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New Year's Resolutions for Travelling Families

No one keeps New Year's resolutions. So why even think about making them, right? Well, not necessarily. I actually kept a promise made this time last year. Like 60 percent of the North American population, I vowed to deal with some of those pounds that mysteriously appeared along with having kids. And I've lost 10 pounds! In view of this success, I'd like to think about possible resolutions for this year's travel planning. So to end the season on a positive note, here are some tactical manoevres that could make 1997 the best travelling year yet:

I resolve to buy several pairs of EarPlanes, children's size ear pain relievers for airplane take-offs and landings. Kids have an especially difficult time with these rapid changes in cabin pressure. Invariably, babies are crying and kids are whining while everyone is strapped helpless into a seatbelt. Inserting these small, soft rubber "plugs" into a kid's ear can relieve sinus pain and ear ache. Unfortunately, the plugs are not recommended for kids under five years. To help younger flyers, I resolve to get up enough nerve to tell parents to please get the child sucking on something-a bottle, a lollipop, a juice box, a finger, anything that gets them swallowing enough to stop the pain. EarPlanes are available by mail, U.S. $9.85 for a set of two from Magellan's (Tel. 1-800-962-4943).

I resolve to beat winter cabin fever by taking the brood to the Caribbean. A recent five-day junket to Barbados left me wanting more. Travelling across the lush, very civilized island, I kept encountering things the kids would love -the pesky green monkeys who come by the hundreds each day for feeding at the Nature Reserve, jitney rides (a trolley car pulled by a tractor) through fields of sugar cane, rocks carved into shapes by the sea. Barbados seems to welcome families with accommodations for every price range. If we manage to spend some March break time there, I resolve to get the kids to keep their own diaries and report back.

I resolve to do another family learning vacation.When I recently presented the idea of using our holiday time to take a course at the new Disney Institute at Walt Disney World in Florida, my 14-year-old was appalled. "It's a vacation Mum, it's not supposed to be school." But he forgets how pleased he was with himself some eight years ago when we all went to "summer school" for a week in Haliburton, Ontario. Each morning, we left our small trailer in a local campground to head for classes at Sir Sanford Fleming College, the campus used by Haliburton's School of the Arts. The kids took photography. They made pin-hole cameras out of pop cans, developed pictures using the sun, and printed negative images onto T-shirts. I took knitting of all things (most other adult courses were filled) but quite enjoyed days of learning to wrap wool around needles. After class, parents and kids would meet up for barbecues or head back to the cottage or trailer for a swim. It was a great week that culminated in a fashion show parading lopsided creations made by the students. The program has been extended to include jewelry making, pottery, soapstone carving etc. with special sessions for tweens age 11 to 14. (Tel. 705-457-1680 for a catalogue.)

In the U.S., the National Wildlife Federation stages highly popular outdoor programs for families. During week-long Conservation Summits, kids and adults explore animal skeletons, hike over mountain ranges, or search tide pools for sea life. These popular programs book up fast. For next summer's schedule, call 1-800-245-5484.

Probably, the ultimate learning vacation for kids over 10 is at the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World where kids can practise drawing Mickey with movie cartoonists or roll dough with professional pastry chefs. Closer to home is the revamped Southampton Art School on the Bruce Peninsula, where kids can tie-dye silk or play with clay with experienced artists while mom and dad are sitting on the beach sketching or learning how to construct ferro-cement fountains for their gardens. (Tel. 519-797-5609.)

I resolve to learn how to use the Internet for travel information. On the Big Red Boat last year, I asked families how they liked the ship. "Just what I expected," answered one dad. "But then I researched all of the cruise lines through the Net. I knew that the kids would have a good time." I was impressed with his research. But then with a modem attached to a computer, it's easy to hunt out first-hand information. Parents can now plan driving routes through big urban centres, visit Niagara, or hunt for a reasonably priced child-friendly Bed and Breakfast in B.C. all through a computer. Stay tuned for a future column on interesting web sites for travelling families.

Finally, I resolve to take Molly, our 11-month-old border collie, on her first family vacation. Now that hotels such as Four Seasons, Coast Hotels, and all Canadian Pacific properties take pets, dogs and cats can travel en famille. Who knows how we'll fare? I can see her having a blast herding skiers on the slopes of Mont Tremblant between treats and dog naps at CP's new Chateau Tremblant. Now that's a resolution that could put an end to all the others! To all readers Happy New Year and see you in 1997.





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