3. Amusement Park Express Passes
What It Is: It can take days to fully take in a large amusement park and –let’s face it– you’ll spend a good amount of that time standing in lines. A single-day ticket with the “express pass” option could allow you to do everything you want to in one day at most parks (by skipping the long lines), and it generally costs less than a 2-day ticket. Use that extra time to hit another park or, even better, relax for free at the hotel pool. The bonus: Not having to endure hour-long lines with kids who are bored, impatient and overexcited.
Cost: It varies, but examples include $15-$30 at Sesame Place (on top of a $58 ticket) and $36-$70 at Universal Studios (on top of $88 admission). Six Flags also offers discounts –for example, at Six Flags, the basic Flash Pass, which lets you make a reservation at a ride, then walk around the park until it’s your turn, is $45 for one person, and up to five people can be added to the pass for sliding additional fees (that’s on top of the regular daily admission of $42 for online adult ticket purchases and $40 for kids). Keep in mind the whole “Fast Pass” service is actually free at some parks (like Disney), so always do research before you go.
When It’s Worth It: Anytime it will significantly increase your ability to enjoy the park, such as on peak days, when you only have one day, and when you’re with very young, easily exhausted kids.
4. Travel Insurance
What It Is: Travel insurance does much more than just cover the costs of a canceled trip. In fact, a policy could easily pay for itself if it covers costs related to a missed flight or cruise connection, a canceled flight, lost or damaged luggage, roadside assistance and even rental car damage. Better still: Even the most basic policies often come with a “concierge desk” that will help you arrange a car rental, hotel and restaurant reservations and event tickets, and help with things like finding a local doctor when your little one comes down with strep throat. Every hassle is a bigger hassle when kids are involved, so if insurance makes it easy for you to, say, find a last-minute hotel room instead of toughing out an overnight delay at the airport, I’m all for it.
Cost: One provider, ProtectYourBubble, offers coverage for a $3,000 trip for three to Orlando ranged from $107 to $172. To find the travel insurance provider that best fits your needs, try using SquareMouth, a website that helps you compare quotes from several different companies.
When It’s Worth It: Almost always … unless you’re a real risk taker!
5. Gear Rental
What It Is: This can obviously vary, but when we rented a condo in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the room didn’t come with any type of baby bed for our then-15-month old. Luckily, a local concierge service rented a pack’n’play to us for about $15 for five days. It was set up when we arrived, we didn’t have to schlep a portable crib through the airport and we avoided $25 to $75 in potential checked luggage fees.
Cost: Equipment rental fees vary widely by the item you need and where you’re staying, but it’s worth checking ahead of time. Try a web search for your destination and the words “rent baby gear,” or call and ask your hotel’s concierge service if their hotel partners with a local company for rental.
When It’s Worth It: If the rental is at least equal to what you’d pay to check the portable high chair, large stroller or travel crib you’d like to bring, the convenience of not having to carry those items with you makes them worthwhile, in my opinion. I’ve found that often the rental price is less than the airline fees, meaning you’re actually paying less money for more convenience—double score!
6. CARES Airplane Harness
What It Is: Most airlines require parents to buy a ticket for kids starting at age 2, but many buy a seat even when their kids are under 2 because they don’t feel safe carrying them on their lap. The CARES strap, on the other hand, allows our family to bypass the whole “Should I bring a car seat?” question when traveling with our toddler and preschooler. It weighs barely a pound, fits easily into a shoulder bag and integrates with an airplane seat belt to create the same 5-point strap you would have in a car seat. It’s for kids from 1 year of age up to 44 pounds, and it’s FAA approved. Better yet, your kids can take it on and off for short stretches to play, eat over their trays, even stretch across their seats to nap.
Cost: $65, which seems like a lot of money for a strap. But consider this: If you use the strap for at least 3 round-trip flights, the cost amounts to under $11 for each plane ride–a fair price, I think, to avoid a backache and up your odds of landing with a happy kid (not to mention happy co-passengers).
When It’s Worth It: You’ll be traveling multiple times with a young child who would otherwise need to sit in your lap or in a car seat.
More from Learnvest