Think about what probably will happen and what could happen.
Ask yourself these questions:
What kind of trip is it?
How long will it be?
What are we going to do?
How old are my children?
What can my children do or not do?
What services can we use?
Talk with your child about what is going to happen. Read books about airplanes, car rides, trains, etc.
Tell your child how long it will take to travel, and what you will be doing each step of the way. For example, "We will get up early and eat breakfast. Then we go to the airport, and eat lunch on the airplane. When we get off the airplane, we will see Grandma and Grandpa."
Check with your hotel about what services they have. Some hotels have refrigerators, cribs, and washing machines.
Check with your airport or airline about what services they have. Some airlines have special meals for children.
What will you do if something happens that was not planned? For example, what will you do if the airplane does not have food? What will you do if there is no refrigerator available at your hotel?
Think about paying for some things. For example, use a rental car company that is at the airport, or pay the hotel person to move your luggage for you.
Plan lots of time to get where you are going. Plan to be delayed. Even if everything goes well, it still takes more time to travel with children.
Plan to buy some things when you get there. For example, take only enough diapers for the travel day plus one more day. Buy more diapers once you get there.
Think about what the temperature might be where you are going.
Make a list of everything you need to pack.
What should we PACK?
Pack only what you need. Remember you will have to carry it.
Think about whether or not you can wash clothes on your trip. This helps you decide how much clothing to take.
Let your child help pack if she is old enough. She can pick her own toys, books and snacks. Older children can pack their own clothes. Children enjoy making decisions and being involved in the packing.
Put name tags on all bags. Envelope address labels work well on hard surfaces like car seats and strollers. Soft things like stuffed animals and blankets can be marked using laundry marking tape or iron-on clothing patches. Write with a permanent marker on the tape or patch. Then iron it onto the tag of the stuffed animal or the corner of the blanket.
Each family and trip is different. Here is a list of things to consider packing.
Outfits - 1 piece outfits and loose fitting clothes are often easier to pack
Diapers or pull-ups - Pack enough diapers or pull-ups for your travel time, and then add enough for 1 extra day in case you are delayed. Consider using diapers or pull-ups for young children even if they are toilet-trained. If there are delays or a restroom is not available, your child can use the diaper or pull-up and be changed later. Your child can feel good about not making a mess.
Diaper wipes and paper towels
Socks - can also be used as mittens
Shoes and/or boots
Hats and/or mittens
Coats, jackets and sweaters
Rain gear and/or umbrella
Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, baby soap (can also be used for hand-washing clothes), safety pins, Ziploc bags, nightlight, cotton balls, thermometer
Toys - drawing paper, washable crayons, stuffed animal or blanket (a "lovie"), book, portable cassette or CD player with tapes or CDs, etc. Packing a few surprises for bored and tired children can help. Some people also bring portable DVD players to play movies for children.
Emergency information - picture identification like a driver's license or passport and visas, ATM card, extra cash, extra credit cards, doctor's phone numbers, emergency contact information, pharmacy phone numbers, pictures of your children
What should we do the DAY BEFORE we leave?
Lay everything out the day before so you and your child know that everything is ready. Plan to wear loose fitting clothes for the day you travel.
Make a list of last-minute things to pack like a cooler of food and drinks, medicine, favorite toy or blanket. Put the list with your traveling clothes.
Write down on paper all of your travel information. This is called an itinerary. Items to include are airline flight numbers and times, driving directions, telephone number and address of where you are staying and confirmation numbers. Make a copy for every adult. Everyone will have all the information in one place.
What do we do if we are traveling by AIRPLANE?
Talk with your children about what to expect.
When booking tickets, get seats together.
Tell your airline that you have small children.
Some airlines allow children less than 2 years old to travel on your lap. Check with your airline.
Some airlines offer discounted fares for children traveling in a car seat. Check with your airline.
Some airlines have special meals for children. Order them when you buy your tickets or a couple of days before your flight.
Find out the size limits and number limits for carry-on luggage.
Make sure your child restraint system (CRS) or car seat is Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved. Check for a label that reads, "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft."
The FAA recommends that a child weighing:
under 20 pounds be placed in a rear-facing CRS.
from 20 to 40 pounds use a forward-facing CRS.
over 40 pounds may safely use an airplane seat belt.
CRS must be in window or center seats. This is so everyone can leave during an emergency. CRS cannot be placed in an emergency exit row or in an aisle seat.
The airline seat belts do not need locking clips. If the belt loosens, turn the metal fitting (NOT the buckle) over 180 degrees and re-insert into the buckle. This often helps keep the seat belt tight. If the seat belt still loosens, then ask to be re-seated. You will need extra time to anchor the car seat. Try to board the airplane early.
Leave for the airport early. It will take longer to check-in and go through security with small children.
Take extra snacks, toys, etc.
If you have any questions, call your airline, airport, or the Transportation Security Administration.
What do we do if we are traveling by CAR?
Talk with your child about what to expect.
Check your CRS or car seats to make sure they are properly installed. Make sure it does not move when pulled or pushed on.
Check that your car has safety equipment such as a first aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, etc.
If traveling in cold weather, make sure there is bottled water, a small shovel, a blanket, hats and mittens, etc. These items will be helpful if you get stuck in cold weather.
Rental cars, limousines and taxis may or may not provide car seats. Call the company ahead of time to see if this is a service it provides. If so, it could save you from having to carry and install your own.
Buses also may have seat belts for your CRS.
What do we do if we are traveling by TRAIN?
Tell the conductor you are traveling with small children.
Ask to be seated in the middle of the car. Children must go farther before they can go out a door.
CRS may be used in seats.
The area between the train cars is dangerous for small children.
Always carry or hold your child's hand when walking between cars.
What do we do WHEN WE GET THERE?
A hotel room is not childproofed.
Try to get a room on the inside or on the ground floor. Balconies can be very dangerous. The opening below the railing may be big enough for small children to fall through. A safety net attached by inexpensive cable ties may work.
Use rubber bands or inexpensive cable ties to temporarily tie up appliance cords and window blinds.
Electrical outlets should be covered with outlet covers.
Move water glasses, soaps, lotions, mini-bar keys, remote controls, plants, telephones, garbage cans, etc. so that they are all out of reach. Move pens up so your child does not write on the walls.
Move furniture such as tables and chairs to the edge of the room.
Keep the bathroom door closed.
Check the hotel crib to make sure all the parts are working properly. Make sure there are no loose, broken, or missing pieces. All bedding should be firm.
Use a towel in the bottom of the sink or bathtub if a non-slip pad is not available.
Use a nightlight.
Check the location of the exits and fire extinguishers.
It is not recommended to store breast milk in an ice chest for long periods of time. Hotels will often have a refrigerator where it can be stored. Make sure to put it in a labeled bag. A mini-bar refrigerator usually is not cold enough. You may also consider renting a portable refrigerator. These are often first come/first served.
A relative or friend's home may not be childproofed.
See the hotel childproofing ideas above.
Check the windows - lock and block them.
Think about asking a relative or friend to purchase things for you before you arrive. It will make starting your trip much easier when you already have diapers, diaper wipes, baby food, graham crackers, etc. waiting for you.
What do we need to think about for INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL?
If you are traveling to a foreign country, make sure that each person has his or her own passport and visa if necessary. Check their expiration dates. Some countries will not let you come in within a certain amount of time even if the passport or visa is valid.
Check with your doctor to see if you and your family need special shots to protect against diseases.
Check with your doctor about protecting you and your family from diseases caused by food, water, or insects.
How do we keep our FOOD SAFE while we travel?
A small cooler can keep most foods cold when traveling in a car. The ice should be replaced at least daily. More often if possible.
Water bottles which have been frozen not only keep food cold, but can be used as drinking water for the trip.
Breast milk can be kept on ice, but should be used within 24 hours of being pumped or thawed.
Any foods, especially dairy and meat products, left out for more than 2 hours or do not feel cold should be thrown out.
When in doubt, throw it out!
How do we keep our MEDICINE SAFE while we travel?
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medicine needs to be refrigerated. If so, ask him or her how to keep it cold while you travel.
Put the medicine in a separate insulated container with its own ice. Then put the insulated container in a small cooler.
Put the drug in a refrigerator as soon as possible once you arrive.
Call your pharmacist if you are not sure if the drug is still good.
How do I travel with a DISABILITY?
Check with the airlines, airports, and hotels for services they have that could help you.
Ask for services such as wheelchair help in an airport, a hotel room designed for disabled persons, or special phones such as TTY.
Order special meals ahead of time or bring your own.
If you feel comfortable, tell the hotel about any special safety issues you may need help with. For example, a deaf person may not hear a fire alarm. If the hotel staff knows, then they could make a special check of your room if a fire alarm sounds.
The key to traveling with children is to plan, plan, plan. Think about what probably will happen and what could happen.
Pack only what you need. Remember you will have to carry it.
Put name tags on all bags.
Write down on paper all of your travel information such as airline flight numbers and times, driving directions, telephone number and address of where you are staying and confirmation numbers.
If you are traveling by airplane, tell your airline that you have small children. Get your seats together. Make sure your child restraint system (CRS) or car seat is Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved.
If you are traveling by car, check that your CRS or car seat is properly installed. Check that your car has safety equipment such as a first aid kit, flashlight, and jumper cables.
If you are traveling by train, tell the conductor you have small children. The area between the train cars is dangerous for small children. Ask to be seated in the middle of the car.
When you get to the place you are staying, make sure to childproof the room. Hotel rooms and a relative or friendŐs home may not be childproofed.
If you are traveling to a foreign country, make sure that each person has his or her own passport and visa if necessary. Check with your doctor to see if you and your family need special shots to protect against diseases.
Keep the food you are taking with you cold. A small cooler can keep most foods cold. Any foods left out for more than 2 hours or do not feel cold should be thrown out. When in doubt, throw it out!
If you have a disability, check with the airlines, airports, and hotels for services they have that could help you.
Call your child's doctor if you have any questions about traveling with children.
CDC. Vaccine Recommendations for Infants and Children. 2003, July 17. (cited 2004, February 25). URL: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/child-vax.htm
Federal Aviation Administration. Tips for Safe Air Travel with Children. 2003, August 4. (cited 2003, August 4). URL: http://www1.faa.gov/index.cfm/apa/1329
MEDLINEplus. Traveling with children. 2004, January 5. (cited 2004, February 25). URL: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002427.htm
Shelov, Steven P., editor-in-chief. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring For Your Baby And Young Child, Birth To Age 5. New York: Bantam Books. 1991.
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