Guest Post: Top 10 Travel Tips for Traveling with Kids
Hello! This month is busy for me—right now I’m either on a road trip saying bye to friends and family, prepping for our move, or en route to Italy! In the meantime, I’ve set up some scheduled posts with great guest bloggers for you. I hope you enjoy! Ciao ~Jess
Things certainly have changed since I first started traveling with kids. I almost hate to admit it, but we actually didn’t have to put them in a car seat! We didn’t travel nearly as much either.
I have learned a lot since those early days, and I would love to share some of those tips with you. Of course, a lot depends on the age of the child, and their interests, but I hope all of you can find a few helpful ideas here.
The mode of transportation has a lot of influence on what you plan when traveling with a child.
1. The airlines do not currently require babies/toddlers to be restrained in a proper restraint system. However, it is a fact that in sudden, severe turbulence, you probably will NOT be able to hang onto your precious little cargo. Please investigate Child Restraint Systems before taking your child on an airplane trip.
One such CRS is the CARES Child Restraint System which is designed specifically for aviation use for children age 1 and older who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds. These children are old enough to be in their own seats, but too small for the seat belt alone to protect them. It is FAA approved as an alternative to a car seat. And believe me, carrying that car seat aboard is difficult at times. This CRS weighs just one pound and will fit into a 6” stuff sack. Check that car seat as Baggage, and save yourself a headache. CARES is manufactured by AmSafe Aviation.
2. TSA restrictions have become quite rigid in recent years, and while there are allowances for formula and baby food (you will be able to declare it and expect an extra inspection at Security), you can not carry water or juice through Security. Plan to buy any drinks you want for your child on the other side of the Security Checkpoint. And believe me when I say, NOTHING in your One quart zip lock bag can be over 3.4 ounces.
3. Whether traveling by automobile or by car, plan ahead to take snacks which your children like and will be able to eat in confined quarters. This is the one time to forget the rules about junk food. And don’t forget the wet wipes. If it will help the child, and you, get through the travel experience…take it with you!
4. Traveling by automobile and looking at the scenery may be great fun and interesting for adults, but most toddlers will not be satisfied in a moving car for more than 4 hours no matter how you entertain them. Older children can probably stand up to 6 hours, so it is best to plan frequent stops (potty breaks, stretch your legs, scenic overlooks) and not travel more than six hours each day. And you might want to consider one of those little portable potty chairs with disposable liners for those times when there just isn’t a bathroom available.
5. I found that sometimes when a long drive is unavoidable, it is better to plan the trip for a time when the kiddies will be going to bed. Most children fall asleep fairly easily in the car, especially when it is dark. Dress them in their pajamas, make sure they have comfortable pillows, blankets, etc. and play some soft music. They might just sleep through most of the trip, and arrive at your destination rested.
6. For younger children, a Portable DVD player can be a Godsend. You don’t have to have one installed in your vehicle, there are laptop versions readily available. If your children are of different ages, you might want to invest in two so that they can put on their earphones and watch age appropriate movies. The expense ($50 and up) is minimal in comparison to your state of mind. You can either purchase their favorite movies, or stop at a Red Box or other location and rent to return later. Toddlers can appreciate a Leapfrog Leapster, and older children also enjoy their GameBoy or DS. These can be packed in a “backpack” which the child can wear, or in their own little “carry on”.
7. Always take at least one extra set of clothing in an easily accessible location for each child. Also if you have a child in diapers, always take three more than you think you will need. It might even be a good idea to have a spare set of clothing for yourself, you never know when there might be an “accident” where your clothing is the target, and it is mighty uncomfortable to travel in soiled clothing. I was once traveling with my six-month-old daughter during a particularly hot day, the plane was small, and a woman in front of us was wearing a terribly strong perfume. It was nauseating! Suddenly, my daughter who was in a sling attached to my chest vomited her entire stomach right down inside the front of my sundress….aaauuucckk. The poor stewardess was beside herself trying to assist me as there was no water aboard. She handed me a bottle of club soda and some napkins and I had to make due for the flight from Barcelona to Madrid. As I said, it pays to be prepared…I wasn’t. When we landed I had to go to the restroom and do my best to cleanse myself and my clothing for the balance of the trip back to Paris. I did have an extra outfit for the baby, but not for myself. Lesson learned.
8. Although they have some really wonderful strollers out there these days, the best one for airline travel is still the old fashioned umbrella stroller. Again, if you want to take the big one for use after you arrive, check it as baggage. The child will be able to stay in the umbrella stroller until right before you get on the plane, and may even nap in it. Then just as you board, you may easily fold the stroller and stow it aboard. Believe me, the airline staff will appreciate this too.
9. If you are flying with young children who have ear canals smaller than ours, it is a good idea to take candy to suck on or gum to chew during takeoff and landing. This will help to equalize the pressure in their ear canals and avoid uncomfortable and tearful trips. Infants can be encouraged to suck on a bottle.
10. Last, but not least, take a plastic bag in the car, in the diaper bag or stroller for disposing of trash, or bagging soiled clothing. And, please, please don’t ask your steward or stewardess to take a dirty diaper and put in the bag they collect trash in. Take your infant to the restroom for changes, and dispose of the diaper there. Your airline staff will really appreciate it as will surrounding passengers.
Remember to have FUN when you are traveling with children. Don’t take sick children or infants on airplanes, trains or busses. Make beautiful memories with your children that will last all of you a lifetime.
AND, just as another thought, check out Cruising with Children…the options offered now are incredible for both you and your kids. We will talk about that another time.
In regards to #2, you can't carry water or juice through, but you CAN carry an empty bottle and fill it up with water after you're through security. Many airports in the US now have water fountains with spouts specifically for filling up bottles.
Also in regards to #2, I've taken a thermos of milk for my 2 year old daughter on many flights in Europe and the US. In Europe, they don't even test it, in the US they hold some stick thing over it for a few seconds. But I fill up a 30oz thermos of her organic milk and they've never not let me take it on a plane.
Also, I've read the CARES system doesn't work all that well because little kids slide out from it easily. I'm sure it's better than nothing, but I've also read that if you put it on a seat, then the person behind you can't use their tray.
Thanks for all the suggestions though!