Jan 22nd
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Ask the Travel Agent

Q.    Our family of 4 (kids ages 5 & 7) is going to France.  Are there tours that offer activities for the whole family?
A.      A Touch of France offers three, five and 14-day escorted tours of France with activities for children and adults.  In Normandy, the children can take part in the chores on an animal farm while the adults tour the local sites.  With fishing nets and rubber boots, children can explore the beach at Brittany, while mom and dad discover the "Pink Granite Coast."  You can dirt bike in Burgundy and visit Renaissance Castles in the Loire Valley.  Daily  workshops are also offered for and around Paris.  In Giverny, home of Monet, parents can stroll through the gardens and visit museums.  Children can try their hand at painting with water color.  All can learn about the smells and tastes of Provence in a cooking lesson.  And, the kids will have fun being part of the circus for a day; parents are treated to an evening performance.  Activities give the kids an opportunity to ex-press themselves creatively while learning about the French culture.  

Q.   We’re looking to do a drive vacation in Ohio.  What do you suggest?
A.      Sandusky in the northwest has Cedar Point Amusement Park.  Thirteen miles south is Thomas Edison's Birthplace and the Milan Historical Museum.  In Toledo there’s the Center of Science and Industry, Toledo Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  Sauder Farm and Craft Village is in Archbold.  In Wapakoneta you can visit the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum.  The northeast has Sea World in Aurora; the Amish Country and Quaker Square in Akron; and the Rockn’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  Find the Great Lakes Science Center located on North Coast Harbor.  The Nautica Enertainment Complex at the Cleveland Water Front has a Cool KidsFest in July.  Piatt Castles and the Ohio and Zone Caverns are in the southwest.  Mason’s, Paramount Kings Island is great for the thrill rides.  And, from August through mid October, Harveysburg is home to the Ohio Renaissance Festival.  The Smoke Rise Ranch Resort in Murray City is a working cattle ranch.  And, you can hike in Hocking Hills State Park.  You can request more information from the Ohio Tourism (800-282-5393),
Q.     We're looking for smaller out-of-the-way ski areas near New York.  Any ideas?
A.  Along Tacomic State Parkway, near Hillsdale, NY is Catamount, small and less crowded.  A little further down the road is Butternut Basin in Great Barrington, MA.  The Red Lion Inn is in Great Barrington.  Ski Windham in the Catskills has a good ski school.  There are also condominiums at the base of the mountain.

Q.     We would like our grandchildren (ages 7 and 9) who live in Lincoln, NE to visit us in Pittsfield, MA.  Is there a way this can be done?   

A.      Your grandchildren will need to be booked on the airline as unaccompanied minors.  This means that at check in forms are filled out with sender's address and phone number and receiver's name, address and phone number.  The kids usually wear a (unaccompanied minor) button and are escorted onto the plane and settled into their seats by a gate agent.  The stewardess is supposed to watch over them while in flight and upon arrival the gate agent will take them from the stewardess and require identification before releasing your grandchildren to you.
    A non-stop flight from Lincoln to Pittsfield would be ideal.  Second best would be a direct flight from Lincoln to Pittsfield, landing say in Omaha but with no plane change.  If transfers can't be helped, airlines provide escort service for unaccompanied minors to their connecting flights.  However, they must be at least 8 years old to travel alone on connecting flights and 5 years old to fly alone at all.
    Prior to booking, contact the airline to find out what their policy is for unaccompanied minors.  And at check in, go over the policy again with the gate agent.  Yes, sorry to say, I've heard horror stories of kids being abandoned at the airport.  I suggest informing the kids as to what to expect flying as an unaccompanied minor and that they are not to be left alone in the airport at any time!   Also, reinforce the rules about strangers and if a fellow passenger is bothering them, they must tell the stewardess.  
    You may want to request a special kid's meal for their flight and of course have them pack a back pack full of fun things to play with.  A gift of a toy to be unwrapped while in flight is always a fun surprise.  Include extra drink and nibblies for the flight, too.  There are some delightful books, possibly at the local library on kids flying alone.  When picking the kids up from the airport, plan to be at the gate an hour before arrival time.

Q.     Great Britain, Italy, or Spain?  Any ideas?

A.      If you decide on Great Britain, you might explore London for a couple of days, then rent a car and drive to Scotland.  In Italy, how about renting a villa in the Tuscany region and take day trips?  And, try staying in a castle or manor home around Madrid, in Spain.  

Q.    We are planning a family reunion (8 adults/20 kids) in the Caribbean.  What resorts should we consider?   
A.       You might want to try Beaches in Turks and Caicos; St James Club in Antigua; La Cabana in Aruba;  The Wyndam and Windjammer Landing in St. Lucia;  The Almond Beach Village in Barbados; Club Med in Eleuthera, Bahamas; Franklyn D Resort in Jamaica; Bolongo Bay Beach Villas in St. Thomas;  The Tradewinds Resort in St. Petersburg, Florida and South Seas Plantation on Captiva Island, Florida.

Q.   Looking for a fun place to go with a 5 & 1 year old near Rochester, NY in August--four to five hours of travel?

A.      How about Niagara Falls?  It's a beautiful place with lots to do.  From the Canadian side, you can view the falls better and the ex-change rate is very good now.  Or, you can rent a cottage on Cayuga or Seneca Lakes--with museums and farms to visit in the area.  Lake George has the Great Escape.  However, August is track season, so finding lodging might be difficult.  Hershey Park in Hershey, PA is about 4 hours away--great children’s rides, even for your 1 year-old.  The Amish Country is nearby, too.  You could also see Sea World in Cleveland, Ohio.

Q.    We are taking our daughter, age 3 to visit family in Copenhagen.  Any ideas on what to see and do?   
A.    Tivoli, a 20-acre garden has an amusement park, free concerts, puppet shows, play grounds, fireworks and illuminating gardens.  You can walk along Langelinie harbor, take a boat ride on the Frederikke Turbad, and go on the Canal Tours.  Frilandsmuseet displays old farmsteads and rural cottages with activities--horse carriage rides, fold dancing, and craft demonstrations.  There is Louis Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Zoo  and Botanical gardens and Professor Olsen's Spilleland--one of Europe’s largest indoor amusement arcades.  Another amusement park is the Bakken-Dyrehaven.  The caves near Valkenburg have an underground train and boat rides.  And, LegoLand in Billund would be great fun for your daughter!  You can purchase the Copenhagen Card, which gives discounted admissions to various attractions.

Q.     Our family of 5 would like to stay in an apartment in London. What do you suggest?

A.    The Orion Apartments are very nice and are located in Covent Garden, within walking distance to almost everything.  Also, you can  save time and money if you purchase packages that include air, hotel/apartment, 1/2 day sightseeing, hop on/hop off bus pass, museum pass, 1 day tours (like Stonehenge), London Travel Card, and theatre tickets.  

--Debbie Gioquindo, a Certified Travel Counselor, experienced in family travel contributes to this column.


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