It’s spring, the schools are off and many families see this as an opportune time to spend some quality time together and head out on a family vacation. Depending on the size of your family and the distance of your destination, most families choose to either fly or drive to their ultimate vacation destination.
If you choose to travel by air, there are many challenges that parents face when traveling with children. It is essential to plan ahead and make sure you have adequate supplies, snacks and activities for your children to keep them occupied and well nourished during the flight and any wait times or possible delays that you may encounter.
Most airlines require children 2 or older to have their own seat. The airlines recommend using a child restraint seat for children over age 2 and less than 40 pounds. It also allows for you to have your car seat with you when you arrive at your final destination. Children under age 2 may travel on the lap of an adult but it is recommended that an appropriate in-flight child restraint be used as well.
Pack all essentials for your child in your carry-on luggage, including food, diapers, wipes, medication and any other items that you will need in flight or would be difficult to replace should your luggage get lost or delayed.
Do not place your child in an aisle seat as the temptation to reach out into the aisle is great and movement by carts or people accessing the isle could cause injury. Dress in comfortable and easy to remove clothing to aid in efficiently passing through the TSA security check point, and will make it convenient to add or remove clothing as the airplane climate warrants. Jackets also make great pillows and blankets while traveling.
Bring along gum for older children and a bottle, juice box or pacifier for younger children to assist in acclimating to changing cabin pressure during take off and landing. When the beverage cart passes, choose non-alcoholic and decaf beverages to avoid dehydration. If you or a family member has a peanut allergy, contact the airline ahead of time by phone to discuss their allergy policy and accommodations that can be made. Most airlines have a buffer zone of 3 rows around the person with the allergy or do not serve peanuts on their flights if someone with a history of an anaphylactic allergy is onboard.
If possible, get up and walk around during your flight every hour or so to stretch your calf muscles and help avoid blood clots from developing.
Antibacterial hand wipes or hand sanitizer should be used frequently while in the airport and on board the plane. Saline nasal spray used before and after the flight helps to keep the mucous membranes of the nose moist which many theorize will help to increase the resistance to airborne germs that run rampant in the dry, re-circulated plane air. Last and probably most important, maintain a healthy well- balanced diet and get adequate rest before and during your trip to help prevent susceptibility to illness.
Many people choose to travel to their destination by car. There is nothing more intimidating than the thought of a long trip in a car full of children. With planning and some creativity, driving to your destination can be an opportunity for some family fun and adventure.
Driving long distances to your destination is a great reason to stop by your nearest fire department or children’s hospital to verify that your car safety seats are installed properly and have not been recalled. By law, infants and small children must ride in a crash-tested, child restraint. An infant must be placed in a rear facing child safety seat until they are at least 1 year old and 20 pounds. After 1 year of age, the car seat can be turned to front facing or a toddler safety seat can be used. At age 4, the child can transition to a booster seat until the child can wear an adult seat belt that fits correctly. That generally occurs when the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 8 to 12 years of age. Children under age 13 should never sit in the front seat if there is an airbag as the deployment of the airbag can cause serious injury or death. For more information about child restraint systems go to www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
Prior to leaving for your destination, encourage everyone to use the restroom and rather than leaving first thing in the morning, allow children to have some active playtime before departure.
Stop to get some exercise every 2 to 3 hours. This is a great opportunity to use the restroom, get some gas and allow the children to run around and get some exercise. Bring along a Frisbee, football, soccer ball or plan a family race around the rest stop. This allows everyone to burn off a little energy and allows stretching of the calf muscles and decreases the likelihood of the formation of a blood clot from inactivity.
Pack a backpack for each child that has snacks, drinks, car games, books, coloring books, crayons and other items to help pass the time in the car. Bring a lightweight blanket and small pillow to help provide comfort while napping. Consider stopping by the local library to pick up some audio books or videos for the whole family to enjoy en route.
Create a car emergency kit filled with a first aid kit, flashlight, tools, water, flares and emergency contact information.
There will be a few opportunities to have meals along the way, so consider packing a picnic to eat at the rest stop, ordering “to go” meals at restaurants that have play areas and allow the kids to play for a while and dine in the car, or go to a local supermarket for a fresh and healthy salad bar meal.
Bring along plenty of diapers and diaper wipes and designate an area in the car that’s easily accessible to change little ones when the car is safely stopped. Stock up on antibacterial wipes to clean the surface area of toilets that toddlers and young children use in public rest rooms. Extra wipes also come in handy for washing hands after returning to the car and cleaning up any messes that happen along the way.
Whichever way you choose to travel, we hope your travels are safe, fun-filled and treasured times that your family will cherish forever.
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