Your Family-Travel Questions Answered
My kids and I want to try snorkeling. Do you have any suggestions for places to go? —M.E., La Mesa, Calif.
The Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire—a protected marine park jumping with sea horses and blue-lipped rainbow parrotfish—is our pick. Stay at Harbour Village Beach Club (800/424-0004; harbourvillage.com; doubles from $330), a resort with dive masters ready to motor you out to any of 40 snorkel sites. Another favorite: the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman (800/241-3333; ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $699), which has teamed up with underwater explorer Jean-Michel (son of Jacques) Cousteau to offer all manner of eco-adventures. You can snorkel after dark with flashlight-wielding naturalists, ride a pontoon to Stingray City to swim amid the giants, and film an underwater movie to watch while you’re resting your sea legs back home.
Is New Orleans ready for a visit? —B.V., Alpharetta, Ga.
Almost all of the key visitor attractions are up and running—and deserving support, says T+L Family’s senior consulting editor Peter Jon Lindberg, who reported on New Orleans for T+L’s November issue. Historic neighborhoods like the Garden District and Uptown suffered minimal damage from Katrina: you can ogle the white alligator at the Audubon Zoo, and, from there, catch a ferry down the Mississippi to the Aquarium of the Americas. Stay at the Hilton Riverside (800/445-8667; hilton.com; doubles from $139), a stroll away from the French Quarter—and the beignets at Café du Monde. Beyond the well-trodden areas, the wreckage lingers. For older kids, a bus tour of the Lower Ninth Ward (graylineneworleans.com; $35) is an important, if sobering, experience.
When does it make sense to use a travel agent these days? —M.K., Altoona, Pa.
For straight-shooting airfare and hotel reservations, scour the Internet yourself. But for complicated itineraries—two weeks of hopping around Eastern Europe with grandparents in tow— enlist an expert who knows the locale. T+L’s annual A-List charts top travel agents by specialty—you can find it at travelandleisure.com. Travelsense.org has a search engine of agents, more than 400 of whom focus on family travel. These pros can get you exclusive deals and orchestrate your trip—expect to pay about $27 per person for flights, along with a retainer for itinerary planning. Another upside: having an insider to help you through sticky situations—while the grounded masses bed down at the airport, an agent may be able to get your clan on the next flight out.
"When we’re heading off on a long drive, I give our 10-year-old a copy of our Google Maps directions, along with a marker. He has fun following our route, as we secretly teach him some geography."
—G.B., New York, N.Y.