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Travel Tips on Family Travel

  • Every parent knows how difficult it is to fly with a baby or toddler in tow. The FAA-approved Baby B'Air Flight Vest is the only safety solution for lap held children while traveling in an airplane.
  • Help kids understand the screening process ahead of time. Talk to them about what they’ll need to do: take off their coat, place it and their bags on the x-ray machine, walk through the metal detector, and gather their items and wait for you. Make them aware that shoes may be checked, and that, if the metal detector alarm goes off, the security guard may need to check them more thoroughly.
  • During the airport screening process, threats made jokingly (even by a child) can result in the entire family being delayed and could result in fines. Discuss appropriate behavior before you leave home. Click here to read more tips on dealing with the new airport screening measures.
  • Keep a stash of antiseptic towelettes on hand for you and your family whenever you travel. Not only will they come in handy at mealtime, but they can be of use during a medical emergency as well.
  • Keep a small journal or notebook handy as you travel. You and your family can record all of your impressions about a destination, including your favorite sites, restaurants, and hotels, as well as bits and pieces you pick up about the history and culture. These personal insights are more meaningful than photos, and can be kept in your photo album, scrapbook, or travel file.
  • Grab your camera, pack up the kids and go experience all the colors of nature in your area. Before you do, check out WTA’s Fall Foliage Hotline to find peak viewing dates.
  • Get a National Park Pass this year. For $80, you and your family gain free entrance into national parks, monuments, historic sites, and national wildlife refuges for a one-year period.  Seniors (62+) can pay a one-time $10 fee and gain free entrance for a lifetime, plus discounts on facilities and services such as camping, swimming, and tours. Get details at http://usparks.about.com/od/usnationalparks/p/park_passes.htm, by calling 1-888-ASK USGS, ext. 1, or by visiting a park where an entrance fee is charged.
  • Carry a current photograph of your child when traveling. If he or she becomes lost, having a recent picture will make the search easier. This is a good tip for your pets as well.
  • Students should always carry a student ID card no matter where they are traveling since airlines, hotels, attractions, etc. frequently offer discounts or other benefits to full-time students. It’s best to get a valid International Student Identity Card for international travel.
  • When one parent takes a child out of the country, whether by airplane or cruise ship or some other mode of transport, they may need written permission (possibly even a notarized statement) from the other parent. Or, if applicable, a decree of sole custody or a death certificate for the other parent may be required. Check the airline, cruise line, or your travel agent for regulations.
  • Trying to decide what day of the week to set aside for the theme park? Since many people reserve the weekend for traveling, Saturday and Sunday might be the least crowded in the park. The park should be able to suggest the best days based on actual attendance records. Take advantage of WTA’s free discount coupons for many of the major theme parks across the country. Click here for more info.
  • As a precaution, have your doctor check your young children for ear infections before flying.
  • Although there is no seat in front of you for storage, a bulkhead seat provides additional legroom that can be a godsend for parents traveling with small children. If you can, reserve these seats so the kids can move around a bit more than they could otherwise.
  • Theme park characters are favorites of the younger set. But sometimes the size of the costume can be frightening. If your child appears hesitant, you can approach and touch the character first to show that it’s safe. Reassure your child, but don’t push them. If they refuse to go up to the character for a picture, ask them to take a picture of you with the animal instead so you’ll both have a happy memory to take home.
  • Theme park character costumes are large, bulky, and usually provide a very limited view for the person inside. Make sure your child approaches the character from the front so a fast-moving furry friend doesn’t inadvertently knock them down!
  • When traveling with a family on a cruise, be sure to check out cabin size before deciding how many people to fit in one cabin. Many lines will allow four occupants in a two person/one bathroom cabin, but that may not be comfortable for everyone.
  • Children flying for the first time may be nervous about the experience. Talk to them about what they should expect, from the line for the check-in counter, the luggage scanner security area, through to the airplane cabin and actual flight. Explain safety precautions ("don’t let go of your luggage"), but keep it upbeat and concentrate on the details they’d enjoy (watching the planes while waiting to board, the in-flight movie, the snack, etc.) Be especially careful not to pass along any fears you have to your children.
  • If your children tend to make friends on trips, and would like to keep in touch as a pen pal (or e-mail pal), a nice idea is to prepare some business cards on the computer for each child before you leave home. Include name, phone number, address, and e-mail address.
  • Worried about losing each other in a crowd? Have everyone in your family wear a bright colored shirt (the same color if possible) and remember what each person is wearing. Another idea is to each carry a bright umbrella, and open it above the crowd if you get separated. (This works better for adults, who are less apt to lose the umbrella.)
  • Here are tips from the FAA for parents using child restraints on aircraft:
  • 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 child restraint seat (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.
  • 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.
  • Use an approved CRS when traveling to and from the airport by automobile.
  • Booster seats and harness vests do not provide adequate protection and are banned for use on aircraft, but they do enhance safety in automobiles. These devices may be checked as baggage.
  • In the United States, supplemental lap restraints, "belly belts," are banned from use in automobiles and aircraft.
  • For more information, call: 1-800-FAA-SURE (1-800-322-7873).
  • If your child is flying alone, book only a direct, non-stop flight so there is no de-boarding of the plane. Talk to them about the potential for delays and cancellations. Be sure there is at least one more flight after the one you’ve booked so there is no chance they’ll be stranded.
  • A small, expandable play mat can come in handy during long waits at the airport
  • The altitude change of take-off and landing can be problematic for babies. Plan to feed your child during those times to help reduce the pain. Talk to your doctor before taking a baby with ear problems on a flight; they might suggest medication.
  • If you’re traveling with children, call the hotel ahead of time and see if they can childproof the room for you. Don’t forget to ask them to block adult movie channels and to remove any magazines with suggestive advertising.
  • Be sure to give a child traveling alone the phone numbers and address of the person who is meeting them at the airport. Make sure this person will arrive at the airport well before your child’s plane arrives, and brings a photo ID with them so the airline can confirm their identity.
  • Special bereavement rates (sometimes called 'compassion fares') are offered by most major airlines to members of the immediate family. Sometimes the airline simply waives the advance-purchase requirement. The airline may also offer a discount from 15-50% off normal fares. You will probably need a copy of the death certificate. If the patient is terminally ill, you may need to pay the full price up front and request a refund later when a death certificate is issued. Each airline is different, so call to get the details.