Rainer Jenss escaped the snowstorm this weekend in an effort to get inspired for his next family vacation.
After logging many an hour looking for family travel advice on the web, this week I changed gears and turned to some good old fashioned technology – printed brochures and face-to-face conversation. A radio commercial for the New York Times Travel Show, which concluded this weekend at the Jacob Javitz Center in Manhattan, got my attention by declaring it would feature some great vacation ideas for families. Figuring that it could be a treasure trove of useful information, I braved the roads during a major snowstorm and drove 25 miles into the city to take a look.
Spending a day in a massive convention center can be much like searching for travel recommendations on the Web – there’s a ton of information to explore all in one place and you need to be pretty resourceful to accurately disseminate it. In fairness to the wonderful efforts of the websites I featured in my last post and the excellent blogs highlighted in the comments, I somehow felt more inspired and informed leaving the travel expo than I did after clicking away endlessly on my keyboard. But since the Internet is obviously a whole lot more accessible than the once-a-year NYT Travel Show, I’ll summarize some of my findings for those that couldn’t make it.
The state of Florida was out in force promoting its many attractions, but a few in particular caught my attention. There’s little doubt Universal Orlando’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, which will open in May, will be quite the rage, but if the Orlando amusement parks aren’t your scene, the Space Coast of Cocoa Beach and Melbourne is a good alternative. And there’s a month-long Sand Sculpture Festival in April that looks particularly cool.
Given that the show runs in the heart of winter, warm and sunny destinations seemed to draw particular interest. The Cayman Islands used the event to introduce the Cayman Sea School
for kids with SpongeBob SquarePants. Although I’m sure this will attract the attention of many would-be traveling families, my boys don’t need their favorite Nickelodeon animated character to entice them to visit the Caribbean. But for parents, the discounted prices being offered by many of the island’s resorts should be enough to do the trick.
For anyone attending a travel show like this, and there are several nationwide throughout the year, make it an absolute priority to attend some of the seminars and lectures that run concurrently to the exhibitions. I listened attentively to Arthur Frommer list the best travel deals out there today, including some terrific bargains on cruises that can be found on Online Vacation Center. And Jennifer Conlin, the family travel correspondent for the New York Times, raised several eyebrows as she described her experience staying in a carriage house of a historic Royal Family vacation property with her three young children in rural England, saying it was very affordable and could be arranged by simply going to the National Trust’s website. (We blogged about it here on Intelligent Travel back in December 2008.)
But perhaps my most significant discovery came when I visited the scuba tank where supposedly kids could learn to dive from a certified instructor. I was mildly surprised to actually see a young girl in the tank fully adorned in scuba gear and ready to take the plunge. When I inquired as to her age, the DEMA coordinator running the program replied: “Ten.” “Isn’t that too young?” I responded, thinking that you had to be at least 12 or 13. Apparently not. Unbeknownst to me, PADI changed the minimum age about six years ago. Being an avid diver with two boys ages 10 and 13, I think I just might have unearthed the perfect activity for our next adventure!
Last year, Rainer Jenss traveled around the world with his wife and two sons, and blogged about his experience here on Intelligent Travel. This year, he’s back with a new column that focuses on traveling with kids. You can follow him on Twitter at @JenssTravel.
Photo: Rainer Jenss