Traveling with your children can be great, but it does take a little bit of preparation. Travel can be stressful, tedious and/or exciting for children. It can also be a great learning experience. As with most travel, preparation is one of they keys to success. Here are a couple tips:

  • Be aware that in many countries medical care is not up to the standards in your home country. This is much easier for adults to deal with then a family with children. Children can also be more susceptible to different food.
  • Make sure you are aware of international health hazards such as malaria and altitude sickness. You will have to monitor your children for symptoms as they may not be able to do it themselves.

When at the destination, keeping an eye on your children goes without saying, yet it is easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and let your guard down. In particular, hold your child’s hand in markets, busy shops and squares and always carry a recent picture and a document stating the child’s name and your local contact number. If you intend going off the beaten track, consider hiring a guide through a reputable company rather than taking on a spontaneous escapade.

The sun is the main cause for concern when traveling overseas with children. Infants under six months should always be shaded and free from sunscreen as it can irritate their delicate skin. Be aware that cloudy days can also see kids getting burned. Toddlers should be wearing at least an SPF 15, but preferably 30 or up.

Hats, sunglasses and long sleeves are also recommended in hot climes and you should try to limit sun exposure around noon. Always keep kids hydrated as much as possible and remember that your kids will be thirsty before you feel thirsty. Take extra medications you and your children may be on along with a doctor’s prescription to show inquisitive customs officials. Also, ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance for the whole family.

Air Travel with Children

Kids find it tougher than adults when flying due to the confined space, the cabin pressure on their ears and the vulnerability to infections. Suss out children-friendly airlines and be aware that once kids reach two years they have to have their own seat on international flights. Be sure to dress your child in bright clothes so they can be spotted easily at the airport and get to the airport with plenty of time to spare to reduce possible stress and save mistakes.

Before flying:

  • Take your child for a medical check-up
  • Ensure immunizations are up-to-date
  • Try and book a bulkhead seat or seats near the emergency exits
  • Book a window seat for older kids
  • Be sure to pack plenty of small toys and coloring books
  • Pack candy
  • Change diapers before you get on the plane

You have to be careful what you take onboard planes nowadays, although essential baby equipment is allowed. Be sure to have a change of clothes for baby in the carry-on bag, along with spare diapers, baby wipes, tissues, cream, milk, snacks, a dummy, and any necessary medication.

It’s a good idea to try and reduce the effects of the cabin pressure on kids’ ears, particularly when taking off and landing. This can be done by getting them to yawn, but having them eat, or suck on a candy also works. Numbing ear drops like auralgan are good for extreme cases. Airplanes are terribly dehydrating so encourage kids to keep drinking fluids. Don’t try changing a diaper while seated, use the airplane’s toilets which have pull-down changers.

If you are a parent you realize it is difficult for children to sit still for long periods of time. To make the trip more enjoyable, plan ahead, remain calm and be sensitive to your fellow passengers. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Take along some food, drinks and snacks so you are not at the whim of the airlines food service schedule and you can quickly pacify your hungry or thirsty child.
  • When you check-in and are assigned your seat, make sure that you aren’t seated in an exit row. Children are not allowed to sit in exit rows
  • If you are taking a long flight, especially an international flight, it may help to book an evening flight so your children will sleep through some of the flight.
  • Dehydration - all people are subject to dehydration on airplanes but children and babies are especially susceptible. The air inside an airplane is dryer then most deserts! Make sure you get your children to drink plenty of liquids during the flight, and don’t forget yourself. If you or your children start to get a headache it may be a sign that you aren’t drinking enough liquid.
  • Ear Pressure can be a problem with children. Let them suck or chew on some candy during takeoff and landing, drinking through a straw can also help. If it is a baby, then try to bottle or breast feed them during these times.
  • Try to provide some entertainment for the children, take along some of their favorite toys or books. Provide toys that do not have pieces that can be dropped and lost on the airplane, also ones that are not noisy and can disturb the other passengers.

Child Restraint Systems

Proper use of an approved child restraint system (CRS) on an aircraft enhances child safety in the event of an accident. A CRS also provides protection for a child during turbulence. The FAA strongly recommends that all children who fly, regardless of their age, use the appropriate restraint based on their size and weight.

Before you fly

  • Check with the airline to find their busiest days and times. By avoiding these times you are more likely to be on a flight with an empty seat next to a parent. In many cases, airlines will allow you to seat your child under 2 years of age in a child restraint in the empty seat without having to pay the airline fare for the child. Ask your airline for its policy regarding an empty seat.
  • Ask the airline if they offer a discounted fare for a child traveling in a CRS. If you buy a ticket (discounted or full fare) for your child, you are guaranteed that they will have a seat, and that you will be able to use the CRS.
  • If you purchase a ticket for your child, reserve adjoining seats. A CRS should be placed in a window seat so it will not block the escape path in an emergency. A CRS may not be placed in an exit row.
  • Check the width of your CRS. While airline seats vary in width, a CRS no wider than 16” should fit in most coach seats. A CRS wider than 16” is unlikely to fit. Even if the armrests are moved out of the way, a wide CRS will not fit properly into the frame of the aircraft seat.
  • If you need to change planes to make a connecting flight, it can be very challenging to carry a CRS, a child, and other items through a busy airport. Most airlines will help parents make the connection. Request that the airline arrange for assistance in your connecting city.

Choosing the correct CRS

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding use of the CRS. Do not place a child in a CRS designed for a smaller child. Be sure that any shoulder straps in the CRS come out of the CRS seat back above the child’s shoulders. Tighten the aircraft seat belt around the CRS as tightly as possible.

  • Under 20 pounds - use a rear facing child restraint.
  • From 20 to 40 pounds - use a forward facing child restraint. Although the safety technology of forward facing carriers in aircraft is still developing, current devices offer dramatic improvements in protection compared to lap held and/or unrestrained children.
  • Over 40 pounds - A child over 40 pounds may safely use an aircraft seat belt and does not require a CRS.