Finding an expert travel advisor who can carefully plan the perfect vacation can be a daunting task, but not if you consult a Vacation travel agent like Lori Randle. She has more than 18 years of experience planning dream vacations for clients, and she’s traveled to 18 countries as a solo traveler. In addition to her travel expertise, she’s also a mom who has organized trips to 10 countries with her family, which includes her husband Al and her kids, 13-year-old Tristan and 9-year-old Ashton. And it’s that firsthand family travel expertise that sets her apart from other agents. So, we asked the Albany-based travel expert for her travel secrets. Here are her top 5 tips for traveling with kids, her most memorable family vacation, and why you should consult a travel agent to plan your next family trip.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST TO PICK TRAVEL AGENT AS YOUR A CAREER PATH?
I was looking for a job where I could get paid to travel, it doesn’t quite work like that, but it allows me some great discounted travel opportunities!
What are some reasons why a travel agent is necessary in planning a family vacation?
They can suggest popular places that other families have gone who may have similar interests. Many properties offer special perks or programs for kids of all ages and agents can help find those for you which can really make your trip special. Sometimes popular Caribbean and Mexico destination resorts & cruise lines offer “kids stay free” promos and your agent can find the best price for your family.
What is one of the most memorable family vacations that you've had? Why was it so memorable?
A vacation to the Beaches Resort with my kids. I had wanted to bring them there and we first went at the perfect ages to utilize pretty much all of the amenities offered. We took 2 day trips that made it really memorable. First, we visited a local school where my kids donated supplies that we had purchased ahead of time. They met and spent the day with Jamaican kids their age. Secondly, we took an excursion to Blue Hole, which was a series of waterfalls and rocks that we climbed and jumped from, and it all ended with a rope swing and a 20-foot drop. We all took a turn, even my youngest!
What are you some of your most memorable family vacations? Why?
We really enjoy the beach. I am scuba certified and both my kids both swim, snorkel and have started their scuba certifications as well. Sunny days near the ocean make for a perfect trip for us. We are true believers that no two beaches are the same and we have seen some lovely ones – Grand Cayman, Turks & Caicos, Riviera Maya, Jamaica, Hawaii, Costa Rica and St Lucia.
Would you recommend those trips to others? Why?
I definitely recommend visiting any of the islands in the Caribbean at least once. Aside from the beach, the culture (people, food and music) is something you can learn about first hand and it gives both kids and adults a broader world view.
A family, with teenagers, wants to go on a high-end, luxury vacation. What are a few places or travel experiences you'd recommend?
Costa Rica is a great place to start for active families – you can zipline through the rainforest, take surf lessons at the beach, horseback ride, hike a volcano, or ride four wheelers in the woods. There are plenty of luxury hotels that offer upscale accommodations, delicious cuisine, and topnotch service and amenities.
Another suggestion would be a safari – Kenya and Tanzania are absolutely amazing, and the wildlife alone is enough to impress any teen! You can visit game preserves, take a jeep tour and get close with animals in their own habitat, and depending on where you stay possibly have giraffe outside your window or joining you for breakfast as one of the dining areas has “tree top” level dining so you are right at their height.
Based on your family travel expertise, are there places you would not recommend traveling with family? Why?
Almost any destination can be an option with kids however definitely take into consideration any time changes when traveling. A day or two with tired young kids is never any fun for anyone. An island like Bora Bora is really geared toward honeymooners but the island of Moorea is really family-friendly so there is usually an area or “easier” way to visit most places with kids – you just need to work with your travel agent to plan it.
What places are still left on your travel bucket list?
Definitely, Fiji! I have been to 3 islands in the South Pacific and not managed to make it to Fiji yet. I’ve heard it is beautiful and I want to see it for myself. I want to go to Monaco to watch the Grand Prix. One of my hobbies is watching Formula 1 racing and the Monaco Grand Prix is the most prestigious automobile race in the world. The city looks so alive and there is so much glamour and glitz I would love to be there for it. And I’ve been to Europe, but not yet to Italy. Aside from the beautiful scenery and history I really think I am just drawn there for their wine and food!
What are your top 5 travel tips for parent traveling with kids?
1. Lower your expectations. Relax and enjoy the trip you actually have rather then the one you are picturing in your head.
2. Pack snacks for the plane and any delays you may encounter.
3. Try to research ahead of time and plan something you know your kids will really enjoy trying or doing.
4. If older, give them a journal, and if younger, give them a disposable camera. It is amazing what they find interesting and important to write about or take a photo of.
5. Buy a keepsake. So many times, we travel and don’t bring back something local while on vacation. It will be great for them to have something to look back on years from now after the trip is over.
What are some must-have items when packing for a family vacation?
SNACKS! Pack empty water bottles. Fill them in the airport once you pass through security & bring along on day trips. And also bring small backpacks so kids can collect (and carry!) their own things.
Inspired to book your own family vacation? Let one of Vacation’s on-call travel experts match you with an expert travel agent like Lori Randle, who can customize a dream itinerary that you and your family will remember forever.