Mom and son fun

Q My friends and I were thinking of a mom/son trip in March. We would like to find something for a reasonable price that would be fun (and safe) for our 17-year-olds. Possibly an all-inclusive in Mexico or a cruise. Any ideas?

A Either an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or a cruise could be terrific and relatively affordable. The key to determining the destination and having a successful trip is communication -- with your teens, the moms and a travel agent.

Plenty of resorts and cruises cater to teens by offering teens-only clubs and activities such as rock climbing and skateboarding. Of course, that age-group can be difficult to please. Each mom should talk to her child about what he's looking for in a getaway.

Then its time for the moms to chat, both to exchange notes on their sons' wishes and to determine a few of their own. Does each mom want to have a dinner or do some activity alone with her child? Will the boys be able to go off on their own (legal drinking age is 18 in Mexico, 21 on cruises), what will curfew be and what will be the consequence should the teens miss it? How much is each willing to spend? Do you want adjoining rooms or a little distance? Set these parameters before departure, and there's a better chance your vacation will be tension-free.

The Web is a great tool for exploring ideas. At, for instance, you can read suggestions for best cruises for teens. But I recommend you book using a local travel agent. Many have first-hand experience of a host of resorts and cruises, and they can help ensure a smooth trip, from getting your group adjoining seats on the plane to finding the right lodging upon your arrival.



Special lanes for pilots

Under a new program, airline pilots can now zip through security checkpoints at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport without being scanned or searched like everyone else. The program comes amid calls for a new security screening process that creates faster security lanes for pre-screened, frequent travelers and airline crew members while keeping close scrutiny on high-risk passengers. At O'Hare, Transportation Security Administration officials are using laptop computers to verify the identification employment status of pilots by checking multiple photo IDs and real- time airline data. The pilots then go through a special screening lane, where they avoid full-body scanners and pat-down searches. Pilots even get to keep their shoes and jackets on, and no one searches their carry-on bags. Testing for the program is expected to be expanded soon to other airports across the country.



Bedbug insurance

As the hotel bedbug problem continues to creep across the country, several insurance companies have begun to offer bedbug policies. Willis North America in New York offers a bedbug insurance policy that covers the costs of decontamination, profit losses because of business interruption and crisis management help, among other services. Aon Risk Solutions in Chicago and NSM Insurance Group in Pennsylvania also recently announced bedbug insurance policies. Bedbugs began to grow as a problem in hotels in East Coast cities a few years ago and have been creating headaches for the hospitality industry across the country.



North Shore music festivals

Mark your calendars for two North Shore music festivals this month in Grand Marais, Minn.

The Radio Waves Music Festival, next Saturday and Sunday at Sweetheart's Bluff, features two stages of live music, open-mic, dancing, a children's area, on-site camping (call 1-218-387-1712 for reservations) and plenty of food. Sept. 10 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sept. 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. $5. For more information, call (1-800-473-9847, 1-218-387-1070;

Over at the North House Folk School, Unplugged X: The Northern Harvest, takes place Sept. 15-18. On Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., you can catch National Public Radio's Mountain Stage program with Larry Groce, featuring music by more than a dozen performers. A North House benefit concert on Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. will showcase local singers and songwriters. Daily tickets are $20-$50. Other activities include a folk art auction, mini-classes ($25) and music workskops ($55-$95); (1-888-387-9762;