Tips for Traveling with Young Children
Traveling with children – especially during the holidays – is a great opportunity for family bonding and teaching your children about different places.
Yes, you’re probably going to have to deal with some chaos during your journey. But, with the help of the following suggestions from travel experts and experienced parents, you can arrive at your destination with your wits about you, and smiles on all of your faces.
The first step in making your trip a successful one is to do some general planning that will make things easier no matter which mode of transportation you use.
Pack light – Traveling with children can be like moving an army, especially if you need cribs, strollers or are planning to bring holiday gifts. Consider shipping gifts and other large items you don’t need during the actual travel ahead to your destination. That way you won’t have to drag them through airports or stuff them into your trunk. Most hotels can provide a portable crib if requested at time of reservation.
Dress appropriately – Wear comfortable clothes and consider dressing in layers so you can easily peel off or put on clothes to accommodate temperature changes during your journey. Also, if you’re flying, wear and dress your children in shoes that are easily removed and put back on for security screenings.
Bring distractions – Children quickly become bored no matter how short the trip. Bring a variety of books, toys, games, music, videos and other activities to keep your child happily occupied.
Bring snacks – Having a few healthy snacks for the kids and for yourself is important, especially when you encounter unexpected delays. Try to avoid or at least limit sugary snacks which often tend to get children wound up.
Expect messes – There will be messes. Pack extra diapers, wipes and paper towels for dealing with the inevitable. Pack disinfectant wipes to sanitize the lap trays and arm rests which tend to house most of the germs.
Traveling by Plane
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Association of Flight Attendants offer these helpful tips for parents traveling with children.
Plan your seating in advance – When you can, book your seats in advance so that you can get the family in adjoining seats. Try to get seats as far forward as possible. The further back you go, the plane gets noisier and takes longer to exit after landing.
Fly early in the day – Flight attendants suggest parents with children fly as early in the day as possible because those flights are less crowded and most passengers on them – including children – just want to sleep.
Consider using a child restraint system (CRS) for younger children – Although it’s not a law, organizations including the FAA and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the use of a CRS, like a car seat or harness, for younger children.
Be prepared for air pressure changes – To help avoid or decrease ear pain during descent, encourage infants to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can chew gum or drink liquids through a straw.
Arrange for the airline to help – Let the airline do what it can to help you. Most allow families traveling with small children to board planes early. If you have a connecting flight, let them know so they can assist you in leaving the plane and moving from gate to gate.
Traveling by Car
If your travel plans involve a road trip, here are some things that will help.
Know when to leave – With babies, plan to leave later in the day when their energy is lowest – often during afternoon nap time. With older children, leave early in the day when their energy level peaks.
Make frequent stops – Figure a series of short breaks into your travel plans. This allows everyone plenty of opportunities to stretch, move around and take care of any restroom needs.
Relax – Most important of all, don’t let the travel part of your trip rattle your nerves. Take a deep breath and relax. Keep in mind that the whole point of traveling in the first place is to go somewhere where you can enjoy being with those you want to be with.
Here are some more helpful resources for you:
“The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Kids” – Parents.com
“How to Fly with Baby” – Parents.com
“Tips for Quite Plane Trips with Kids” – PBS Parents
“Flying with Children” – Federal Aviation Administration
“Top Five Holiday Travel Tips” – Association of Flight Attendants
Thank you for reading along, as we work together in raising the next generation of amazing kids!
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