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It’s June and it is now undeniably summer. I don’t care if the calendar says it is still spring, for many of us it is full on summer! For most families summer is a huge travel season. The kids are out of school, the beaches are warm, and the days are long. Some of my very best memories as a kid were on summer trips, and I hope that holds true for my daughter as well. To celebrate the coming of this huge travel season, I have teamed up with fellow family travelers Ed from Pizza in Motion and The Weekly Flyer from Points, Miles, and Martinis to do a “Welcome to Summer” giveaway! Today all three of us are launching posts about some of our favorite summer travel topics. We will all share our stories and tips, and then we will ask you to do the same in the comments section.
Best of all, one winner from each site will be selected at random to win a night at Hyatt House, 1,200 Hertz points, and an airline club pass! You can enter once on each site each day from Tuesday (6/4) through Saturday (6/8) by answering the summer travel related question in the comments section. If you win, these prizes should give you a good head start on an awesome summer trip!
Summer travel is fun, but it can also be challenging since it is such a peak travel time. This means that there can be long lines, expensive rates, crowded planes, and cranky kids. Here are a few of my favorite summer travel tips to help mitigate some of those challenges:
- If you live where it is hot, head to somewhere it is not. It gets over 100 degrees regularly in Texas, so the ideal summer trip for me is somewhere we can beat the heat. This can be such a welcome respite during the long hot days of July and August. Heading to the mountains, Alaska, or a part of the world that isn’t in their summer can be a great destination. The kids will love being able to play outside all day without melting, and you will love sitting outside sipping a cool beverage without being drenched in sweat.
- Stay somewhere with enough room to spread out. When I was a kid, my parents, sister, and I all stayed in one hotel room on vacations. It worked, but now that I am a parent I prefer to have enough room to spread out. Being piled on top of each other for days at a time doesn’t sound like my idea of a relaxing vacation, so be sure your accommodations are large enough to be comfortable. That may be accomplished by getting a rental a house, an apartment, or even a two room hotel suite. My parents, daughter, and I recently stayed in a two bedroom Hyatt House, and it was very nice since had two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. Had we all stayed in a single hotel room with two double beds it would not have been near as pleasant. It cost a little more for the two-bedroom than a one-bedroom did, but not substantially more. Money well spent in my book.
- Don’t over-plan the trip. I like to see a lot on vacations, but I also want time to just be on vacation. This means don’t push yourselves too hard, and don’t over-stuff your days. While I am sometimes guilty of this myself, the point is not to come home more exhausted than when you left. Take some time to just chill on your trip!
- Stay somewhere you can cook some meals, or at least use the fridge. You can save so much money and time by staying somewhere with at least a small kitchen, or even just a refrigerator. Being able to keep some milk, juice, breakfast foods, and snacks in your room can save a ton on breakfasts and just make life simpler. If you happen to be in a place with a larger kitchen you can even all take turns cooking dinner. With young kids this can be not only cheaper, but easier than going out for all of your meals.
- If you go to peak destinations, try to go on off-peak days or times. If your idea of a good summer trip is heading to a popular summer travel destination like Disney or the beach, then at least try to focus on off-peak days or times. Get there early in the morning or later in the evening, go mid-week, go at the very beginning or very end of summer, etc. Anything you can do to lessen your exposure to massive crowds is probably a good thing.
- Be proactive about airplane seat assignments. If you want/need to sit next to your family members on flights during the summer you must be proactive about your seat assignments. If you wait until the last minute to worry about getting seats together, it is quite likely that the plane will be full during these peak travel months. Get your seat assignments when you book the tickets, and then monitor them periodically to make sure they are still together.
- Use points to keep the cost down. Most major hotel chains that we collect points in (Hyatt, SPG, Club Carlson, etc) have a policy where if a standard room is available for sale, it is available on points. Take advantage of that during the summer when the rates can be high at certain properties. Save your dollars for attractions, and use your points to defray the cost of a hotel room.
- If you are going to spend a good amount of time in the car, try to rent a nicer car. If part of your trip involves a rental car, then make it as good of an experience as you can by renting a car that comfortably seats everyone (plus luggage). The easiest rental car drive with Little C was when we used Hertz points to rent an SUV in Colorado that had a built in DVD player. It made the drive comfortable for us, and it was a breeze with her relaxing with cartoons. Our cars at home don’t have this feature, so it was a novelty that was reserved for the trip. She loved it, and consequently we loved it! We take huge advantage of the Hertz Gold Choice that allows us to choose any vehicle in the Gold section without having to pay more, and we also pay modest upgrade fees to reserve something even better from time to time. Hertz is also excited about their new “Waterkeeper Swim Guide” that allows customers with NeverLost GPS to find out where beaches nearby are located, which are safe for swimming, and what’s unique about each beach. That’s pretty cool for summer travel!
- Use airline lounges when traveling, if available. During the summer the airports can be packed, so we like to get there and get into the lounge as quickly as possible. Some lounges have family rooms that we stay in so C has a safe place to play. We enjoy free snacks and drinks while we wait in a relatively peaceful environment, and we have access to helpful and knowledgeable lounge agents in the event there are issues with our flight. This takes some of the stress or airport travel away for our family!
- Get the kids involved in the planning. One of my favorite summer trips as a kid was to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. I was 15 at the time of the trip and 13 and 14 when we were planning it. My parents allowed me to be as involved as possible in planning that journey, and it made it that much more enjoyable. My daughter is only 3, but we have already started giving her some (limited) choices in activities and letting her have an active role in planning. Though maybe I should also give her a budget as she picked helicopter sight-seeing tour in Kauai!
There are a million summer travel tips out there, but those are some of my favorites. Now it is your turn to share your favorite summer travel tips in the comments section. Not only are you sharing your knowledge with others, but you are entering to win the following prizes:
Complimentary one-night stay at Hyatt House: Valid at any Hyatt House location through 12/31/2014. Subject to availability and must be made in advance using the code on the certificate. Limit one certificate per stay. Other details available on the certificate. Thanks to Hyatt for donating this certificate!
Hertz: 1,200 Hertz points (enough for an anytime rental, and free weekend days start at just 500 points). Thanks to Hertz for donating the points!
Two United Club passes: Valid for one-person, one-time access to any United Club worldwide. You must be 21 or older to redeem and there are a few other restrictions on the pass. They are valid through 12/31/2013.
To enter, leave a comment on this post with your favorite summer travel tip by 11:59PM Eastern on Saturday June 8, 2013. Must be 18+, limit one entry per person per day on this site, void where prohibited. Remember to go and enter to win similar prizes on Pizza in Motion and Points, Miles, and Martinis!