California Coast RV Road Trip

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Going to Orlando and its Parks

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Helsinki City Guide

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Tips for traveling with grandchildren

We know how you feel — your grandchildren are perfect, adorable little angels who bring you and the rest of the world nothing but joy. And if they don’t, you can always give them back to their parents, right? Not if you decide to travel with them!

Still, if quick visits and even overnights leave you longing for more time with your grandchildren, consider traveling with them. More and more seniors are finding that trips with their grandchildren are great bonding experiences filled with wonderful memories — if planned carefully.

Talk to their parents
Talking with your grandchild’s parents is the first step in planning a successful trip. The parents will know if their child is ready to be away from home without them, and they will be valuable resources when planning the destination and activities their children tend to enjoy. Children bore easily, so it is important to know what really piques their interests. Your grandchild’s parents will also be able to tell you about sleeping and eating schedules, and it is best that you try to stick to these, even on vacation. Children thrive when they know what to expect and are most comfortable in a routine.

Do a test run
Even if you and the child’s parents agree that he or she is ready to travel, have a test run. After all, you won’t know about homesickness until you’re already away from home, and it is best to find out if your grandchild is miserable away from his or her parents on a day trip rather than a weekend-long vacation. If you’ve never spent time with your grandchild without his or her parents, this is a good opportunity to do just that. Take the child to the zoo or to the beach and see how it goes. If it doesn’t go well, maybe your grandchild isn’t ready to travel with you, or maybe you just need to warm up to a long weekend with several more day trips.

A test run will also help you assess your own limits. Remember, children have seemingly endless energy and are difficult to keep up with. If you find yourself wiped out after just a few hours, you may need to either scale back on your travel plans or wait until the child is a little older.

Prepare, prepare, prepare
After you have decided on a destination, explain to your grandchildren where you will be going and what they can expect from your trip. Will they be traveling by plane? What sort of a place will they be staying in? Children are at their best when they know what to expect and surprises are at a minimum.

Make sure your grandchildren have proper identification, including contact information, on them at all times during the trip, and be sure to have a recent photo of them in case they get lost. You should also have a notarized authorization form from your grandchild’s parents in case he or she needs medical attention. Make sure you are crystal clear on medications and dosages if your grandchild will be taking any during the trip.

Get the kids excited
Read about the chosen destination with your grandchildren and then ask them what they hope to get out of the trip. That way, everyone’s expectations can be discussed and (hopefully) met.

When we asked for tips from our members on this topic, Travelmommy told us her parents have taken several trips with her young children and the experience has been very positive. “Usually my folks send a card before the trip with a map or a picture of where they plan to take the kids, but last time they sent a video,” she said. The video they sent was called “Shae by Air,” and Travelmommy told us the video was instrumental in preparing her children and getting them excited for a flight with their grandparents. “The premise of the DVD,” she said, “is that children, even small ones, have the capacity to understand what to expect and what is expected of them, and with that the ability to be respectful, good little travelers.”

If you’re looking for organized travel opportunities for grandparents and grandchildren, check out the family programs from Road Scholar or the Sierra Club’s multigenerational trips. Lindblad Expeditions offers family-friendly and learning-intensive expedition cruises to destinations around the world. (Read more about six reasons you’ll love an expedition cruise.)

If an organized tour is too cost-prohibitive, consider going it alone. How about camping at a national park? Not only do seniors enjoy deep discounts at the parks, but there are plenty of kid-friendly activities like hiking and wildlife viewing. Had something a little more relaxing in mind? Rent a vacation house at the beach — kids never seem to tire of the ocean and the sand. Remember it’s not as much about where you go as it is about the memories created from the time spent together.

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Search is on for lost cat at JFK’s Terminal 4

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Remember Jack the Cat?

The former stray made headlines and more than 24,000 Facebook friends last year after escaping from a pet carrier in Terminal 4 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport that was bound for an American Airlines flight to California. Two months later, Jack fell through a ceiling panel in a customs area in JFK’s Terminal 8. But by then he was so ill that, despite extensive veterinary care, he was euthanized 12 days later.

Courtesy Jerry Cheung

Xiaohwa the cat bolted at JFK Terminal 4 on October 18.

Now another cat has escaped at JFK, and the cat lovers at Where is Jack, Inc. — the non-profit formed to honor Jack’s legacy — are concerned that neither the airline involved, China Airlines, nor officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are actively searching for the pet or giving her owners adequate information. 

On Thursday, four-year old Xiaohwa (the cat’s name means “little flower” in Chinese) was being checked in for China Airlines Flight 19 to Taiwan by a friend bringing the cat to its owner. But Xiaohwa bolted when the traveler removed her so security officers could inspect the pet carrier.

“We called Terminal 4 to ask people to look around,” a China Airlines employee told NBC News after the passenger reported the cat had escaped. “That’s all we could do,” the spokesperson said, as the passenger didn’t have a picture of the animal.

Xiaohwa has been missing since Thursday. Her owner, Iris Yu, says she’s having a hard time finding out what is being done to find her pet.

“I am so worried and wondering where she is,” Yu told NBC News from her home in Taiwan. “I have been calling the Port Authority and the airline every day trying to ask for details about the search, but they just tell me to wait.” Yu moved to Taiwan 10 months ago and paid $120 for a ticket for the cat to travel with her friend as excess baggage. She spent hundreds of dollars more for documents, health exams and other travel preparations for the cat.

Yu’s boyfriend, Jerry Cheung, lives in Brooklyn and has also been trying to get information about the cat’s whereabouts. “After the incident we were told it’s the airline’s responsibility but the airline’s phone just kept on ringing with no answer for several days,” he said.

The Port Authority told Cheung it would put out some small animal traps with food and “wait it out.”

“This is what they did with Jack and it didn’t work,” said Mary Beth Melchior, founder of Where is Jack, Inc., which has offered the airport help for active searches of lost pets. “Passive searches for lost cats rarely, if ever, result in finding the animal in a timely manner that allows the animal to remain healthy,” she told NBC News.

Although Xiaohwa has a microchip and has a history of being street savvy, she may have already used several of her nine lives. Yu and Chueng adopted the cat after seeing and feeding her for two years on the streets in their neighborhood. They took her in when she was sick and pregnant and nursed her back to health despite a veterinarian’s suggestion that the animal be euthanized.

In September, the Port Authority approved plans for construction of a $32 animal handling facility at JFK that will handle up to 70,000 domestic and wild animals annually and “set new national airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services.”

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Most common travelers’ tipping mistakes

54 min.

Photo © iStock

A few coins can cause a lot of drama.

College professor Gene McManus was having a quick dinner in Sydney and had just gotten back his change from a sarcastic waiter. “I thought, I’ll show you, I’ll leave a 2-cent tip,” says the Canadian, “so I left these two small, ugly coins that looked like Life Savers.” The next day he returned to the restaurant and was greeted enthusiastically and shown to the best table. “Turns out that ugly coin was a $2 coin,” says McManus. “I’d tipped $4 on a $12 bill.”

The most ironic part of the story? McManus’ waiter likely wasn’t even expecting 2 cents—because in Australia, restaurant patrons rarely tip at all.

Since travel offers us countless opportunities to thank those who ease the way for us (valets, drivers, bartenders), it also offers myriad chances for making tipping mistakes. And though most of us have made the occasional gaffe—unintentionally stiffing a deserving hotel housekeeper, for instance, or expecting a tipee to make change—learning from these can ensure a more rewarding travel experience for everyone involved.

“Tipping is part of your vacation, and it’s also part of doing business when you travel—and you need to budget for it,” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and the owner of the Protocol School of Texas. “You’re tipping for the moment, and for future service—so that they will remember you the next time.”

Her rule of thumb for traveling overseas? When in doubt, ask a concierge or guide for local tipping protocol. In the U.S., she advises, “If they touch it, you tip them.“

If it’s any comfort to tip-happy Americans, people from other countries are often just as clueless about tipping when they come to our shores.

One Australian travel insurance agency has even decided that their clients need educating: “Since Australians don’t tip at home, there is great angst about it, and they have come to blows over it,” says Phil Sylvester of the Sydney-based World Nomads Group. “We finally decided it was a safety issue that needed addressing—as in, ‘Don’t get into a fight, learn to tip.’”

More from Executive Travel:

18 days

8 most common tipping mistakes—and how to avoid them

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44 TSA workers face firing or suspension

The Transportation Security Administration on Friday proposed firing 25 employees at Newark Liberty International Airport and suspending 19 others as a result of an investigation into improper screening of checked luggage.

The alleged screening failures at one of the New York area’s three major airports were uncovered late last year after surveillance cameras were installed in one of its 25 screening rooms to check for possible thefts, the TSA said.

Eight employees were fired in June in the investigation. The latest action raises to 52 the number of TSA employees at Newark caught up in the investigation, making it the biggest single disciplinary action taken by the TSA at a U.S. airport.

The latest group cited includes screeners, as well as managers accused of failing to effectively supervise their employees.

Related: Baggage handler at JFK gets life in prison for smuggling drugs

All the screeners cited for failing to follow procedures were removed from their jobs in November and December and given non-screening duties pending completion of the investigation, the TSA said.

The TSA, which has more than 1,400 employees at Newark, said the screeners failed to ensure bags were properly screened before flights departed, but it did not provide more detail.

“The decision to take disciplinary actions today with the proposed removal of 25 individuals and suspension of 19 others reaffirms our strong commitment to ensure the safety of the traveling public and to hold all our employees to the highest standards of conduct and accountability,” said Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman.

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The theft investigation, which the TSA said was the reason the cameras were installed, did not lead to any charges. The TSA said an employee who was a suspect in that probe ended up resigning, though the cameras were left in place, turning up the screening lapses.

The previous biggest disciplinary action taken by the TSA was last year at Honolulu International Airport, where 48 employees were proposed for firing or suspension, also for failing to properly screen luggage.

All 44 employees cited Friday have the right to appeal. The proposed suspensions would be for up to 14 days, and without pay.

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Southwest Airlines to take over more AirTran routes

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DALLAS – Southwest Airlines will take over routes from AirTran Airways in four cities next April as Southwest continues to combine the two airlines.

Southwest said Monday that AirTran will end several nonstop routes to and from Charlotte, N.C.; Flint, Mich.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Portland, Maine, on April 13.

The flights will begin as Southwest service the next day. The changes are part of Southwest’s new schedule, which runs through May.

Southwest Airlines Co. bought AirTran last year. It is gradually phasing out the AirTran operation and folding it into Southwest. 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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