This blog was originally posted November 2012.
My husband and I love to travel during our vacations. Now that we have two children, we like to refer to our traveling as Adventures with Our Family. We love taking our children to new places so that they can see new things, and we can share new experiences together as a family. Our adventures are definitely not sitting by the pool and reading a book cover to cover, since they tend to be more high-energy and full of activities. Traveling with young children is fun and challenging.
If you are flying to your destination, you will soon realize that you are hauling a lot of stuff to the airport (i.e. car seats, strollers, portable crib, diapers, etc.). Remember to get to the airport earlier than usual, since it will take longer to go through security with young children. We usually try to get to the airport about 2 hours before our flight is scheduled to leave.
Before you even get to the airport, give your kids a pep talk about the airport and security screening process. We told our son that we would have to take our shoes off, then there would be a moving belt that we would put our bag on, and a little camera would take a picture of our bag. Discuss with your kids that nobody can say or joke that they have a bomb in their bag, since it can result in fines and delay your whole family in your traveling. Also convince your kids to wear shoes and outer layers of clothing that are easy to take off for security screening.
If you are bringing a stroller, you can check it at the gate. Having the stroller will make it a little easier to get through the airport with young children, especially if you are in a large airport. The first time we flew with our son, I regretted checking the stroller with the rest of our luggage!
Bring your car seat with you, or arrange to have one at your destination. Most airlines will usually allow families to check the car seat as a special item, and will not charge you extra. Just double-check with your airline before your flight. Even though it is a pain to haul through the airport, we like to bring it with us and use it on the flight. A child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat until the child weights more than 40 pounds and can use the airplane’s seat belt.
Even though the FAA allows a child under the age of 2 years old to sit on an adult’s lap, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that each child has his/her own seat. This can be tough financially, so you could try to pick a flight that may have some empty seats. The last flight that my son sat on my lap (or when I tried to keep him in my lap) was when he was 15 months old. On our return flight home, we bought a seat for him and secured him in his car seat. The flight home was completely different since he wasn’t trying to walk in the aisle, stand up in my lap, or reach into the seat in front of us! I was no longer wrestling an alligator. He was perfectly happy in his car seat, since he was already used to his car seat! So if you can swing purchasing an airline seat for your under 2-year-old child, I would highly recommend it.
Pack new toys in your carry-on to keep your children occupied and happy during the flight. Bring snacks, snacks, and more snacks. You never know if there will be a delay. You are allowed to bring more than the usual restricted 3.4 ounces of liquid when you are traveling with an infant or small child, as long as it is a reasonable amount. Just let the TSA agent know that you have liquids such as breast milk, baby formula, or baby food. And nobody should make you “taste the breast milk” to prove that it’s milk!
Bring your own first aid kit, and keep it in your carry-on bag or purse. Ours is stocked with over-the-counter items such as children’s acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Band-Aids, antibiotic cream, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, insect repellent, diaper rash cream, and hand sanitizer. If your child takes prescription medications, keep them in the first aid kit instead of checked luggage. We started bringing our own first aid kit when our daughter had a fever on vacation, and we realized that we could not purchase any these items on a cruise ship at 2’o’clock in the morning. Not fun.
If your child has a medical history significant for heart or lung disease, or has any upper or lower respiratory symptoms, please check with your pediatrician before flying. Also consult your pediatrician if you are flying with your family within 2 weeks of an ear infection or ear surgery.
Talk to your pediatrician about where you should seek medical care for your child in your travel destination in case he/she becomes sick. Hopefully you won’t need the information, but it’s always good to be prepared! If your travel destination has a children’s hospital, that would be where I would start looking into before leaving for your trip.
Have you flown with your family? What tips have you learned to make traveling easier with young children? Share with us!
More travel safety tips from the AAP here.