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Looking for a Cruise for the Kids' Here is Your Plan

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So you're looking for a cruise for the kids but aren't quite sure about how to ensure an enjoyable trip for all' Here are the must do's and tips to help ensure everyone enjoys a 'Trip of a Lifetime'!

Haven't cruised with the kids before' Stop fretting and go for it. With the proper planning, research and following the tips below, parents and kids can all enjoy a memorable vacation. But there is one prerequisite when planning the family cruise, "The Kids Come First".

If you are looking for a vacation for some significant mom and dad along time, a family cruise may not be the best choice. Remember, for much of your vacation you will be in a confined area with predefined activities and schedules already determined for you. However, you can find cruises and cruise lines that cater to your family and this will make your vacation a much more enjoyable time for the entire family.

The first step in planning a family cruise is to understand what your children enjoy and find a cruise line that provides kids activities that your children enjoy.

It goes without saying that a high-end luxury cruise may not be the best for your family as these types of cruises often don't cater to the young or very-young. There is a reason that Disney cruises are so popular with families. Disney cruises cater to the kids. When on a cruise, if the kids are happy, mom and dad can better enjoy their vacation as well.

Whether booking online or with a travel agent in person, don't sign up for a cruise until you have researched the potential cruise line yourself. As an example, in a recent article in a local newspaper, a traveler and her family booked with Royal Caribbean after assurances from the on-line booking agent that the cruise did offer baby-sitting. Not until the family got onboard did they realize that there is no guaranteed baby-sitting and any baby-sitting provided was done by the crew on their off-time, and only if the crew felt like earning some extra money. Some cruise lines also have age boundaries for baby-sitting eligibility. If you are looking for baby-sitting onboard, make absolutely sure that the cruise lines offers a guaranteed baby-sitting service and make sure your kids are eligible.

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OK. Enough of the general tidbits. Here are the planning tips that can help help you research your cruise for the kids and make your cruise a positive, memorable vacation:

Scheduled Kids Activities
If you are looking for a cruise or cruise line that understands cruising with the family, find a cruise line that has excellent scheduled kids activities and you will find a cruise line that understands cruising with the kids. Some cruise lines offer non-stop activities for the kids from the early morning to the late evening. Many cruise lines break up the kids into age appropriate groups and targets the agendas for those age groups.

If your children aren't quite ready to spend long periods of time aware from mom and dad, take this into consideration when looking for that perfect cruise. In general, the well organized kids programs provide an excellent way for the kids to have a great time and to provide mom and dad some time to explore the ship activities on their own. Make sure you understand the schedules available for kid related activities. If you have a family that doesn't enjoy getting up in the mornings on vacation, and all of the kids activities are scheduled for early mornings, keep this in mind during your research.

Take the time to find internet reviews for the ships that you are considering that offer kid focused activities. In general, you will find that picking the right ship was the single most important decision when ensuring that both the kids and mom and dad have a great time.

Staterooms
As most experienced cruisers are aware, not all staterooms are made alike. Do the research and find out the size and configuration of your planned stateroom. Some points to consider with kids along. A nice view (not a port hole) to the ocean can help the kids enjoy the views, pass some time and provide for a more open sense in what will probably be a fairly crowded space. A picture window or a balcony does cost more, but the views to entertain the kids can be well worth it!

Consider the location of the stateroom in relation to the elevators, stairs and the size of the ship. If you are looking to cruise on a large ship, a room nearer the elevators and/or in the middle of the ship can help make the navigation of the large vessel much easier when you have several little ones in tow.

Also, generally the storage available in a cruise stateroom is minimal so pack as lightly as possible. Often the only place to put unpacked luggage is a tiny closet or on a spare chair. Again, check into the cruise line and stateroom you are considering. Some rooms do offer under-bed storage plus other cabin amenities that aren't available on other cruise lines.

Lastly, realize that depending on the cruise line and stateroom you choose, you may only have a shower in the bathroom. If you youngsters are use to taking a bath and have never taken a shower, take this into consideration when planning and preparing for the trip.

Want to Dine Early' Then Book Early!
Depending on the cruise line, there may be open seating for dining or scheduled dinner seating times. An open seating for dining is often found on the smaller, luxury oriented cruise lines and this is really the best cruise dining options available. You can choose where to eat, when to eat and with whom to eat. However, this is not usually the dining options on the larger, family oriented cruises. Most of the larger ships schedule one or two dining times and you are assigned a time, table and dining guests. Again, make sure you are aware of what is provided for dining options on the cruises you are researching.

If you are traveling with kids that like or need to eat early, be aware that the early seatings on ships that have multiple dinner times often fill up very quickly and far in advance of the actual departure date. Often these early seatings are filled 2-3 months in advance, or more, of the actual cruise so be aware of your dining preferences. If you need to ensure that you have an early dining time available for your family, check on the specific cruise sailing that you are investigating to ensure space is available.

There is More on the Menu Than Just the Kids Options
For the vast majority of the cruises that you will investigate, all of the food at meal times (and often outside of meal times as well) is included in your ticket price. So if the kids would like a steak, or fish, or lobster, go ahead and order it for them. The kids are not restricted to the items on the kids menu.

Many cruises also offer dining options that serve up mega, buffet-style dining in a very casual atmosphere. Here, the kids can sample from a variety of items they tend to enjoy while the adults can usually find hot or cold entrees that also please their pallet.

Stay Casual With Kids
If you are a family that enjoys traveling on luxury cruises, then you are already aware that those cruise options are sometimes not as casual as young kids often want to be. An important point to consider if you are looking for your first cruise is how your kids react to wearing less casual clothes.

Most cruises are casual, but often even the casual cruise can have one or two formal nights. Of course, you always have the option to skip the formal nights, but if your kids enjoy that type of thing, it may be fun for everyone to dress up once for a more 'formal' dinner.

However, if you kids are like mine, the more basic the dress, the better. In fact, most cruises are intended to be casual so let the kids have fun with their clothes. Here are a few tips to ensure that you have the right attire. First, know the dress code for the cruise and cruise line that you will be taking. Usually a simple wardrobe will suffice. For example, on a warm climate cruise, casual collared shirts and khaki shorts will do fine. The kids can hang out in swim suits and tee shirts around the pool but they will need something in addition to this for eating and gaming. Don't forget about the evenings, however, as any warm climate cruise may still have cool evenings on the ocean. In this case, one light jacket or sweater for each family member would suffice.

If you are taking a cruise in a colder climate you will obviously need a different type of wardrobe, but again, keep it simple and let the kids have fun in choosing their clothes to bring along.

Find the Water and Lemonade and Skip the 'All You Can Drink' Soda Cup
Not all cruise lines offer this, but if you happen to find yourself on a cruise that offers the ultimate 'All You Can Drink' soda cup for the kids, try to avoid this purchase as there is generally ample water, lemonade or other types of drinks available in between dining times. Not only will have you to keep this 'Ultimate Jug' in your small stateroom but you will have to find a way to keep in clean yourself. Convince the kids that there will be more than enough to drink on the ship without the need for their own Tower of Soda.

If the Kids are Diapered, Bring the Bag
If you will be traveling with small enough children that diapers are still a part of your packing checklist, then don't forget to pack sealable plastic bags. Not only will you want to seal the diaper in the bag for disposal in your stateroom, but other passengers will appreciate the odorless disposal of the not-so-sweet deposit.

Don't Forget to Bring the Kids Medications
Most, if not all, cruise ships of any size will have some medications available for purchase but they are extremely expensive. Let me repeat this, they are extremely expensive. OK, I think you get the point. Bring your own personal pharmacy of your preferred medications for the kids and yourself. The vast majority of people traveling on a cruise do not get sick, but as with any vacation, being sick is no fun, so pack the essentials.

To Car Seat or Not To Car Seat
If your children are young enough that they travel in a car seat, you will need to make a personal decision of whether to bring one or not. Most cruise lines do not offer car seats for rent so if you are adamant about having one, be prepared. You stateroom will probably not have an easy place to store the seat. Mass transports associated with shore excursions may not have room for the seat. Many foreign countries have transport vehicles that are much smaller than you may be used to and you may be carrying the seat for long distances if you need to walk to a bus or cab station. Just make sure you take this all into consideration when you plan your choice.

Seasickness, No Fun!
Whether traveling with children or not, this is one of the single biggest concerns among first-time cruisers. How do I know if I will get seasick' There are several topics to discuss relevant to this topic, but the bottom line is that unless you have some experience on a larger ship on the open ocean, you don't know for sure how your body will react. So here are some pointers.

If you are very concerned about the possibility of becoming seasick, check with your doctor as there are prescriptions available to help prevent the normal feeling of seasickness. There are pills you can take or anti-motion sickness patches that you can wear. Many cruisers wear these patches so don't hesitate to do so yourself or have your kids wear one. Also, the larger the ship, generally the less motion you will feel. If you want to do all you can to prevent the possibility of seasickness, sail on the largest ship you can find.

Cabins more in the middle of the ship and lower in the ship will sometimes help reduce the amount of bouncing and swaying you may feel. Of course this is no guarantee. Check with the cruise line or your travel agent to help find the best cabin location for your circumstance.

Dry Skin Alert
Depending on your normal climate that you come from, several days as sea may actually dry out your skin. You may want to make sure you pack some moisturizer and drink a lot of water. This is true for the kids and the adults that you are traveling with.

Go For It!
Hopefully following these tips and hints will help you and your family find the 'Trip of a Lifetime' on your next cruise. If you are still unsure if you should cruise with the kids, just remember, some cruise lines cater to families and are overbooked with reservations. All of those families aren't wrong. Give it a try, plan ahead and you will find that the entire family can't wait to go again.

If you are researching any cruise in the Asia or Pacific region, http://www.asia-cruise-info.com

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