Traveling with children – Part 1

Simple ideas on having a positive travel experience with kids.

The first day of spring is right around the corner and for several people it means a vacation and traveling somewhere warm and sunny. According to AAA, 79 percent of family travelers are planning a road trip this year—10 percent more than in 2016.

Whether plane, train or automobile, being prepared when traveling with children is important. A bored and squirmy child, no matter what age, can really put a damper on any trip. The key to a fun traveling experience is to make it “fun!” Planning ahead and packing lots of snacks and entertainment will help children stay happy and occupied.

While a family vacation is well worth it, a lot of effort goes into any type of excursion with children of any age. However, traveling by plane has its own set of scenarios that can make the experience stressful if parents are not prepared. Michigan State University Extension suggests the following to keep everyone happy travelers:

  • Book seats together and if possible a window seat. Looking out the window can be very interesting and engaging to kids.
  • Build in extra time at the airport. Being rushed can add to the stress you might already be experiencing. Give yourself plenty of time to get there, get through security and arrive at your gate. Plan for unexpected bathroom breaks and other distractions that may occur on the way to your plane.
  • Talk to your child about what will happen during the airport security screening. They will be asked to take off their coat (shoes for kids over 12) and put their carryon items on a belt and then it disappears into a dark tunnel. This can be a frightening experience for many children. Tell them the security check is an important step in staying safe while flying. Don’t cause unnecessary fear by talking about people that could cause harm. Simply reassure and model calm behavior yourself.
  • Bring healthy snacks like low-fat cheese, crackers and fruit. High sugar snacks is what you will find at the airport. Pack the wiser choices ahead of time as there won’t be any room to run off steam once on the airplane. Water, juice and any other liquid should be purchased after the security check as they will not be allowed through security.
  • Pack your iPad or other device so your child can watch a movie. Do not forget earphones and, depending on the length of the trip, extra movies.
  • Coloring books, crayons and markers will save the day when the movie is over. Have them draw pictures of things they want to do when they get to your destination.
  • Books, especially for older children, and travel games can also make the time fly by.
  • Change in air pressure during takeoff and landing can cause problems for any traveler, but especially tiny eardrums. Having gum to chew or hard candy to suck will minimize discomfort.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration strongly urges you to secure your young child in a child restraint system (CRS). This is not the same as a car seat. You are not strong enough to hold a child securely in your arms during turbulence. There is also a FAA-approved child harness device for kids weighing between 24-44 pounds. For more information, contact your airline far in advance of your travel plans.

Experts say the most important thing you can do is to have a safety plan. If you and your child get separated for any reason, have a plan on where to meet or tell them what they should do. Emphasize to your child never to wander away without Mom or Dad. (That goes for using public bathrooms at airports, too.) If you’re traveling alone with a child of the opposite gender, use a family restroom.

Finally, no matter how you travel this spring break, suggest to wait until you return home before sharing pictures on Facebook or Twitter. We love to show our family and friends the fun times we are having, but depending on your privacy settings, you could be announcing to the world that your house is empty. Some sites like Twitter list the city or country you are tweeting from. Criminals look for empty homes to burglarize.

By planning ahead and being smart and safe when traveling, you and your family will be building memories to last a lifetime.

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