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Parenting in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
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Adrienne Krock, editor
Keeping in Communication on Vacation

Today's column begins a two part series on keeping in communication during a trip to a theme park. Often large groups of family members and / or friends travel to theme parks together. Once inside, they often split into smaller groups to enjoy different attractions. 

In the first part of this series, Byron Brainard has stepped in to tell us about one communication option which I've seen many families using in the parks these days:

If you have and your family are thinking about going to the Disneyland Resort in the near future, and you are worried about staying in touch with one another, worry no more! Today, there are many options; the one we will focus on here is the one referred to as "family radio service" (FRS) two-way radio.

The most popular manufacturer is Motorola, Other manufacturers include V-Tech (famous for its cordless phones), Cobra, Kenwood, Maxon and Sony. With FRS units, the age-old adage applies: the more you pay the better you get. Donít be frightened away by this! Most of these radios are all under $100 each. 

Your biggest concern when purchasing FRS radios should instead be that many other families use the same type as you. The best way to prevent cross talk and interference is to purchase a radio with at least 14 channels and 38 privacy codes. This ensures that your communications with the rest of your party come out clearly. You can see a model description chart on Motorolaís Web site that gives the attributes of all its FRS radios.

Out of all the Talkabout radios that Motorola currently produces, the Talkabout 101 is the best value. With this radio you get all the functions of the Talkabout SLK series for a third of its cost. I recently saw this unit at Costco being sold for $42.99! What a DEAL!

If you can spend a bit more, the entire SLK series of Talkabouts is flawless. You should keep in mind that these radios use three AA batteries. Regular alkaline batteries are available throughout the park, but at a premium price.

Talkabout T289

The only Motorola Talkabout that features a rechargeable battery is the Talkabout T289. This unit uses a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, which might be worthwhile if you are spending a week in the resort and want to use the radios for more than one day. The Talkabout T289 sells for about $165.00. This is a considerably more than the other Motorola Talkabout radios, as this model is its top- of- the- line consumer model.

Motorola strives to make the quality of its cheapest unit as close to its most expensive unit as possible. To put this Disneyland Resort terms, the more you pay, the further across the resort you can be heard clearly. Disneyland is not flat, and there are quite a few geographical barriers within the park itself. Most of the FRS radios on the market are currently limited to 0.5 watts of transmission output, while business band radios (like the ones used by Disneyland Resort) put out anywhere from two to 5 five watts, and does not interfere with FRS units.

What does interferes with FRS units? Physical barriers. Most FRS radios are rated for up to two miles of clear communication in a flat, open area. However because of various obstructions that exist inside the Disneyland Resort, you can cut this figure down by 75%, which means your FRS radio functions well up to a quarter mile. Do not expect to be on Main Street USA and be able to hear a family member who is in an attraction, or is all the way across the park. There are too many physical barriers between you and the other person for your signal to go through.

Without obstructions, the radios allow you to communicate with each other a fair distance away. You should have no problem if you are in Adventureland and the rest of your party are in Tomorrowland.

Using FRS radios can take the headache out of going to the Disneyland Resort with a large group. FRS radios provide a safe and convenient way to communicate at minimal cost, with spending limited to replacing batteries after you make the initial purchase. 

Let's talk about where to go to purchase your FRS radios. If you do not want to leave the comforts of home, explore the consumer gadgets section of (purchases made through them help support this site by the way). They have suggestions and comments about the radios themselves, and offer a very good selection of FRS radios.
Radio Shack is another alternative you may wish to check out.

You can also find FRS radios on many Web sites, such as Ubid, Ebay and BizRate. If online shopping isnít your thing, go to your local superstore, such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, Staples, Costco, Sam Club, Home Depot, etc. Since there isn't much of a difference in cost between stores and Web sites, where you shop is a matter of preference. 

If you have any questions regarding FRS radios, please contact me and I will gladly assist you. I can be contacted through e-mail at Talk to you soon!

Coming up next:
In part two of this series, Adrienne will return to discuss HAM radio: What is it and why you should consider using it for your vacation!

Wanted: Your questions and feedback! They will help me plan future columns! Write me at:


How does an FRS differ from a HAM or business band radio?

By using the radios that fall under the FRS category, you do not need to go through a FCC licensing procedure as you would with HAM or business band radios.

Crowded Channels

As family radios increase in popularity, you may find that the channel your family has chosen to use is crowded. 

Plan ahead for this by selecting a new setting you will switch to in case your first choice is busy. When you need to change settings you can simply say: let's go to the other setting. 

Radio Etiquette

1. When you're ready to speak, press the button down first and wait a second before beginning. Otherwise, the first words you say may be cut off.

2. Do not hold the radio too close to your mouth! This will muffle your speech and make it more difficult for others to understand what you're saying.

3. Choose code names for family members. This will not only make using the radios more of an adventure but, more importantly, it will protect your privacy.

4. When you finish speaking, say "over" to let the other party know that you're finished. When you finish your conversation, say "out" to confirm this with the other party. 

You don't need to learn a lot of "Radio Speak," but using "over" and "out" will help your communication.


Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.

Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.

Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.

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