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How airlines are catering to their smallest customers—children

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Airlines are constantly trying to find new ways to win customers. In this never-ending competition, carriers — mostly international ones — are now turning their attention to their youngest passengers, wooing children (and beleaguered parents) with new amenities such as toys, child-friendly toiletry kits, meals and amped up seat back entertainment.

Paul Tumpowsky, a father of a toddler daughter and the co-founder and chief executive of the New York travel agency Skylark, said that these new amenities go a long way in keeping children occupied on long flights. “If children are happy, then parents are happy, and they associate the airline with a positive flying experience and are more likely to choose it for future trips,” he said.

A photo provided by Emirates shows “kids kits”. Emirates, in partnership with travel guide company Lonely Planet, gives children “kids kits” like these when they board. The kits are packed with activities, socks, luggage tags, and more to help children pass the time on their flight.
A photo provided by Emirates shows “kids kits”. Emirates, in partnership with travel guide company Lonely Planet, gives children “kids kits” like these when they board. The kits are packed with activities, socks, luggage tags, and more to help children pass the time on their flight.  (EMIRATES / NYT)

“Kids kits” keep children seated, happy and quiet

Emirates recently introduced a kit that young passengers receive as soon as they board. It contains a travel-themed reusable bag or lunch box, a coloring book with markers and an arts and crafts project such as an origami kit. Older children get an animal backpack with a travel journal, and babies and toddlers get a stuffed animal such as an elephant or alligator.

In addition, the airline has an expanded menu of children’s in-flight meals including chicken tenders and various kinds of pasta, served on a colorful tray. To keep them satiated between meals, children get a snack box with a cookie and sliced fruit.

Qatar Airways also has a new activity pack for children with crayons, coloring pages, stickers and a puzzle book. Infants get a stuffed toy, along with a plush book. The airline has also introduced new seat back entertainment aimed at children. It includes more than two dozen family-friendly movies that change monthly, and children’s television such as The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and BabyTV.

Qantas also offers a kit with an activity book with puzzles and word games and even an Etch a Sketch toy. On select international flights, youngsters get colorful antiskid socks that they can wear onboard.

Turkish Airlines has several new onboard offerings for children. They receive a sack of three sustainably-made wooden figurines like pandas and soldiers, and a backpack amenity kit that includes a child-sized headset, a dental kit, socks and slippers. Parents with babies get a kit with a diaper changing mat, disposable bib, rash cream, baby lotion and shampoo, a packet of wipes and a breast pad.

Toys and videos keep children calm and entertained

On Singapore Airlines the cabin crew gives out toys to children based on their age. Babies, for example, receive plush blocks, while pre-school-age youngsters get mini puzzles, and older children get a Monopoly Deal card game. The airline plans to change the toys quarterly.

Young passengers also get to pick from a children’s menu with more than a dozen items, like a burger with fries, fish sticks with diced vegetables and pancakes with sausage.

When it comes to domestic carriers, JetBlue recently debuted kid-focused videos from Headspace, a meditation service, as part of its in-flight entertainment. One of the videos, for example, is a 5 minute cartoon that teaches children how to stay calm on a flight. The airline also has a new “Party Up” food box designed with youngsters in mind. Sold onboard for $9, it includes M&M’s, popcorn, Fig Newtons, Parmesan cheese crisps and salami slices.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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