Tips to make your next trip safe and more enjoyable.
Ahhh! Summer break. No school. Sports camps. Music lessons. Art workshops. Time for a real vacation.
On average, families take 4.5 trips throughout the year visiting family and friends, going to the beach, seeing national landmarks. But traveling with kids can be a challenge. The Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has tips to make your next trip more enjoyable and safe.
Traveling by car
Always use a car safety seat for infants and young children. A rear-facing car safety seat should be used until your child has reached the highest weight and/or height allowed by his car safety seat, but at a minimum until your child is at least one year of age AND weighs at least 20 pounds. It is best to ride rear-facing as long as possible. Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit, he can ride in a forward-facing 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' 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 when 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. Pack water and healthy snacks for pick-me-ups throughout the trip. Plan to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours. Never leave your 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. Carry first aid items, including child-safe hand wipes, diaper rash ointment, and a water- and insect-proof ground sheet for safe play outside.
Traveling by airplane
Allow yourself and your family extra time to get through security - especially when traveling with younger children. Talk to your 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 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt. You can also consider using a restraint made only for use on airplanes and approved by the FAA. Belt-positioning booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, but they can be checked as luggage so you have them 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 it is not feasible for you to purchase a ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats. Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight. In order to decrease ear pain during descent, encourage your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can try chewing gum, drinking water or juice through a straw, or filling up a glass of water and blowing bubbles through a straw (4 years of age or older). Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms. Consult your pediatrician if flying within 2 weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.
If traveling internationally, make sure your child is up to date on her vaccinations and check with your doctor to see if she might need additional vaccines. In order to avoid jet lag, adjust your child's sleep schedule 2-3 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 U.S. Carefully inspect for exposed wiring, pest poisons, paint chips, or inadequate stairway or balcony railings. When traveling, be aware that cribs or play yards provided by hotels may not meet all current safety standards. If you have any doubt about the safety of the crib or play yard, ask for a replacement or consider other options.