Travel Agencies and sites
I was referred to Family Travel Forum by the manager of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess last year. At any rate, Desmond Acheson is a very nice hotel manager who is dedicated to making his resort be ever more child-friendly and they're doing a great job. This past year, they took one of their upscale rentable poolside pavillions and turned it into a shaded sandbox. Smart. Family Travel Forum was apparently formed by some genuinely awesome travel agents. Desmond recommends Kyle McCarthy. Family Travel forum lets you enroll and read about all of their travel deals, research, and so forth. The rate? About four dollars a month. This place is called Virtual Showcase. It's got a great overview to the mostly southern locations that it supports. Caribbean, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic. Speaking of virtual, here's a site called Show Hotel which lets you have a virtual tour of many hotels. Very helpful. Karen, of Karen's Corner, has a formidable bunch of travel links, including to all of the local airports, subways, highway info, FAA and flight info, and so forth.
Last minute package deal sites
I get the newsletter at Smarter Living. It's nice. Lots of specials. They never seem to apply to me, but hey. I have always liked a site called LastMinute.com. The problem is that it's in England, for heaven's sake, and I'm in California, so none of their specials have ever applied. Several years ago I asked if they would ever expand out to California, and I was very happy when their sister site, Site 59, was started. Unfortunately, my "jet around as a couple" days seem to be over! At least for about 18 years, I think. Now I want to jet around as a threesome. Or more.
I'm not sure what's up with Site 59. Maybe it's just that you can go to far, far more exciting places from England. But the Site 59 destinations have yet to bowl me over, and it irritates me a bit in other ways too.
First off, the name is utterly moronic. I have never been able to remember it. Is it some type of obscure cultural allusion? Or did they just screw up and hire a 22 year old to do their marketing? Who can say.
Second: These bundled trips aren't exactly optimal if you're lugging a baby along, you know? I wish someone would do "bring baby" getaway specials. Ha! Can you imagine? Just what Bill and Jane yuppie want next to them during their "garden retreat" romantic weekend! Colic! heh heh heh. But seriously, a "Baby Makes Three" getaway package would have a lot of takers.
Third: you can usually leave on Thursday or so and come back on Monday. Give or take a few days. I never want to schedule my getaways on the days that they provide. Last Minute.com, on the other hand, often offers prescheduled getaways to neat places up in Scotland or over in France (sigh). Or wherever. Dream on.
Fourth, even when Site 59 sends you things, the return address is something like "Sheila@site59.com." Duh. What is wrong with these people? How about USGetaways.com??? How about emailing me from "specials@USgetaways.com??" Oh no, that would be too straightforward!
Ah, well, enough said.
General Travel Magazines and links
Conde Naste Traveler has something called concierge.com. I think that it used to be epicurious.com, which I always liked a lot. I just discovered gorp.com. It should appeal to the hiking, black diamond-y folks out there. Then there's away.com, which bills itself as being for extraordinary travel and talks about exotic locations. I just found something called wguides.com. Looks as though they have stuff all over the world, and as though they have relatively upscale stuff. Off-the-wall, but interesting. The Association of American Geographers has something called Places Online, which is a project to map and include data on everywhere.
A writer named Christopher Elliott has a website and an email list called Elliott. Elliott has wonderful resources for travellers. I actually used him once when I was in the middle of being royally, er, goofed out of half the value of transferred frequent flyer miles. He intervened, which is more than I can say for almost anybody else in this "bug off buddy" era of travel. The web version of the Elliott's newsletter is quite useful. The Johnny Jet website has awesome links for all kinds of travel info including contact information, schedules, etc. Phone numbers for everything. Here is a link to Johnny Jet's internet travel guide book. The National Park Service has Parknet, which lists tons of information about national parks and what's going on in them, among other things. Here's a site called AmericanSouthwest.com, which looks just wonderful and contains California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado information. Wonderful stuff.
Favorite Travel Chains and referrers
Many hotels belong to conglomerates or organizations which help you to identify the type of hotel. Also, certain people make a living out of referring hotels. For example, Karen Brown's Guides are nice books written for many different parts of the world. They often contain very nice hotels. The Karen Brown's Guide Website lists some European inns, bed and breakfasts, and also some North American hotels. I'd recommend looking through it. On our honeymoon, we rented a car and drove around carrying the Relais and Chateaux book. Very nice hotels in France. Very nice hotels in America, too. We were married at a Relais and Chateaux hotel in Napa Valley called Auberge du Soleil. Lovely.
Discount Travel Links
I always am hoping to really "figure out" the discount travel thing, but I'm totally hopeless. We let tickets expire, give them away (ugh), don't make reservations until the last minute. Aargh. My secret is this: in my relationship with my husband, he's found out that if he does something poorly, I'll take it over and he doesn't have to do it again. Unfortunately, my terrible vacation planning (I mean really, terribly awful) has never compelled him to step forward, darn it. Instead, he just looks understanding and pats me on the shoulder. Aaargh.
Sidestep ostensibly lets you compare side-by-side rates from several travel places. By the way, the Travelhunters look like excellent discount vacation people. For Europe, USA,and Asia/Pacific, you might want to check out rates at total-hotels.com
Intriguing Travel Links
Tours to exotic places
Ever thought of taking a tour? Check out Djoser's site. I don't know who this person is, nor have I checked references (which I heartily recommend), but the trips sound like great fun.
Driving through California can be a blast. Here are some links to help you find the way:
The Coastal Traveler is for people traveling north of the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
Personally, I cannot imagine going on any tour at all. I'm sure that I'd be pinioned in some reeky bus, trapped right next to a gum-popping, drooling fiend and bored to tears. That said, gosh, there are some lovely ones. I think that I'll wait until I'm considerably older, when my senses have failed enough to dull the neuroses. Yes, then I'll go.
These look absolutely lovely
Preparing for trips
The website called travelforkids.com. has a lovely approach. They're a bit sparse in the content arena, but they have taken the time to recommend travel books for your child to read before a trip. Really a lovely idea.
Shots and such
Here is a link to the CDC site telling you what shots to get, etc. for trips.
Things to carry that will amuse your child
This is what I took with us when Simon was 3 (5 hour flight)
-Play doh and the play doh kit stuff -A travel pack white board with pens -A kit of those coloring books things with special paper that turns color when you color it. -At least one of those magnetic board kits with a theme like fireman oranimals or building -At the party store on Hamilton in Palo Alto, they have this paper that youcan scratch black stuff off of colored paper -- hard to describe but fun. -Perhaps a traveling tape recorder and earplugs with fun tapes such as the Usborne farm tales tape (pig gets loose), and so forth. Also, the CD from the Monterey Aquarium called Splash time or whatever it's called, and there's a fun spanish one called Mi Casa es su casa (can get it on ebay) -An adjustable wrench. If that's what they're called. Metal and you can spin the piece of it to open and tighten the bottom jaw of the wrench thing. -Other tools (preferably plastic) -A tape measure. smaller is better.
one stuffed animal
-A richard Scarrey book, which has lots of stuff to look at -Small bags of snacks
Interesting, somewhat oddball travel info
General Travel Overview
I have an entire file cabinet drawer full of travel information. We travel whenever we can (and dream about it when we cannot). I also have half of a bookcase devoted to travel books. Luckily I finally threw away the four feet of travel magazines, but obviously, I like travel information. It's tricky, though, and slippery. Hard to figure out where all of those little post-its and scrawled addresses are, if you know what I mean. Essentially, this travel page is for me. I'm going to stick my tidbits into it. If you know of wonderful travel information or links, feel VERY free to email me. We love to travel. I do have a question for you though. Does anybody out there actually rent villas? Do you like them? They seem like potential horror films to me!