Traveling as a family is a rewarding and educational experience. Your kids will learn about geography, historical events, and be exposed to divergent cultures across the U.S. or abroad. There is nothing like reading about a battle, a famous landmark, or a historical event and then actually being able to see where it all happened up close and personal.
Before venturing out, be sure to pack a sense of humor and be prepared for the faux pas that will surely join you on your trip. Getting your kids from home to their destination—happily—will take some forethought.
The crowded airports, the waiting in line, going through airport security, and then sitting for a long period of time on the plane can be wearing on kids. They are used to a routine—and they like it—so they may not be as excited about traveling as you are. With some creativity, you can draw them into the excitement and enjoy every aspect of the journey.
A good place to start is by including them in on the planning process. Present them with destination options and make them feel a part of it all. Keep your schedule flexible. If you try to pack too much into each day, your kids will be exhausted and neither of you will have a good time. Choose the best attractions, rather than trying to see them all—and be sure to plan for fun lunch breaks and snacks throughout the day. Food and kids are synonymous.
If things do not go as planned and frustration starts to set in, think about what a privilege it is to join your children on a travel adventure. They grow up so quickly, so now is a great time to enjoy their company and have some fun.
Purchasing your Plane Tickets:
Contact the airline directly to find out if they offer any discounted fares. Airlines may not list these lower fares on their website or on other travel booking sites.
There are days of the week that are considered cheaper to fly on. Fares will more likely be cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. If you have some flexibility in your travel dates, go online and compare the airfare for different departure and arrival dates—you may be surprised at the savings.
The majority of airlines offer free airfare for trips in the U.S. for babies that are under the age of 2, if they travel on the lap of an adult. However, there are definite safety issues for your baby when traveling on a plane unsecured. There is a reason why adult passengers are required to buckle up during take-off, landing, or turbulence–and the same should hold true for your baby—but it does not. Before making that decision, consider the risks.
- Travel outside the U.S. requires a passport. For kids under 16, a passport is valid for only five years, so check the expiration date.
- Boarding pass
Identification Requirements vary by Airline:
- Certified birth certificate—some airlines may require a birth certificate for children under 16.
Have Different Last Names?
If you have a different last name than your children, the airline may require you to prove you have permission to travel with your kids or step-children. Usually a letter showing the approval of the other parent is sufficient. In some cases, you may need a court order proving legal custody, or a death certificate for a deceased spouse. Check with the airline.
In Case your Child Wanders Away…
Pin identification information and a cell phone number on your little children in case they get lost. For any parent that has experienced their child getting lost, this could be invaluable.
A car seat is not required on an airplane, but is highly recommended–your child will be safer. Make sure the seat is labeled “this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”. Another option is to use a FAA approved child restraint system called CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System). This is not approved for use in vehicles, so if you plan on renting a car or riding in a taxi, plan on bringing a car seat.
You can gate-check the car seat or bring it on board for free. Booster seats cannot be used on planes.
Most airlines allow passengers to bring one stroller on board the plane for free.
Choose Kid Friendly Lodging and Locations:
Find properties that cater to children. They usually have fun activities that are geared toward kids. Avoid properties that cater to adults—your kids may get the message that they are not welcome.
Fun Luggage for Kids:
To make packing a fun experience, check out luggage and backpacks that have fun characters on them and are lightweight enough for the little ones. Heys offers a carry-on bag that kids can sit on and use as a ride-on walker, or they can be pulled using the handle on the side. That could make those long walks through the airport a little easier (for them, anyhow).
Don’t forget to pack…
- A life jacket if they will be around any type of water
- Lots of healthy foods that are not too messy to eat
- Sunblock, hat, and water shoes
- Lots of bottled water
- For infants in a crib, bring your own fitted sheets (for safety reasons) and blanket
- First Aid kit
- Familiar toys and books that will bring them comfort
- Stroller – when your little ones get tired of walking a stroller will be a welcome relief for both of you
- Don’t pack too many clothes—you can always throw their clothes in the laundry
- Keep the suitcases as light as possible
- Oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte, to prevent dehydration if your child gets diarrhea or is vomiting
- Any prescription medications
To Prevent Ear Pain while in the Air:
Many children experience ear pain during the flight due to pressure changes in the cabin. Bring some ear plugs (like EarPlanes) for children that will help alleviate pain in the ears.
For infants, sucking on a bottle will help as well.
Be sure to keep your children hydrated throughout the flight with water or juice. Dehydration will cause them not to feel well.
Entertainment on the Plane:
Download movies or their favorite shows and bring some books and games to break the monotony. The Good Housekeeping Lab Institute recommends an app called Toca Nature. Kids can build worlds and unusual naturescapes. Another suggestion is to bring along some fun headphones like KaZoo MyPhones (over-the-ear). They are shaped like fun characters and have a built-in volume cap.
For more travel insight, check out my book,
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad
Available on Amazon Book Store, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.
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