1. Choose a Sidekick – something or someone to back you up in tough times
Batman has Robin to back him up in tough times.
Here are Access Riviera’s tips for getting the best from your back-up plan:
Use a private window when booking flights online so airfare search engines don’t remember you and bump up prices.
If you forget your USB plug, charge devices through the USB on a television.
Try sites such as www.free-hotspot.com to locate hotspots, and services such as Tunnelbear, ComfortWay or Tep Wireless when travelling.
GateGuru is an awesome app that gives information on airport facilities, security line wait lines and flight delays.
Use TripIt or TripCase to consolidate your itineraries.. I still take hard copes of my itineraries with me (I know!), but these apps are helpful so you can still access all your itinerary information when you are without internet.
TrailWallet for expense tracking and budgeting help with your travel costs.
I’d be lying if I said translation apps are a waste of time. I highly recommend TripLingo – it has basic survival phrases, flash card lessons for language learning, a slang tool, a tip calculator, currency convertor and cultural tips.
Another one of my favourites – Word Lens – for translating signs, has transitioned over to Google Translate. There’s still a few hiccups with the voice recognition translation, and also some formats (it doesn’t recognise handwritten text) but it’s still handy to have.
Turn your phone to airplane mode and turn off data to use GPS without internet. Load up your Google map before leaving your accommodation and you can use it to navigate at your destination. To use Google maps offline, type ‘OK Maps’ and the visible area will save for future reference.
Sometimes if you’re at a location (e.g a cafeteria) with free Wifi, they can be annoyed if you don’t purchase something. I usually buy a coffee at a minimum out of courtesy, but if you’re really on a budget sometimes a location’s Wifi password may be on FourSquare.
2. Source advice – research all the information you need, or have someone available who knows already
Batman has Alfred Pennyworth for advice.
There are many options you can use yourself to source advice prior to a trip with your family:
- Forums such as Virtual Tourist, Lonely Planet, Frommers and Fodors are helpful for destination advice
- Internet reviews for specific companies using Trustpilot for reviews
- Social media channels showcase cool new products and keep you updated with travel blogs
- TripAdvisor is user-friendly for destination-specific reviews. I like TripAdvisor because you get a broad spectrum of reviewers from across the globe
- Travel agents and tourist boards
Reference websites such as:
– Wanderant is an easy-to-use trip planner for help creating custom itineraries and suggestions on things to do at each destination
– excuseme-whereis.com is super useful if you’re travelling to Paris, south-eastern France or major cities in Italy. It gives good information about location of public toilets, supermarkets, post offices etc
– WikiVoyage for directions and destination information
– PlanMy.Travel and LocalFu use local experts and travellers who have ‘been there done that’ for customised itineraries (pay option)
– Komoot is an Android app for cycling/hiking in Europe
– www.travelbydrone.com is a fun (and addictive!) website with drone-videos at global locations so you can check out your destination before you get there
A few other mentions: Detour for audio guides around the Bay area (eastern USA), TravelSmart for handy information about making the most of Metropolitan Vancouver via cycle, carpooling, public transport
3. Being anonymous is OK too
We all know Batman’s true identity is Bruce Wayne, his comfort zone for anonymity.
Don’t feel the need to put yourself on show to family and friends with constant photo posts to Instagram, or status updates and tweets about every moment of your trip.
Go offline from Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Twitter/emails/Skype/technology and enjoy the experience of your destination.
4. Be prepared for sticky situations
Batman’s ready for signs of trouble, and he gets prompted from the Bat signal when there’s a sticky situation.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a patent for a global Bat signal but I have more tips to prepare for sticky situations you may encounter:
Copy important travel documents
Make photocopies of your passport, itinerary, and any other important documents and store them in a different location than the originals in case the originals are stolen. I have an extra hard copy in my luggage, and also a scanned copy of everything on a USB memory stick.
Research a country’s prohibited items rules prior to travel, and take a copy of your doctor’s prescription if you travel with medications (I’m asthmatic and while preventative inhalers are usually permitted as a drug at most airports, don’t assume your own medication will be accepted as legal in another country).
If you have any food allergies or intolerances, print out translations of foods to give to local restaurants or research companies that sell dining cards online. If you have a dairy intolerance and are visiting France, print out this handy translation in French https://www.brokerfish.com/food-allergy-translation-cards/dairy-French
Triumph Dining has dining cards for gluten-free travellers that cover ten languages.
Always buy travel insurance. Look at benefits, and policy inclusions and exclusions, not just the initial cost.
Working in the travel industry for over 10 years, I have heard good and bad stories of choosing to buy travel insurance or not. Good = A colleague purchased travel insurance and ended up with altitude sickness in Kathmandu, medical costs were well over $100K. Bad = A family went on an island holiday to Fiji, one of the children received a nasty coral cut which resulted in infection and eventuated in surgery and a lengthy hospital stay costing them thousands of dollars in medical treatment. Cost of a policy that would have prevented this: $120
Change of clothes and basic essentials
Ever since I lost a large suitcase after an international flight, I now carry a spare change of clothes and basic essentials (toothbrush & paste, deodorant, moisturiser) in my carry-on bag so at least I can feel human until my stuff is found (P.S. my suitcase was returned to me within 3 hours, thank you Air France).
If you’re traveling with kids, carry extra food and diapers to allow for delays and a change of clothes for your kids and yourself – I’ll never forget the poor man who half an hour into a 13-hour flight was covered in his baby’s vomit….the smell lingered that’s for sure. I usually travel with my carry-on as a backpack if I travel with my son so I have my hands free.
Taking extra snacks or food can counteract the limited variety in train station vending machines, or overpriced airport food. I’ve fallen into the ‘no food’ trap before and paid the princely sum of €90 for 2 lunches and snacks at Singapore Airport.
I have beaten off my son’s hunger many times by taking extra food on my travels – snacks such as dried fruits, nuts, pretzels, cereal bars. Parents need to be aware there may not be any options to heat food or baby bottles on delays.
Also, be aware of customs regulations for food when entering different countries – France doesn’t permit you taking any meat from wild animals on-board so leave that deer carpaccio at home. Every country has different rules – Did you know you can’t take fresh fruit or raw unroasted nuts into Australia (without an Import Permit)?
Variety of payment methods
It pays (excuse the pun) to have a variety of options to pay for items when you travel. Credit and debit cards, cash, travellers cheques, money cards.
In France, I have found many tourists have had problems with ticket machines not reading their foreign-issued credit cards so take coins for ticket machines. Most towns (and certainly the main cities) all have banks and ATM’s, though currency exchange providers are usually only found in more populated areas.
Don’t wear a visible money belt (fanny pack) when you travel – that is a sure-fire advertisement for theft ‘Hey look at my bag containing money, passport and other valuables!’.
If you are travelling in France, check out Bisonfute for traffic delays, www.easytravelreport.com for transport strikes, and ViaMichelin for traffic conditions and toll costs.
Learn a few phrases in the local language
It’s not essential, but it’s helpful to learn a few polite greetings or relevant phrases to your situation (car hire, child-related terms, transport and accommodation queries).
5. Use what you have to your best advantage
Batman is well versed in utilising the Batmobile and his bat tools to best advantage.
Family travel is no different – there are ways you can use what you already have to maximise your holiday experience.
Take advantage of group or family discounts on entry admissions for attractions, restaurant deals (buy one adult meal, get one kids meal free) and transport tickets. A useful one to know for the French Riviera is the ‘Pass Isabelle Famille’ that costs €35 for one days unlimited train travel along the French Riviera for 2 adults and 2 children under 16 years of age; you purchase them at the train station counters or online via TER SNCF website under ‘offres’ and ‘cartes/abonnements’.
Flying with kids
Make use of night-flights to capitalise on usual bedtimes, and burn off all their extra energy at airport playgrounds. Parenting.com has a great list of family-friendly information at lots of global airports, read more in their link here http://www.parenting.com/article/fun-things-to-do-at-the-major-airports and you can read all about Nice Airport here
Not keen on paying for expensive Wifi at airports? Get free Wifi at airports but adding /?.jpg or &.jpg to the end of any URL (for networks that allow images to download without redirecting).
Whoever thought of fast-track queues for families for airport processing is a genius. G-E-N-I-U-S. The last thing you want is to queue behind 500 people at security/immigration with an over- tired toddler who’s barely slept on a 12-hour long-haul flight. Didn’t happen to me, honest 🙂
What are your own ‘super-hero’ tips for family travel? Comment below, drop me a line via facebook.com/accessriviera or tweet your tips to me @accessriviera