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Top Family Travel Tips from the Experts

Family Travel

I'm just back from a trip to Italy and like every long adventure with toddlers, it was a schizophrenic mix of life-could-never-be-better moments and how-am-I-going-to-get-through-this hell. There was Sebastian's meltdown at Heathrow because I wouldn't buy him the really big Paddington bear (thank god for the Terminal 5 play area); the relentless "I want milk" requests while driving through the milkless rolling hills of Tuscany; and the constant sticky faces and stained shirts from twice-daily gelato injections (Italian napkins just don't do the job). In anticipation of my next family excursion, I reached out to the pros for some tips on how to make the journey smoother. Here, my favorites:

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How to Prepare for an Icelandic Eruption

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Remember the great Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 that spewed ash across European airspace, stranding millions of travelers throughout the continent—and beyond? Iceland may be giving us a repeat performance, this time care of the Bárðarbunga volcano (that's Bardarbunga to English speakers), which has been increasing its seismic activity over the last week.

A few days ago, the agency that monitors the volcano raised the threat level to the aviation industry to ”orange,” the second-highest rating, putting airlines around the world on alert for possible flight disruptions due to ash clouds. Though it’s still unclear if the volcano will actually erupt, travelers planning to fly to or through northern Europe in the coming weeks should be prepared. Here’s what you need to know:

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Gary Shteyngart's Misadventures in Air Travel

Air Travel

When I was told I was flying to an Indian literary festival via Kuwait Airways, I was ready to arrive in style. Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways—the region is known for its luxurious, pampered version of air travel. Perhaps Kuwait Airways would have a new Airbus A380 with an onboard lounge? High-thread-count bathrobes? Personal air butlers? In any case, I hoped the wine menu would have a nice dry Riesling to help me ease into a different climate, and, heck, some free spa products would be nice.

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Six New Phone Accessories to Up Your Instagram Game

Upgrade Your Phone

With a couple of key accessories (shown here with the iPhone 5S), you can turn your camera into a bona fide powerhouse.

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Print-At-Home Bag Tags Now Available From First Gulf Carrier

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Add Qatar Airwaysprint-at-home luggage tags to the growing list of ways you can shorten your travel to-do list before even arriving at the airport, (flight check-in and security clearance included) and getting out of Doha is now as easy as finding your gate and browsing the duty-free emporium.

The official carrier for Qatar is now offering its unique service, called My Q-Tags, to passengers departing the new Hamad International Airport to 103 destinations. Unfortunately, there are no domestic stops on that list at this time due to TSA regulations.

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Best Apps for Organizing Travel Information

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Keeping track of your itinerary details, loyalty programs, and reservations can be a headache without the right tools. T+L takes a look at the best apps.

Worldmate Gold: Wish all of your travel details would show up on your phone’s calendar? WorldMate’s premium app will make it happen—whether you use Google, iCal, or Outlook. It can sync flight schedules, restaurant reservations, apartment rentals, and more—and if you add a hotel booking, the app will automatically try to find you a better price. Also handy: built-in weather forecasts that appear alongside your appointments. ($9.99 per year; Android, iOS, Windows Phone)

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What's Inside CBS Anchor Norah O'Donnell's Carry On

Norah O'Donnell's Travel Bag

Norah O'Donnell, the globe-trotting cohost of CBS This Morning, reveals her in-flight arsenal.

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3 Travel Laundry Detergent Solutions

travel laundry detergent

I’m tired of paying for pricey hotel laundry service. Any tips for on-the-road alternatives? -Sarah Taurus, via e-mail

For basic pieces, take matters into your own hands: bring along one of our picks for travel-friendly detergents.

Dissolvable detergent sheets from Sea to Summit won’t spill on the go—just add a few to a sinkful of water. $3.95 for 50 sheets; pictured above.

Lewis N. Clark’s Laundry Kit includes a drain stopper and eight travel-size portions of Woolite. $4.99.

Forever New fabric wash is formulated for washing by hand and comes in a space-saving mini bottle. $3.50.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Why Do Airplanes Dim Lights on Takeoff?

Why do Airplanes Dim Lights on Takeoff

Lowering cabin lights and raising window shades are standard safety measures during takeoff and landing—the most critical moments of every flight. The dim lighting allows passengers’ eyes to adjust more quickly during an emergency evacuation. As Chris Cooke, a pilot with a major domestic carrier, puts it: “Imagine being in an unfamiliar bright room filled with obstacles when someone turns off the lights and asks you to exit quickly.” The raised window shades bring natural light into the cabin, just in case it’s needed.

Photo courtesy of Vicki Beaver / Alamy

Melanie Lieberman is the Editorial Projects Assistant and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow her on twitter at @LittleWordBites.

 

5 Great Road-Trip Apps

best apps for road trips

Planning a summer drive? These five tools—vetted by T+L tech correspondent Tom Samiljan—will help you make the most of every mile.

FOR ON-ROAD ENTERTAINMENT TUNE IN RADIO You’re unlikely to get playlist fatigue listening to the app’s 100,000-plus radio stations from all over the world, but if you do, Tune In also offers streaming access to an inexhaustible number of concerts, podcasts, and talk shows on a clean, user-friendly interface. From NPR news updates to local traffic alerts and sports scores, this all-purpose radio app delivers in spades. (Free; Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone)

FOR GPS (AND MORE) SCOUT This app by mapping giant Telenav may be the most practical tool for road trippers: it finds the cheapest gas stations, dictates turn-by-turn directions at your request, and provides personalized recommendations (restaurants, hotels, even local concerts or events) along any multi-leg route. Bonus: the Arrival Guide feature (iOS only) points out the best parking options near your destination. (Free; Android, iOS)

FOR ITINERARY SUGGESTIONS GREATEST DRIVE Still charting the course of your drive? This app suggests the best road-trip itineraries nearby, annotating each with a summary, star rating, and user reviews. (It’ll also tell you whether a road is twisty, scenic, or likely to be traffic-plagued.) Can’t find what you’re looking for? Integration with Yelp helps you pick places to eat and things to see along the way. (Free; Android, iOS)

FOR HANDS-FREE SHARING GLYMPSE Texting and driving isn’t just dangerous—in most states, it’s illegal. That’s why Glympse, which automatically relays your GPS location to family and friends, is invaluable when you’re sticking to a schedule. Your information is sent only to predetermined contacts in your phone book, for select windows of time—making it easy to keep your eyes on the road. (Free; Android, iOS)

FOR QUIRKY ATTRACTIONS ROADSIDE AMERICA If you’re driving cross-country just for kicks, you might like to see Pittsburgh’s Robot Hall of Fame, or the world’s largest collection of teapots, in Trenton, Tennessee. The app also sheds light on the idiOSyncrasies of beloved attractions (historical monuments; parks; sports arenas)—10,000 venues in all. (From $2.99; iOS)

AUTO CONNECTION Thanks to new connected-car technology, your favorite mobile apps are now being optimized for in-dash touch screens. Carmakers from GM to Audi are introducing built-in apps, while initiatives by Apple (CarPlay) and the Android-focused Open Automotive Alliance are being integrated into select Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Volvo models, among others. What to expect: voice-activated Web search, OpenTable reservations booked from your car, and maps showing how far you can go at current gas levels.

TECH WATCH Meet the next generation of public Wi-Fi: Hotspot 2.0. These secure networks offer an automatic connection—simply walk within range and voilà, you’re online. Boingo subscribers can find them at 23 major U.S. airports; access is also available for Time Warner Cable customers coast-to-coast.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo courtesy of Jake Stangel

 


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