Traveling with Children

Traveling with children can be fun for the entire family. But travel is more than just fun, games and adventure.

Traveling with children can be challenging, especially when it comes to safety. Accommodations away from home may not be “child–proofed” and you may need to make special arrangements for transportation. Here are some tips to help ensure your travels are safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Before you leave

  • Mentally walk through every aspect of your trip. Make a list of supplies you will need to take with you or have on hand.
  • Talk to your physician or health care service in advance about the availability of emergency medical care at your destination location. Get a pediatrician referral to have “just in case.”
  • If your child is on medication, make sure you have enough, keep it with you and take the prescription along. Know where you can get more medication and/or medical supplies at your destination.
  • When traveling long distances, don’t forget to take into account crossing time zones when figuring medication intervals.
  • Don’t leave home without a first aid kit. Check it before you leave and make sure the supplies are fully stocked.
  • Provide your child with identification information in the event you are separated. Be sure to include the child’s name, your name, your destination address and phone number, your home address and phone number, and any medical information someone may need to know. Also consider including the name and phone number of a relative.
  • Keep a recent color photo of your child with you at all times.
  • Always accompany children into public rest rooms.
  • Teens don’t always like adult supervision. Consider allowing a friend of your teen to join you so they can do activities together, but independent of the family, rather than alone.
  • If you don’t have a wireless phone, consider leasing one for your trip.

Getting there

  • Give yourself enough time to get to your destination – do not rush.
  • If traveling by car, be sure to use the proper child restraints while driving.
  • Keep children occupied while driving and don’t allow them to distract the driver.
  • Check out the roads before you leave. Find out about road closings and highway construction by visiting the department of transportation Web sites of the states you plan to travel through, or get an update from your auto club.
  • Pack an emergency road kit in the event the car breaks down. Be sure to include a first aid kit, flashlight, triangular reflectors or flares, food, water and blankets.
  • If your child has difficulties with a long car–ride, consider another mode of transportation. Flying or traveling by train may be faster and easier on your child and you.
  • Do you need a car seat on an airplane? The Air Transport Association and the airlines recommend one if your child weighs 40 pounds or less. Using a safety seat on planes can prevent and reduce the severity of injuries to children caused during turbulence, rough landings and other situations. Most airlines offer discounted fares for small children using safety seats.
  • Holding a small child on your lap can actually be dangerous. In an emergency you may not be able to hold on to your child and you could accidentally crush your child with the weight of your body.
  • Children under 20 pounds should use a rear facing child safety seat. Children weighing 20 to 40 pounds should use a forward facing child safety seat. Children weighing more than 40 pounds should use the standard lap belt. Child safety seats that conform to federal safety standards for planes are labeled as such. If you are not sure about your child safety seat, call the National Department of Transportation’s Auto Safety hotline at (800) 424–9393.
  • If you are using a child safety seat on an airplane, book a window seat for the child. Child safety seats should be placed in window seats so they do not block the escape path in an emergency.
  • If your child has a special medical condition that may be of importance during your flight, make the flight attendant or gate agent aware of it.
  • A complete list of safety recommendations for air travel with children is available from the FAA’s consumer information hotline. Call (800) 322–7873.
  • If you are renting a car, some rental companies can supply child safety seats. Ensure they are clean, in good condition and properly installed.
  • If you are traveling by train or bus, follow the safety recommendations provided by your carrier.

At your destination

  • Find out if rooms at the hotel you’re planning to stay at are childproofed. If not, pack a supply of outlet covers, cabinet door locks and other items designed to keep your youngster out of harm’s way.
  • If your room has a kitchen, remember to pack knob covers or remove the knobs when you are not cooking.
  • If the hotel has cribs and other child furniture available, make sure the items are safe and in good condition. Reserve needed items in advance.
  • Does your hotel or resort offer children’s activities or babysitting? Ensure the staff is highly trained. Is a physician on–call for emergencies? Find out before you go what specific services you can expect.
  • If your destination is a cruise ship, talk to the carrier in advance about special amenities and programs for children and/or teens.
  • If your child has a disability, learn in advance if hotels, restaurants, transportation carriers and attractions can accommodate your special needs. Some hotels offer roll–in showers, flashing light smoke alarms, lowered light switches and other amenities for individuals with disabilities.

For kids traveling solo

  • If your child is traveling alone – be it by plane, train or bus – inquire about any special procedures that are required and escort services the carrier may provide.
  • When making reservations for your child, make it clear that he or she will be traveling alone. Make arrangements in advance for escort services.
  • The day of travel, get to the terminal early. Your child may be able to pre–board and get settled before everyone boards.
  • Stay at the terminal until you see the plane, train or bus depart.
  • The people responsible for meeting your child at the destination will need proper ID. Ask them to get to the gate before the flight arrives. Notify them of any delays or changes in plan.
  • Make sure your child contacts you when he or she arrives at the destination. Consider giving your child a pre–paid phone card to use.

When traveling abroad

  • Make sure your child’s immunizations are up–to–date.
  • Consult your pediatrician about any special vaccinations that might be required. Have them administered in advance in case there is a reaction.
  • Be aware of customs rules. Fresh fruit, dairy products and other food items that you may plan to bring along for your child may not be allowed into another country.
  • If your child is traveling with one parent, make sure you have a signed and notarized letter from both parents authorizing permission for the accompanying parent to take the child out of the country. Make sure you also have necessary medical release forms.
  • Take installable seat belts, child safety seats and child helmets along with you. They may be difficult to obtain in some countries.
  • Be careful with exotic foods. Your child’s digestive system may need to adapt gradually.