Preparing for that vacation
As the summer unfolds, family vacations can create long-lasting memories and fun learning experiences for parents and children alike. But traveling with children can sometimes be a test of preparedness-- and of patience.
Start a countdown calendar with perhaps a photo or illustration of the destination. Let kids pack their own bags. Decide what type of clothing (preferably loose and comfortable), but allow them to choose their favorites and to pack a special toy. In a carry-on bag, pack some hard candies, hand wipes, tissues, books, paper, and markers in a small, tightly sealed plastic bag and perhaps a surprise toy for each child.
Update immunizations for the entire family. If traveling abroad, check with public health authorities for advisable additional vaccines.
*Traveling by air
Give yourself plenty of time to check-in and in between connecting flights. Be sure to have a safety plan in case anyone gets separated at the airport. Discuss where to meet and what to do. Review screening procedures with children before entering security checkpoints so they will not be frightened by the process. Also, all child-related equipment must go through the X-ray machine. To speed the process along, remove children from their strollers/infant carriers and collapse/fold the equipment so it may be examined or put through the machine.
*On the flight
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that children weighing less than 40 pounds be placed in child/infant seats. Getting your seat assignment in advance can help ensure families are seated together. If a flight is full and you cannot obtain seat assignments in advance, advise the airline personnel at the airport. The airline may need to ask other passengers to change seats so children are not seated apart from parents.
*Traveling by car
Bring pillows and blankets. Stop frequently at rest stops to stretch and make use of restrooms. Play games and make sure the car is stocked with plenty of engaging toys and their favorite music. Most importantly, keep children involved in the vacation process. Save everything collected on vacation - brochures, napkins, ticket stubs - and have children paste them into a scrapbook.
Have a daily schedule planned with some flexible, free time for the family.
Make a sweep of balconies and bathrooms for any potential dangers. Hide small objects, accessible medications and cleaners children could get their hands on. Familiarize yourself with the hotel's fire and emergency evacuation routes and procedures.