Travel smart this summer

July 19, 2007

Traveling with kids can be a challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers tips for the entire family, whether on the road or in the air.

Traveling by airplane
-- Allow extra time to get through security, especially when traveling with younger children.

-- Talk to children before coming to the airport about the security screening process. Let them know that their bags (backpack, dolls, etc.) will be put in the X-ray machine and will come out the other end and be returned to them.

-- Discuss the fact that it's against the law to make threats such as "I have a bomb in my bag." Threats made jokingly, even by a child, can result in the entire family being delayed and could result in fines.

-- Similar to travel in motor vehicles, a child is best protected on an airplane when properly restrained in a car-safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child, meeting standards for aircraft until the child weighs more than 40 pounds and can use the aircraft seat belt. Restraint made only for use on airplanes and approved by the FAA also are available. Belt-positioning booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, but they can be checked as luggage for use in rental cars and taxis.

-- Although the FAA allows children under age 2 to be held on an adult's lap, the AAP recommends that families explore options to ensure that each child has his own seat. Discounted fares may be available. If purchasing a ticket for a small child is not feasible, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats.

-- Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep children occupied during the flight.

-- To decrease ear pain during descent, encourage infants to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can try chewing gum, filling up a glass of water and blowing bubbles through a straw (4 years of age or older) or blowing up balloons (8 years of age or older).

-- Consult a pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper- or lower-respiratory symptoms.

-- Consult a pediatrician if flying within two weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.

International travel
-- If traveling internationally, make sure children are current with vaccinations. Check with a doctor to see if additional vaccines are needed.

-- To avoid jet lag, adjust a child's sleep schedule two to three days before departure. After arrival, children should be encouraged to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to promote adjustment.

-- Conditions at hotels and other lodging may not be as safe as those in the United States. Carefully inspect for exposed wiring, pest poisons, paint chips or inadequate stairway or balcony railings.

Traveling by car
-- Always use a car-safety seat for infants and children under 40 pounds. A rear-facing car seat should be used until a child has reached 1 year of age and weighs at least 20 pounds. Once a child is at least 1 year of age and at least 20 pounds, he can ride in a forward-facing car seat, but it is better to keep him rear-facing to the highest weight and/or height allowed by his car safety seat.

A child who has outgrown her car safety seat with a harness (she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots or her ears have reached the top of the seat) should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4-feet-9 in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age).

--All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.

-- Never place a child in a rear-facing, car-safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.

-- Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt.

-- Children can easily become restless or irritable on a long road trip. Try to keep them occupied by pointing out interesting sights along the way and by bringing soft, lightweight toys and favorite CDs for a sing-along.

-- Plan to take breaks from driving about every two hours.

-- Never leave a child alone in a car, even for a minute. Temperatures inside the car can reach deadly levels in minutes, and the child can die of heat stroke.

In addition to a travelers' health kit at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh2-HealthKit.aspx online, parents should carry safe water and snacks, child-safe hand wipes, diaper rash ointment and a water- and insect-proof ground sheet for safe play outside.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009