Childwise: How Do You Choose a Family-Friendly and Safe Holiday Vacation?

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Childwise logoKathleen GansterBy Kathleen Ganster

Families often travel to visit other family members or to take their own holiday vacations over the school breaks.

When my husband and I stayed at a hotel this summer that he had selected due to their affiliation with a major hotel brand, it was a nightmare. It was something out of a bad movie, but even worse than our awful predicament – there were just the two of us and no other available rooms in town, he had checked – there were families staying at this place. I was horrified thinking young children were staying in this filthy place.

So I asked two of my friends who are also experts in the travel industry – how do you chose a hotel that is clean and safe? And what are other family friendly travel tips?

Patti Jo Lambert, public relations specialist for the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, but perhaps more importantly, is the mom of three boys, 6 to 14. Like most families, vacations are a special time for the Lamberts.

“We have a very busy schedule so getting away together on vacation is really important to me.  I want my boys to always remember the unusual experiences and fun we had together while they were growing up,” Lambert said.

The Lamberts—Patti Jo, Bob, and Jason 14,Nathan 10, Ryan 6
The Lamberts—Patti Jo, Bob, and Jason 14,Nathan 10, Ryan 6

Her first suggestion is to fall back on what she knows best – check out the Tourism Bureau of your destination.

“The people who work there are knowledgeable about the hotels, restaurants and other things to do. If I’m able to plan ahead, I always request their visitor’s guide and any other literature that they produce that could be helpful in my trip planning,” she said.

Once she has the information, Lambert and her husband, Bob, review it then she will often call the bureau and ask specific questions. Questions Lambert suggests:

How old is the property or when was their most recent renovation?
What area of town fits what I’m most interested in – cute shops, activities for the boys, hiking, etc.
Are there any special coupons or promotions that they are aware of so I can save money?

Lambert also recommends Trip Advisor, a step Paul and I should have taken. When we returned home after our disastrous stay, we checked out reviews and certainly would have avoided booking at that hotel, instead choosing one further away despite the inconvenience.

Lambert said, “I always research hotels and attractions and read past guest comments. It’s easy to identify a particular issue or advantage about a property by scrolling through those comments.”

Jason, 14, Nathan, 10, and Ryan, 6
Jason, 14, Nathan, 10, and Ryan, 6

“I’ve used it to plan excursions on cruises which has saved me a lot of money. People are so helpful in sharing tips that you otherwise wouldn’t know about until after you were at that destination,” she said.

Lambert also conducts a web search on ‘best places.”

“Most travel focused magazines and even large daily newspapers often publish articles about the top whatever.  For example, the top cruise lines for kids, the best all-inclusive Caribbean resorts for families, the most romantic inns, etc.  I frequently refer to those insights as well to help me plan my trip,” she said.

Christine Pennsy, Director of Communications at Visit Erie, echoed Lambert’s suggestions.

“I explore the visitor bureau web site to see what hotels they list and if there are pictures and or reviews or links to reviews. Or the other thing I’ll do is call the bureau and ask them where they would put their family and friends up when they are visiting,” Pennsy said.

As she explained, while the bureaus of course mention their members, they also help in selecting the best places for the visitors’ needs.

“We give them our members’ names, tell the caller that the member is in good standing and offer several suggestions,” she said.

Pennsy added, “I do the same thing when looking for a good restaurant or attraction. Asking the local bureau person where they go and I guarantee you’ll be given some pretty cool places to check out and you won’t be stuck in a dive motel or restaurant.”

As Lambert said, our time and money are too important to waste on a bad vacation experience.

“Even though doing the research is time-consuming, it will make all the difference between experiencing a trip that creates wonderful memories or one that disappoints because it didn’t meet your expectations,” she said.

“Quality time together as a family is so important to me that it’s worth all the advance planning to make sure we get the most out of our vacations.”

For more information about Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau visit https://www.visitbutlercounty.com/. For information on Erie, visit: www.VisitErie.com.

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