort of your family, Lea Satterfield, financial coach and founder of Money Minded Momma, suggests looking for opportunities to enjoy a small or private experience. “If you are traveling to a destination and internet searches reveal there are things your family would like to do, call ahead,” she says. “Talking with the business about opportunities that may fit what your family will be comfortable with ahead of time will reduce your stress when it comes to enjoying your vacation outings.”
In most popular tourist destinations, you can rent baby items, either through the hotel or resort you’re staying at or through a third-party company like Baby Quip or Baby’s Away. Most of the time, you can rent pretty much everything you need from car seats and high chairs to strollers and toys. In the same vein, you can opt to purchase items like diapers, beach toys, sunscreen and toiletries at your destination, so you don’t have to worry about fitting them in your suitcase.
Families that choose to drive to their destination may be hurting for extra luggage space. A great fix for this is to pack up those items and ship them. “You can of course use UPS; however, if you aren’t using one of their flat rate mailers, costs can get high really quickly,” says Satterfield. “If you are a last-minute packer use FedEx express shipping to make sure your items make it on time, but if you can plan ahead, use UPS as their ground shipping will likely be lower cost.” Traveling internationally? Her recommendation in that case is FedEx.
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