The first annual Family Travel Conference was held at New York’s Omni Berkshire Hotel the first weekend of February, 2012. The Omni Berkshire is located on 52nd and Madison Avenue in a prime spot close to Grand Central Station, Times Square, Central Park and shopping on Madison Avenue. The Omni Hotel staff couldn’t have been friendlier, making the hotel seem more like a home away from home.
One of the reasons I attended the Family Travel Conference, was to find out how mothers and fathers travel with children, when traveling and packing for one can be such a challenge! When I start packing for my adventure trips for JohnnyJet.com, the whole house is turned upside down; every potential necessary item is pulled out and decided upon before it goes into my ever-shrinking travel case.
For my recent trip to Alaska, I bought a 24 x 17 x 10 inch suitcase hoping to avoid the $50 roundtrip charge for baggage on American Airlines. After stuffing down jackets, vest, ski pants, fleece jackets, long underwear, hat, gloves, turtle necks and jeans into five space bags, then adding huge, but necessary warm Sorel boots, I finally zipped it shut. I learned at the airline counter my bag didn’t fit into the mock wire “carry-on” model even though the measurements matched the carry-on standards listed on the website. Maybe the wheels added an extra inch or two?? Ugh! Double Ugh!!
So, when I joined a group of more than fifty women and a handful of men to hear about how they did this with kids in tow, I listened carefully! Kim Orlando, one of the founders of the conference and TravelingMom.com, a popular website for moms who travel with (and without) kids was the elegant and knowledgeable hostess.
I already knew my friends with children had close bonds with other mothers. They used phrases like needing assistance while they “were in the trenches”, “doing battle” with two year olds, comparing parenting to warfare. They knew they would not “survive” without the advice and support of other mothers going through or who had gone through the same experiences.
That was what the Family Travel Conference was all about. Over the course of the weekend, I connected with many travel professionals, became followers on Twitter, and gleaned tips which are helpful not only for people traveling with kids, but for all travelers.
During the conference we listened to a panel of blogging experts and technical savvy individuals: Susan Getgood of Blogher, Steve Bookbinder of Digital Media Training, Tim Springstead of Travora. Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum was a graceful presenter and a co-founder of the Family Travel Conference. Kudos to Joanne Vero of Travel Media Showcase who helped produce the event. Eileen Ogintz, the fourth partner, contributed as a speaker in the Better Travel Writing forum, along with Paul Eisenberg. Eileen is a leader in family travel with her book “The Kids Guide to New York City” and “Taking the Kids” website.
A video training workshop with Kaleel Sakakeeny of Travel Video Postcards, helped us test our new skills as we videoed “the behind the scenes” workings of a hotel. I was able to tour the kitchen with a group of 8 other writers, interview the executive chef Ron Ulczak and see how a large hotel like Omni Berkshire is serviced by a relatively small kitchen. Our charming chef even taught us how to flip two eggs for a perfect rendition of eggs over easy (keep the pan hot)!
At the “Eat and Tweet” dinner we all became fans and followers of each other and tweeted Q’s & A’s. Best of all… we didn’t have to feel rude about looking down into our phones at the dinner table! New rules for new times!
We were given some super products like a pair of Cushe (cushy) shoes, a Ricardo of Beverly Hills travel case (that I just tested on a four day trip and adored), and special chocolates from Bloomingdales. Other sponsors included the NY pass, Camp Broadway , Disney Parks , Atlantis, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Allianz travel insurance formerly Access America taught us how inexpensively travel insurance can be (as low as $19!).
At the Omni Berkshire the room was very spacious, especially by New York City standards, and newly decorated in a modern style. I registered online the night before which entitled me to a free carafe of Starbucks coffee, delivered to my room. My husband, Cam, aka travel writer “High Road Cam,” came into the city at the end of the conference and we met for drinks at the Omni Berkshire’s Fireside restaurant.
Cam had a Ginger Cosmo – mulled fresh ginger with ginger flavored vodka, really delicious and almost healthy! We shared tempura-battered calamari with an Asian dipping sauce and mini sliders and were not bowled over by the check. The bar atmosphere is casual and comfortable with a few TV’s for sports enthusiasts (like Cam).
All in all, the Family Travel Conference was a great opportunity to connect with travel professionals and enjoy a wonderful weekend in NYC at the Omni Berkshire Hotel.
Sponsored by Family Travel Conference and Omni Berkshire Place