The planner Alex Pommer, 16, high school junior. His parents, Danuta and David, own a dental lab. Home Base Warren, New Jersey
Not only does Alex actually like to travel with his parents, he plots out all the Pommers’ trips—one of many Internet-savvy teens who are calling the shots when it comes to family vacations. An honor roll student and member of a roller-hockey team, Alex has parlayed his planning know-how into a part-time job at a cruise travel agency. He can recite the names of all the hotels he’s stayed in, and loves ferreting out deals. Want a great place to stay in Helsinki?Ask Alex.
The research stage
First my parents and I decide where we want to go, then I start searching online for good buys. For a major trip, I’ll go to eight or nine big sites like Travelocity, Priceline, and Hotels.com, but you can often find deals in unexpected places. I was looking for a cruise two summers ago and stumbled across a great package on Continental’s site (we all have frequent-flier accounts with them). The rate was comparable to others I’d seen, but they were offering a room upgrade (a bigger balcony on a higher deck), plus miles for booking on their site. My dad was happy about that.
Orlando our way
We’ve been to Orlando 10 times and usually stay at the Hilton. It’s a four-star hotel right on park property, offering the same privileges that Disney-owned resorts do—but it’s cheaper. I got to bring a friend on one of our trips; he paid his airfare and my parents covered our room. It was great to have someone to go on the rides with—we couldn’t get enough of Test Track at Epcot.
We like the Starwood chain, which includes Westin and Sheraton. The Hotel Danieli in Venice, which is just a bridge away from St. Mark’s Square, is part of their luxury collection—I spent a night there on a trip through Europe I took with Weissman Teen Tours this past summer. The Hotel Kämp, in Helsinki, where my parents and I stayed in an enormous room with a marble bath a couple of years ago, is also part of the group. It’s my No. 1 hotel in the whole world.
Giving the local fare a try
In Estonia, we tasted bear (really salty); in Helsinki, reindeer in chocolate sauce (delicious).
Wish we were still there
Our trip on Grandeur of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s smaller boats, was one of our best. We got to see the Bahamas, Cozumel, and Key West, and didn’t have to pack and unpack. The excursions were a little pricey, but worth it—we saw Tulum and the Mayan ruins, and my father and I tried snorkeling. On the days we were at sea, I went to the Teen Club and got to know some great kids. We still talk online.
Where we’re heading next
I’ve been obsessed with New Zealand ever since I did a school project where I created a 14-day bike tour through the southern part of the country. I researched hotels, activities, and logistics—and got an A+. Now I really want to go!