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   Travel Hints:

The key to a stress free journey is preparation. If you have a clear view of every stage of the journey it will flow more smoothly than if you are having to react to a sucession of minor disasters which are being flung at you.

The problem with air travel is it's all hurry-up & wait. You rush to the airport and wait to check in. You hurry through security and wait 3 or 4 hours to be called for boarding, and so it continues. With the additional security measures which the current climate dictates, you need to prepare for many hours waiting at airports. For older children a book to read and a gameboy works so well that you can even catch some time to grab a coffee and chill out . Younger children are more challenging as they need constant entertainment and supervision. We found our kids will play with a cheap toy they've never seen before far longer than a treasured one they've had a while, so call in at McDonalds and see what they've got left over from their happy meals that you can beg for the journey

On the flight the most important points are regular exercise and plenty of fluids. There has been much talk about DVT and some of the advice is contradictory, but if you are concerned then discuss it with your doctor. My mother (a pensioner who had DVT during pregnancy) was concerned about flying to America. She went to the doctor who did a simple test and told her that she was at no higher risk than anyone else. Whilst this isn't exactly a clean bill of health, it presumably does mean that the test would have identified if she was at a higher risk.

Practical measures which we can all take, and which help to combat jet lag as well as Deep Vein Thrombosis [DVT] include:

- take a walk around the aircraft at least once every hour, and between times flex you legs, ankles and toes to keep the circulation going.

- give the duty free a miss and drink plenty of water. Some airlines have a water dispenser for you to help yourself, but a good tip is to take a water bottle from home which has been in the freezer all night. By the time you are airborne, the ice will be melting nicely but the water will remain ice cold. You can sip it throughout your journey.

- take an asprin. Opinion on this is divided. Asprin does thin the blood, so it could be beneficial to those at risk of DVT, but it isn't without risk or side effects. Stomach ulcers and Asthma can be adversely affected by Asprin, so consult your doctor first.

If you are a nicotine junky, now would be a good time to quit. Smoking is banned on all airlines flying into the USA, and in most areas of the major airports. Don't be tempted to smoke in the toilets as they do have sensors in their and it is a Federal Offence.

Before you leave the plane, you will be offered a Visa Waiver form to complete. As a UK citizen, you are probably eligible to enter the USA for up to three months as a visitor. By completing the form and signing the declaration you are ready for Customs & Immigration when you land. If you have any kind of criminal record, have been a member of any organisation likely to be of interest to the security services or even if you have ever been detained in connection with certain offences, you are not eligible for the visa waiver scheme. If this applies to you, you should contact the American Embassy to ask their advice before you book your holiday. The UK & America share information, and you could be refused entry to the country if you don't have the necessary visa.

Once you land, your first stop is at immigration. These guys are the front line in keeping terrorists and criminals out of the country and they take it very seriously. The euphoric mood of a party coming off a 10 hour flight and ready to start their holiday doesn't fit well with the job that immigration have to do, and things can get a little stressed. All the members of your party need to arrive at the desk together, and answer all the questions which are asked. These guys do not have a great sence of humour so don't act up!

From here it's on to collect your luggage, and through to customs. Provided you have packed carefully, this should be OK. In particular, no foodstuffs of any kind can be brought in to the country. Anything else which is likely to be prohibited (knives etc) will already have been confiscated at the airport if you tried to take them on holiday with you. Certain medication may be banned in the USA, so if you are on a course of treatment, consult your doctor about using an approved alternative.

As you head for the car rental desks to begin your holiday, it's worth pausing to buy a newspaper or candy bar to ensure that you have change for the toll booths. Until you are used to them, we'd suggest you stick to the manned toll booths as you can get change, and they are slower moving, so you have more time to check your directions and avoid mistakes.

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