Welcome to the fourth installment of Trips + Giggles Top 5, where we ask parents for their best tips for the Top 5 family travel situations--Packing, Flying, Road-Tripping, Hotel Living and Finding Fun. After all, the best advice always comes from parents who have been there, done that, and cleaned up that.
Erica Johnson-McElroy is the director of public relations at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. She lives in Henderson, Nev. with her husband, Tim, and their kids, Mason (4) and Simone (7.) Simone and Mason are desert babies who have already discovered a love for airplanes, hotels, the beach and plush, terrycloth hotel bathrobes!
PACKING: Nothing can ruin a trip more quickly than getting to your destination and realizing you don’t have what you need. For this reason, I start the packing process unusually early - sometimes up to two weeks in advance. This allows me time to determine exactly what I need and remember anything I may forget. Also, be sure to check the amenities of the hotel. I recently took a road trip with my extended family, which included my ailing father. We'd packed his wheelchair in the car when it dawned on me that the hotel likely already had one. I called to confirm and sure enough, they did. Removing it saved valuable space in the trunk. Hotels may also have strollers, kids’ swim vests and other items you can avoid lugging with you.
FLYING: I have a 4 year-old and a 7 year-old and I am still intimidated by the thought of flying with them. On short flights, I find that scheduling around naps/bedtime is key. Although it can’t always be avoided, traveling with a tired and cranky toddler is never a good idea. I schedule flights well before or right after nap time to ensure my little guy is well rested, even if it means paying extra.
ROAD-TRIPPING: My kids love electronics, but I try to break up long stretches of screen time. On car rides my bag of tricks includes a sketch pad or doodle book along with colored pencils, markers and stencils. I am obsessed with the colorful lap desks they sell at Barnes & Noble, which are perfect for drawing. They are great for road trips but can also double for occasions when older kids need to do homework in the car.
HOTEL LIVING: My favorite hotel for traveling with my family is Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara in San Diego where we go each summer. The one-bedroom villas are set up like condos with a full kitchen, living room, dining room, separate bedroom and two full baths. We take the master and our kids sleep on the pull out couch in the living room. It’s awesome to be able to close the door if the kids are napping or stay up late watching movies once they've gone down. Each villa also has a spacious patio and there are barbecues throughout the property - perfect for relaxing dinners with the family.
If you're heading south of the border, Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita is also incredible for families. My kids loved the lazy river and game room while the service, ocean view room and amazing margaritas left us grown-ups wanting more.
FINDING FUN: When staying at the Four Seasons Aviara, we cook our own meals, grill, hang out by the pool and make the short drive (about 30 minutes) to Coronado Beach.
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