Top tips for travelling with kids over the summer break

As hundreds of thousands of families prepare to jet off on their summer holidays, British Airways has prepared a list of top tips for travelling with children.

Father of two and senior cabin crew member, Justin Cox says: “As a parent I understand that travelling with kids can at first seem like a daunting prospect, but it really needn’t be. After my 12 years as BA cabin crew I have found that flying can be made more comfortable and even fun for kids by following a few simple pointers.”

If you plan to take your own car seat for the flight, check with your airline before travelling to make sure the seat fits the airline’s criteria, as different airlines have different requirements.

Before your child’s first flight in their own seat, sit them on the sofa at home with a cushion between you as the armrest, explaining how it’s going to be on board.

Take a small compact travel pushchair for easy cabin stowage onboard – regular sized pushchairs or strollers will normally have to go as hold luggage.

Pack their favourite teddy, pillow or comfort blanket – to help them get to sleep more easily and make it feel more like home.

Sometimes waiting for take-off or leaving the aircraft can be boring for young children – a bag of treats can work well at this point as a distraction.

While visiting the flight deck mid-flight is no longer allowed, if you ask the crew they are usually happy to arrange for children to see flight deck after landing.

If you are flying somewhere with a big time difference try to allow yourselves two days when you get back to give your children time to get back into UK time and their normal routine, before they go back to nursery or school.

British Airways prides itself on the levels of customer service it offers to families and children.

On longhaul flights the airline has a special child friendly menu, which parents can book free of charge in advance. Children are also given out entertainment packs as they take their seats on longhaul flights.

The airline will also help to arrange seats in advance of check-in opening to ensure families can sit together on their holidays.

Cabin crew and pilots will also do their very best to ensure that children flying with British Airways have a smooth journey.

Senior first officer and mother of two, Carley Lear, adds: “Many pilots, including myself, fell in love with flying at a very young age so we are usually pleased to share our enthusiasm with kids who want to learn more. Children of all ages are very welcome to come to the flight deck to meet the pilots. The best time is after landing when passengers are disembarking. We sometimes have stickers and postcards for children and will be more than happy to talk about flying and what all the controls and buttons on the flight deck do. Budding young pilots of the future can also ask their pilot to sign their junior flight log-book which they can get from the cabin crew for free during the flight.”

Senior cabin crew member, Justin Cox adds: “The in-flight entertainment system is great and provides a wide range of kids programmes, movies and music and I always pack a portable DVD player or a pre-programmed iPod with my kids’ favourites as well. Also, I always try to avoid taking games with lots of fiddly bits like jigsaws. They’re likely to get lost during the flight and cause upset when you arrive at your destination!”

Brit’s are choosing quality over quantity when it comes to this years breaks

Online Hotel Provider Sees Increase in DomesticBookings at the Expense of Europe With bookings for the summer holidays ramping up over May and June, the travel experts at Octopustravel.com have noticed a trend in customers trading up to hotels that are 3* and above, with 90% of customers now opting for this quality of stay. This trend is also countered by the increase in short term stays as opposed to longer breaks which are experiencing a dip in bookings. It seems that Brits are looking for better quality stays at the expense of longer trips, perhaps still conscious of the ongoing economic pressures, with one night stays seeing a significant increase of more than 10% on last years figures.

To avoid costly international travel with expensive taxes inflating prices even further, Brits are also choosing to stay closer to home. In fact, Octopustravel.com has experienced an increase of nearly 15% on UK bookings in comparison to this time last year. Potentially encouraged by recent sunny spells and Mediterranean temperatures, Octopustravel.com has seen a significant boost in UK city breaks targeting cities such as Leeds, London, Liverpool, York and Birmingham. Looking at the opposite end of the scale, Italy has seen the biggest drop in customers booking through the site, with a 6% drop in sales.

Kevin Currie of Octopus Travel said: “It’s really interesting to see how British consumers are changing their spending patterns and prioritising quality over the length of their holidays. With our recently launched up to 50% off summer sale we hope to help out Brits this summer by providing our customers with hotels which don’t break the bank, but also match their expectations for the quality of properties they want to stay in.”

The only exception to the rule appears to be trips to the United States which have experienced a small amount of growth. With the pound continuing to strengthen against the dollar, this may be helping to boost revenue stateside.

Ensure summer safety with a current passport for your child

The advent of the summer season brings schoolchildren, newly released from the confines of the classroom, ready to explore the outside world, make new friends, and enjoy new experiences. Summer is a time when families can reconnect, enjoy quality time together, and create lasting memories.

Modern parents now recognize the great benefits of bringing children along on summer travels, whether near or far. Elementary school-aged children are at a wonderful juncture to absorb the many and varied experiences which travel abroad provides. From vastly different cuisine to the richness of new climates and languages, children will recall the wonder of these new experiences for many years to come. High-schoolers may gain lasting impressions from the “culture shock” of many days immersed in locales without wireless Internet or familiar foods.

Increasingly complicated regulations for air travel can put a damper on plans to capture these fleeting summer days exploring new cultures as a family. In addition to the practical logistics of planning any journey, many parents remain unaware that passports must be obtained for each family member, including children of all ages, as well as infants. In addition, most parents are not aware that a very specific subset of regulations applies to obtaining passports for their children. Parents or a legal guardian must present valid evidence of a child’s US citizenship, present valid personal identification, provide evidence of parental relation or legal guardianship, and take a signed oath, in person, before an authorized passport agent. Further information pertaining to passports for minors are available for consumers on the US State Department website at www. travel.state.gov .

Once these required steps have been completed, a child’s passport is then subject to the standard federal processing time of 4-6 weeks. Utilizing a passport expediter while preparing for a family vacation can not only help speed along a lengthy “to do” list, it can ensure that the passport application and delivery process are supervised by qualified professionals. Travel Document Systems, Inc. Vice President, Dean Orbell, noted:

“Most parents don’t realize that stringent travel documentation requirements extend to the whole family, and are surprised when they learn that obtaining proper documentation for their young children can be a major roadblock to successful family vacations. We are delighted to assist so many customers annually with fulfilling their child passport needs.”

Travel experts highly recommend asking children to pitch in with trip planning. Helping to choose an itinerary, to pack their own bags, and to decide some of the daily activities can all positively engage children in their trip abroad. With preparation and qualified professional assistance, international vacations can be delightful for the whole family.

Destinations for your Star Sign – Let Uranus Decide

With just two weeks to go before the next long weekend, the UK’s leading website for flight price search and comparison provides travellers with new ways to be inspired in the search for their next short break. With a world of destination choices including flights to Lanzarote, Rome, and other European spots, the site can help customers narrow down the options for their next trip.

“Having polled different star signs internally to uncover their travel personality, we found that while individual tastes may vary in general, the ideal destination choices that were made shared many of the same characteristics as their horoscope personas,” says Nadine Hallak, Travel Expert for Cheapflights.co.uk.

“Personally, while I’m not typical of my own sign, I found that the starry description fit my travel personality incredibly accurately,” adds Hallak.

So whether you’re a fiery Aries, earthy Taurean, aquatic Scorpio, or airy Aquarius, put a little ‘horo’ in your travel scope for the upcoming long weekend and be inspired by destinations to match your personality.

Here we explore 5 of the 12 star signs and what their ideal destinations would be for a short break as well as what their dream destinations are for a more extended holiday.

TAURUS: Taureans love their comforts. An earth sign, they don’t like to stray too far into the unknown. Routine and familiarity is prized highly by Taurean travellers. You got a beach? They’ll laze there, all day long. Taureans are also drawn to the natural world. Getting back to basics, where true values hold sway, is important.

Destinations ideal for short breaks: Paris, Rome, Tallinn

Dream destinations: Auckland, Hawaii

SCORPIO: Dynamic, passionate and independent, Scorpios make great solo travellers. They’re drawn to exotic destinations, diverse landscapes and plenty of colour. There should also be lots going on so that Scorpio travellers can expend all that energy they have. They like structured holidays, but not so much that every moment is accounted for. A holiday that combines some type of personal growth (a yoga course, for example) in a beautiful setting is heaven.

Destinations ideal for short breaks: Barcelona, Crete, Sardinia

Dream destinations: Argentina, Maldives

CANCER: Another home-loving sign. Not surprising when you consider that its symbol is a crab. Wherever they go, their house – and all who live there – come too. Holidays with loved ones in destinations that deliver on comfort and the good things in life are high on their list.

Destinations for short breaks: Budapest, Bodrum, the Greek Isles

Dream destinations: Amman, St. Petersburg, Lebanon

LEO: Leos know their place. It’s in the sun. The destination they choose to holiday in should be just as stunning as they are, but not more so. Leos love to be admired and you’ll find the skimpiest of beach wear in their suitcases as they climb aboard flights to Miami and similar, sun kissed destinations glamorous enough to show off their toned physiques and all-round gorgeousness.

Destinations for short breaks: South of France, Capri, Monaco

Dream destinations: Miami, Seychelles

GEMINI: Gemini sets the pace on holiday and it’s a fast one. Energetic, adventurous and brimming over with childlike curiosity, they need constant stimulation, lots to see and do, and other travellers. Gemini travellers need more than just a beautiful beach. Ideally they’d have a beach, with a small village close by, preferably with mountains, ruins and museums and a metropolis for urban adventures.

Destinations for short breaks: Tuscany, Provence, Valencia

Dream destinations: Egypt, South America

Eat, Pray, Love is Out, But is it a Reality for Most Wannabe Travellers?

Recent release Eat, Pray, Love is a travel movie that’s been capturing attention throughout the USA and bringing international travel back into the spotlight. Based on the New York Times best-seller by Elizabeth Gilbert, the film stars Julia Roberts as a recent divorcee who takes up a life of travel in an effort to put her past behind her and gain a new understanding of life.

It’s a film that’s bringing a forgotten subject – long-term international travel – back into the spotlight and into the realm of possibility. But alongside the film’s encouraging tone and realistic portrayal of travel is a theme that many critics find slightly offensive – the idea that the movie’s premise is able to be lived out by any recently divorced woman.

There’s little doubt that the journey portrayed in Eat, Pray, Love is likely to have been an expensive one – Roberts’ character visits Italy, India, and Indonesia on her way to discovering happiness. But claiming that the movie’s premise is offensive because of its potential expense isn’t a thought that is sitting well with the film’s supporters, particularly those that have found travel therapeutic.

The reality of long-term travel is slightly different from what’s portrayed in Eat, Pray, Love, as most filmgoers would expect. There’s more stress, more indecision, and significantly more expenses than the film reveals, but it is a film. Suspension of disbelief needn’t fail to apply when a subject appears that is within the realms of possibility – it occasionally needs to appear more than ever.

Eat, Pray, Love is an entertaining look at long-term travel as a form of therapy. It’s far from the grit-filled travel movie many would appreciate, although it’s also quite an inspiring artistic piece. It your travel plans are moving a little too slowly, let it act as a shot of caffeine for your long-term holiday or sabbatical, prompting you to invest more time in planning and much more money in travel itself.

Could Travel Bridge Vietnam’s Economic Gaps with the West?

Over the last decade, Vietnam has emerged as one of Asia’s most accessible and exciting travel and leisure destinations. It’s an unusual development, particularly as the country was one of the world’s most tightly controlled and economically inaccessible just twenty years ago. As Vietnam increases its ties with the United States, the surge in international visitors could speed up development.

It’s the summer of 2010, and Saigon’s large boulevards are showing signs of rapid development and economic improvement. While the rest of the world has spent the last three years fighting off major recessions, Vietnam has been in a state of nationwide development and economic improvement. The economic capital’s streets are teeming with activity, much of it dedicated to tourism and travel.

An estimated 4.2 million tourists visited Vietnam in 2008 – a huge increase from figures released in the previous decade. Development of numerous high-end hotels in Saigon and capital Hanoi seems to be speeding up the process even more significantly, with Vietnam eyeing up Thailand’s fourteen million visitors annually as a potential target.

While the country’s rapidly developing economy brings in the bulk of its income, many within the country believe that exposure to international visitors could help Vietnam’s educational sector and economy. The country, previously a tightly controlled communist economy, is now one of the most open and trade-based in the world, taking on investment capital from the United States and Europe.

Economists claim that international exposure has helped Vietnam’s development, citing its recent military cooperation with the United States as proof that economic interests can override national rhetoric and history. With tourism constantly increasing and overseas investment arriving at speeds unheard of internationally, it seems as if travel could be a major economic bridge for Vietnam.

Flying With Pets: Which Airlines are Best?

Last week’s American Airlines puppy disaster has prompted an evaluation of how airlines treat and handle pets. The airline has been blamed for the death of seven puppies, all of which were stored in the aircraft’s pressurized and temperature regulated cargo hold. It’s raised some serious questions for those of us that prefer to travel with pets, most obviously – which airline treats animals safely?

American Airlines has spoken directly to several media outlets, claiming that it recommends owners of short-nosed animals such as puppies or young kittens avoid flying with their pets. Due to changes in pressure and temperature while at air, many animals can develop breathing problems while in the storage area of a commercial airliner, leading to discomfort and occasional death.

Surprisingly, it was low-cost airline JetBlue that topped recent polls of satisfaction amongst travel gurus and pet owners. The survey, carried out by online pet website PetFinder.com, covered major commercial airlines throughout the United States. JetBlue was ranked highly due to its treatment of animals and limited fees for small household pets, particularly cats and dogs.

Taking a slightly less convenient first place was PetAirways, a speciality airline built for pet owners and animal breeders. The airline does not offer travel to humans, instead housing only animals in its fleet of specially designed and furnished planes. Animals travelling on the airline are granted toilet breaks and individual caged areas inside the plane’s primary cabin.

While the levels of comfort on offer inside a PetAirways cabin are unparalleled, they do come at a significantly higher price to that offered on standard commercial airlines. Animal organisations are treating JetBlue as the airline of choice for household pets and smaller animals, giving the airline a recommendation for its humane treatment and spotless animal safety record.