In the National Lampoon Vacation movies anything that can go wrong to Chevy Chase does. The hotel isn’t as described in the brochure, the car is too small and the amusement park is closed; the list could go on. With the introduction of the Internet into the average American home, planning vacations has become easier than ever. Incidentally, when vacationing we all have special circumstances, including children, pets, disabilities or medical requirements. And sometimes your destination makes all the difference.
These are the answers to a few frequently asked travel questions, and tips to remember when traveling with special circumstances.
Flying. Flying has become one of the most common forms of travel, but as airlines get bigger they need to accommodate a larger number of people and their demands.
Flying With Children. Always inform the airline you are traveling with children when you by your tickets. Reservations for infants and children under 2 cannot be made on most online travel sites. You must contact the airline directly.
- Newborns. Most airlines will not allow a child under seven-days old to travel on any plane. Often if the child is that young they will also require a doctor’s permission slip.
- Small Children. There is usually two options when traveling with small children, lap or buy a seat. If the child is less than 2-years old they can sit in your lap for domestic flights. Most airlines do not charge for lap children. However, if you feel more comfortable, you can buy a seat and place the child in an FAA approved restraint. Buying a ticket for these children is usually discounted substantially and most car seats are approved. Double-check the airline for FAA requirements. All international flights require children to be in restraints.
Unaccompanied Minors. It’s not uncommon for children to fly alone. Many are seasoned travelers bouncing between parents, friends or relatives. Most airlines will take responsibly of minors for a fee. The cost is usually between $50 and $100 depending on the airline. Additionally, the age requirements may differ. For most, children between the ages of 5 and 7 are only allowed on direct flights. Children between 8 and 14 can fly on connecting flights. The age when children are not required an escort depends on the airline. For example, Delta requires all children under the age of 14 to have an escort whereas with United, children over 12 it’s optional.
Pets. Many airlines accommodate animals of different sizes. You can take them as carry-on, checked as baggage or shipped. Some states require a health certificate. It is suggested to have all veterinary paper work available including shots. Always call the airline or check their website before booking your ticket. Some are more restrictive than others.
Most animals must be 8 to 12-weeks old to fly. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggest not to sedate cats and dogs. This may effect their natural equilibrium and cause injury. Many of these tips and suggestions are for domestic flights in the 48 continental United States. International restrictions and fares may vary.
- Carry-on. Carry on pets must be small enough to fit into a kennel under the seat in front of you. There is usually a fee of about $50 to $100 per animal. Most airlines only accept cats and dogs. Delta will also accept, birds, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs, whereas, SouthWest doesn’t accept pets of any kind.
- Checked Baggage. Larger warm-blooded mammals and birds are usually checked as baggage. Animals must be in comfortable kennels and are taken at the check-in counter and retrieved in baggage claim. They are safely placed under the plane in a pressurized and heated compartment. There is usually a $100 charge for checking your animal. Sometimes it is more difficult for baggage handlers to get your pet to your connecting flight. When booking your flight remember to give yourself between a one and three hour layover.
- Air Cargo. Many airlines have cargo services. This is for those shipping pets to friends or family without their owner. Rates depend on size and destination of the animal. Check your carrier’s website for further details. Always include identification tags with your address and phone number as well as the address and phone number of the person receiving the animal. Additionally, do not put a leash or muzzle on the animal, this may cause a choking hazard.
Disabilities. All airlines are dedicated to making everyone’s travel comfortable. Most airlines are wheelchair accessible and willing to work with people with all kinds of disabilities. Always inform the airline if you or a loved one has special needs prior to departure. This allows the staff to prepare for your accommodations.
Many airlines can provide Braille safety cards, captioned safety videos, individual safety briefings, onboard wheelchairs and more. Guide dogs are usually accepted as checked baggage and don’t require a fee. Many airlines will also accommodate those with food allergies or related illnesses like diabetes.
Hotels and Cars. Always contact your hotel or rental company to make special arrangement regarding lodging and transportation. Most hotels and car companies will try to accommodate you in all ways. When traveling with special circumstances like children, pets or disabilities, always take your hotel and on-ground travel arrangements into account.
If you plan to take the family dog on vacation with you, keep a few things in mind when booking your lodging. Although the hotel may accept pets, ask where they stay, in the room or in a hotel kennel. Furthermore, find out if the hotel offers walking services. If you are sightseeing all day, you don’t want your poor pup stuck in the room needing to visit the grassy knoll across the street.
For small children, most hotels can provide a playpen or crib for them to sleep in. Many car rental companies can also provide car seats and additional child restraints.
Cruises. Pets are not aloud on most cruise liners; however, children are. Most cruises provide several forms of entertainment for children while at sea. If you decide to cruise with children always look into the liner’s child services prior to booking a room.
- Children and Young Adults. There are usually several free, child-friendly activities previously planned by the cruise liner to keep kids and young adults busy. Activities include arts and crafts, movies, games and child friendly pools. Sometimes the cruise liner will have teen dances and teen specialized activities.
- Children under Two. Children under 2-years old are not usually eligible for activities. However, most liners offer babysitting services from about $6 to $10 an hour.
- Disabilities. Many cruise liners try to accommodate those with disabilities to the best of their ability. All floors have elevators and are wheelchair accessible. Those in wheelchairs, requiring oxygen tanks or health requirements usually board and disembark before the general public. Those with sight or hearing disabilities may need to make extra special arrangement with the liner prior to purchasing tickets.
Traveling in today’s day and age can be a tricky business. There are so many circumstances to take into account. Always remember airlines, hotels, car rentals and cruises are ultimately in the hospitality business. They understand there are special circumstances and all are fully trained to accommodate you and your loved ones.