Archive for the ‘General’ category

How to Cancel Your Flight for Free

January 9th, 2015

Airplane landing on runwayFlying in the United States is pricy and all too often we book our round-trip airfare only to see it drop up to $50 over the next day or two. Well now you can cancel your flight for free. Actually, you could do this for a while now, but I only recently became aware of it thanks to a Huffington Post article from October.

According to the article, which credits Hopper for most of its information, eight major airlines in the United States allow passengers to cancel flights for free. Some stipulations may apply, such as it must be within 24 hours of when you booked and it may only be allowed on flights that were purchased at least seven days in advance of the travel date, but still – you can get your money back for free! The eight airlines, according to Hopper, include Delta, United, American, US Airways, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and Frontier.

Technically, as the Huffington Post points out, it is a federal rule that airlines must allow customers to cancel their flights within 24 hours of booking as long they were purchased at least seven days in advance. The Department of Transportation’s website states that “U.S. and foreign air carriers regarding compliance with the customer service rule requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.”

Now that you know you can cancel your flight and that its your federal right to do so, you may be asking why you’d want to at all if you still plan on taking a trip. Well what if you could cancel and then repurchase the same flight for a cheaper price? According to Hopper, about 68 percent of the time customers can find a cheaper price for their flight within 24 hours of their original purchase. You could save just by cancelling and rebooking, which means more money in your pocket for vacation!

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

15 Travel Resolutions for 2015

January 1st, 2015

Man jumping over 2015 at sunsetHappy New Year! Traveling is a popular New Year’s resolution, but it can be a difficult challenge to meet with everyday life getting in the way. Rather than make one large resolution to travel more or to visit certain faraway destinations this year, break it down into easier-to-accomplish goals. Here are 15 travel resolutions that your family can achieve in 2015:

1. Visit a local sight you have never seen before. There’s probably one nearby museum, park, library, historical home or famous place that you have been meaning to visit, but just haven’t. Grab the kids and go this year! You’ll be glad you did.

2. Pack more efficiently. Wouldn’t it be nice to arrive at your destination and have everything you’ve packed organized and ready to use or wear? Check out our list of packing tips so that your suitcase is more organized on your next trip.

3. Make a bucket list of places you want to visit. Rather than state that you will visit a specific destination this year, make a list of all the places you would like to go over the next few years. This bucket list can be added to the refrigerator and every time you’re able to take a family vacation there, you can cross it off! Plus, you can continuously add to it so that you never forget a place to which you would like to travel.

4. Visit a fair with the family. Renaissance fairs and state fairs pop up all over the country throughout the spring and summer. Find one near you and head there for a fun experience that everyone will enjoy.

5. Try something new while traveling. Don’t do the same old things while on vacation – museums, beaches, zoos, etc. – book a new adventure or excursion, like a surfing lesson or zip-lining experience.

6. Take a train. Rather than drive or fly to your next destination, take a train instead. Check out our 10 Best Train Trips for Families for ideas!

7. Travel with another family. Don’t book one vacation for your own family. Try booking one in conjunction with another family that you’re friends with. You can split the cost of accommodations and the kids will be easily entertained with friends in tow.

8. Go to a game. Even if you don’t like sports, there is something about seeing a game at a stadium that just makes it more magical. Check out our lists of the best football stadiums and ballparks to visit with kids.

9. Book a staycation. Hotels often offer pools, room service, free W-Fi, free breakfast and more. Book a night at a local hotel and enjoy doing nothing but relaxing while everything else is taken care of for you.

10. Take a factory tour. Hershey, Ben and Jerry’s and other great brands offer factory tours where families can see how the delicious treats are made. Here are 12 to choose from!

11. Bring your pet with you. Next time you book a hotel for vacation, make it one with pet-friendly rooms and bring Fido with you. Everyone will love having the furry friend along for the trip.

12. Spend a night at a museum. If you didn’t know, museums host overnights for kids and families. Find one near you by reading our article on the 13 Best Nights at Museums.

13. Take a multigenerational trip. Bring the whole family along for the ride this year. Multigenerational travel is a growing trend and it’s easy to see why. To get started, read our 10 Tips for Multigenerational Travel.

14. Ride a roller coaster. Theme parks are a lot of fun for kids. Visit one this year and ride a roller coaster. Even you have done it before, do it with your children, spouse, parent, niece, nephew – whoever! You’ll be glad you did! Plus, there are new ones being built for 2015 – check out which ones you can ride this year in our article!

15. Unplug on vacation. Leave the technology behind for a couple of days and unwind with the kids. No cell phones, Internet, iPads or video games. You’ll be able to reconnect as a family. And isn’t that what vacation is for? Check out our best places to unplug for ideas!

What are your New Year’s travel resolutions? Tell us in the comments below!

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Happy Holidays From Family Vacation Critic

December 25th, 2014

Happy holidays from our family to yours! We hope you had a wonderful Hanukkah, are having a festive Christmas today, and are just as excited for Kwanzaa! Whatever holiday you may be celebrating, we hope it is filled with love and cheer.

Happy Holidays!

Employees at The Independent Traveler, Inc.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

5 Travel-Related Crafts to Make With Kids

September 18th, 2014

Kids often make arts and crafts while in school, from cute fall decorations for the classroom to pictures of what they did this past summer with their families. Have fun with your kids at home and make one of these five travel-related crafts from souvenirs, ticket stubs, photos and more from your most recent family vacation.

Sand Ornaments
What You Will Need: sand, clear glass ornament, funnel, colorful tape, ribbon

Glass ornament filled with sand with blue ribbonIf you visited a beach in the Caribbean or some other exotic area this past summer (or maybe even just the Jersey Shore), hopefully you brought home some sand as a souvenir. If not, then plan to do this on your next trip!

Pick up clear glass ornaments from your local arts and crafts store. Have your children use the funnel to fill them with sand — any amount that they want, but know it may get heavy – and use the colorful tape to close off the top hole when done. Use matching ribbon as the string that will allow the ornament to hang. Cut it to at least 12 inches in length and tape both ends to the top of the ornament, so that it forms a loop. You can stop here and have the craft completed, but feel free to let your kids bedazzle the outside of the ornament with glitter, stickers and other fun decorations. Since the ornament is clear, they’ll be able to see the sand inside!

Ticketed Picture Frames
What You Will Need: ticket stubs, mod podge glue, paint brushes, wooden picture frames

Simple wooden picture frames are available at your local arts and crafts store and are inexpensive. Take all of those ticket stubs from your most recent trip and let the kids mod podge them to the frames. The mod podge glue can be painted right over the ticket stubs onto the frames with paint brushes – it will dry clear and the ticket stubs will be securely “stuck” to the frame. Allow the frame to dry for 24 hours and then place a picture of your family at the attraction, theme park or museum in which you visited and received your tickets from, inside the frame!

Photo Map
What You Will Need: medium-size map of the continental United States, photos of your family, scissors, glue, stickers

Map of United States with photos covering the statesHave you recently visited Florida or California? A fun way to document where your family has traveled is by making a photo map of where you’ve visited! Before passing the photos to the kids, measure them out against the map and cut them into the shape of the states in which you have visited. (Note: If your kids are old enough to use scissors, let them try, too!) Allow the kids to glue the photos to the map, having them match the photo to the state in which it is shaped. They’ll be able to see where the states are located in comparison to where you live, which will also teach them about geography.

Another fun thing to do with this map is to have the kids place stickers on the states in which they would like to visit next! (This will also give you ideas for next summer’s family vacation!)

Travel Journals
What You Will Need: journals or notebooks, stickers, paint, glue, family photos, ticket stubs, glitter, markers, etc.

A great way for kids to really connect with their family vacation is to write about it. Before your next trip, or if you would like them to reflect on this past one, pick up a journal or notebook from your local store. Allow your kids to decorate the covers with markers, glitter, stickers, photos – really anything! Have them personalize it and then allow them to draw pictures of where you’re family has gone or write about where you will be traveling next inside the journal. Travel journals can be taken on the road and will also be a way to keep the kids busy when on the plane or in the car. They’ll enjoy looking back on their family vacations years from now, too.

Homemade Disney Ears
What You Will Need: black headbands, black paper, red ribbon, glue

Black Mickey Mouse Ears and pink Minnie Mouse EarsHave your kids make their own Mickey Mouse ears before your next trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Cut out “ears” from the black paper. They should be an oval or circle shape (like Mickey’s ears!) with about a one-inch rectangle on the bottom — you will need two per headband. Glue the rectangle bottom of the ear to the inside of the headband. Do this again with the other ear and be sure they are spaced well on the headband. One ear should be secured on the upper left side of the headband, and the other ear should be secured to the upper right side of the headband. Bend the paper ears so that they stand up in the appropriate way. You’re all done with your Mickey Mouse ears!

If you want Minnie Mouse ears, use the red ribbon and cut and tie it into a bow. Glue it to the headband directly between the two ears, or make two small bows and place one in front of each ear. Allow the glue to dry before wearing.

What are a few other great travel-related crafts to make with kids? Share your ideas in the comments below!

— Hilarey Wojtowicz