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March Break survival guide: 9 tips for the travelling family

According to an Expedia poll, 95 per cent of Canadians felt happier on a family vacation. Westend61/Getty Images

Families across Canada are gearing up for their much-anticipated March Break travel – and let’s face it, the kids can hardly contain their excitement.

Parents and single travellers, on the other hand, are doing everything they can to prepare for a fun and smooth getaway that can easily be derailed by all the chaos that comes with March Break travel.

READ MORE: 7 destinations for the adventurous millennial to visit in 2018

Whether it’s a cruise, theme park, all-inclusive resort or visiting family, almost everywhere is expected to be busy, busy, busy – and let’s face it, probably a little pricey, too.

So Global News spoke with some travel and parenting experts who came up with some great March Break travel tips that are sure to help every kind of traveller – families, couples and even singles – navigate those tourist-infested waters.

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Here’s what Expedia travel expert, and parenting expert Julie Freedman-Smith of Parenting Power, suggest.

1. Decide what kind of trip you want to take

There are so many places you can choose to go, but if you’re still looking to get away and haven’t booked anything yet, just know that it’s not too late, Mary Zajac of Expedia says.

“If you’re thinking about heading to Florida, both West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale are two destinations with the lowest [flights] from Canada this March – this is based on a 2017 booking window and a travel window of March 10 to 31, 2017,” she says. “Florida is also a great road trip option and one that’s popular amongst Canadians. Just ensure you have packed activities to keep everyone preoccupied for the drive.”

2. Triple check your booking confirmation emails

Make sure that you’ve received a confirmation for everything you’ve booked, Zajac warns.

“We’ve all made that mistake in which you accidentally book a red-eye instead of a mid-morning flight, or the incorrect date for a hotel,” she says. “If there are any issues with the details in your confirmation email, connect with a customer service representative right away to get the situation sorted.”

3. Plan and anticipate anything and everything

Get the whole family or group in on the planning process, Zajac suggests, so that everyone is aware of the plans and there are no surprises.

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Also, anticipate that not everyone will be happy with the final decisions, Freedman-Smith adds.

“Real life means that part of your family will not want to go to the Museum of Ear Wax, while others will want to spend the day there,” she explains. “Perhaps you do not want to spend 24/7 at the hotel pool and would like to get out and see some sights. Talk with your kids about schedules, working together and attitudes ahead of time – consequences included.”

And give yourself time buffers – a.k.a. extra time – when it comes to travelling and getting to activities.

“March Break is one of the busiest times to travel, so check-in at security when you’re travelling in a large group or family may take longer than usual,” Zajac says.

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4. Make a list and check it twice and thrice

When packing, making a list of everything you plan to bring and check again to see if those items made it into your bag, Zajac suggests.

Keep that list with you when you travel and when you’re packing up to come back home, consult that list two or three times to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

“For peace of mind, another travel tip is to always print out a paper copy of your boarding pass,” she adds. “Phones tend to die or run out of power at inopportune times, so it can create problems if the only copy of your ticket is electronic.”

5. Plan for sleep

If this is a family trip, make sure the kids get adequate sleep, or expect a cranky kid, Freedman-Smith says.

“This may seem obvious but it is amazing how often it surprises parents,” she says. “If your kids want to stay up late, or they will because of your schedule, set expectations for naps or sleeping in.”

6. Be strategic if you’re flying

If you’re flying to your destination really plan out what flight you book and where you sit, Zajac says.

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She says it’s best if travellers choose their seats strategically and plan to arrange them in advance of the flight.

READ MORE: What you can do to prevent lost luggage

“On long trips, consider splitting up the kids – one per adult – or if you’re feeling brave, let the adults sit separately so you can take turns getting some sleep,” Zajac advises. “Pick flights that arrive at a reasonable hour, after check-in, so you can head straight to the hotel for a nap, snack or shower.”

7. Plan for meals and behaviour

Discuss expectations for behaviour at the restaurants, pools, hotel lobby etc., and consequences that can result from not following the rules, Freedman-Smith says.

Also, try to be conscious of what kids are ordering out in restaurants, she adds, as it can be easy for kids to eat starch-heavy foods while on vacation.

“If that works for you, great,” she says. “If not, outline the expectations for the number of fruits and vegetables to be eaten each day, how many sugary treats they can have and whether dessert is a ‘for sure’ thing at each meal.”

It’s also not a bad idea to keep some snacks handy for when someone gets hungry, Zajac adds. You might even want to think about pre-ordering any kids meals if the airline offers then, too.

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And don’t forget to schedule downtime for the kids – and let’s face it, for the adults as well.

8. Work out money logistics in advance

If you’re going on a trip with another family or with a group of friends, decide the money logistics before you get to your destination, Zajac advises.

“Will you split bills? Will you have a common pool or will everyone pay for themselves?” she asks. “Determine these plans in advance of the trip, as this will help in ensuring all runs smoothly.”

9. Consider your carry on

Make sure to pack smart, especially if you’re travelling with kids, Zajac says.

“Yes, you can stow your bag in the overhead compartments but that’s not necessarily easy to get to if you are travelling with young children,” she points out. “Make sure your essentials like wipes, snacks and water are packed in a bag that will fit under your seat.”

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