Trip Coach: Dec. 7: Family Travel
Candyce Stapen answered your questions on family travel.
Candyce Stapen: Hi, I'm Candyce Stapen. One of my latest books is National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations. I'm happy to be here and I'm taking questions now. Thanks.
Bend, OR: My three sisters and I are trying to plan a family reunion cruise for my dad's 60th birthday next June. Between our group, we have 10 adults, 5 children under 12, and will have 2 infants (due February and April). We are scattered throughout the country, so any port of departure would be fine as we will all travel to get there. Do you have any suggestions for a fun, affordable family cruise with something for all ages?
Candyce Stapen: Book the Caribbean. With its beaches, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing, hiking, sailing, shopping, and cultural experiences, there's plenty for each age group.
What concerns me is the age of the newborns. On most cruise lines, infants must be 4-6 months old in order to cruise. The minimum age on Carnival is 4-months. On Disney ships the minimum age is three months. Disney is a good bet because the line offers a nursery for infants 12 weeks -36 weeks. The hours vary and are limited, but it's a nice option to have. Space is limited so reserve ahead if interested. If the baby to be born in April will be coming aboard, you need to move the cruise to July or later.
Also, before an infant can board the ship, you need to show proof of proper inoculations.
Currituck, NC: My passport expires the middle of February, and I am planning a trip to England for a week the middle of January.
Will it be okay to wait until I get home to renew the passport, or do I have enough time to do it now?
Also should I go through our Clerk of Court, or handle it myself?
Candyce Stapen: You should immediately renew your passport. Most countries require that your passport be valid for at least SIX months from your date of entry. That means you should consider your passport as already expired even though it technically is good through mid-February. The good news is that you can start the renewal process online by filling out forms. Click on travel.state.gov/passport
Renewal fees are $67 and the process takes about two weeks. Because of the upcoming holidays, I suggest you pay the extra $60 for expedited service plus the overnight mailing costs. It will be worth the peace of mind in getting your new passport back in time for your trip.
Chapel Hill, NC: We (grandparents, parents and 5 grandchildren ages 7-14)are cruising to Alaska next July. What is the best way to chose shore excursions so that they appeal to the whole group OR is it better to split out and talk about our adventures at dinner?
Candyce Stapen: An Alaskan cruise is a wonderful vacation that your family will remember forever. To make sure they think of this voyage fondly, don't try to do everything together, and that especially includes shore excursions. The teenagers may want to bike, hike or kayak while the parents and grandparents may want to visit a museum or stroll through town.
In Skagway the ride on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad is suitable for all ages, the scenery is spectacular and the fee is relatively affordable.
One beware about Alaska: To see the Alaska that's America's last wilderness, you need to get away from the cruise dock and get on float planes, helicopters, Zodiac rafts and kayaks, something that gets pricey, but is worth it in at least one port.
Minnetonka, MN: What about a cruise with a large family, but young children? We have 4 children ages 11, 9,7, and 5 so we really can't put them in thier own cabin, and my husband and I don't want to spend the cruise in separate rooms! Is there such a thing as a cabin that sleeps 6 that's not the President's suite?
Candyce Stapen: Cruising makes for a great family vacation and there are several strategies for large families that don't want to pay for expensive suites. The least expensive option is to book two adjoining interior cabins. Some Carnival Cruise Lines' ships offer these cabins as do other lines.
Disney Cruise Line, along with offering suites that sleep 7, has connecting staterooms and cabins that accommodate five people.
NCL's new Pride of America offers family suites and NCL's Star and Dawn have cabins that fit up to five people as well as connecting cabins. Royal Caribbean's Voyager and Radiance class ships have family cabins that can fit six people, but there's still only one bathroom.