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Secrets of Successful Travelers

By: Lesley Alderman
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Proper planning can ensure that you get the most enjoyment out of your vacation.

The planner James Chung, president of Reach Advisors, a marketing firm. He and his wife, Christine, a law-school professor, have two children: Connor, 6, and Caitlin, 4.

Home base Slingerlands, New York
James used to work 70-hour weeks, so he rarely saw Connor awake for the first nine months of his life. Then he launched his own business, devising a four-day-a-week schedule that allows time for family—and travel, his passion. For now, the Chungs focus on U.S. destinations such as Cape Cod, New York City, and ski resorts in Colorado and Vermont. But James has plans for ancestral journeys to Korea and Ireland around the bend.

Before any big trip
I find children’s books and DVDs relevant to the destination—when we went to Vail, I packed "The Snowy Day." For a trip to Crested Butte, I printed out the trail map for Connor. This gets the kids excited about where we’re going.

Always with us
A digital camera. Once we’re home, we organize our photos with Google’s Picasa—it’s free, and so easy to use it practically does the job for you.

Key car accessory
We have a Thule Mountaineer car-top ski box, which we often use to stow luggage. It provides leeway when we’re packing; plus it enables me to see out the back and gives us a little elbow room.

Best time to go
Before Connor started school, we always traveled in the off-season. We’d avoid the tourist crush and get great deals. Every year we rent a house in Wellfleet that we found in the classified section of Harvard’s alumni magazine. We used to get the place for the whole month of September for what it costs to rent for a week in July or August.

Road rules
Now that we have to travel with the pack, I dip into frequent-flier miles for upgrades—it’s great to get off the plane first. On the road, we look for suite hotels so we don’t all have to sleep in the same room—otherwise we might kill each other!

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, 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.

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