Traveling can be a stressful time for any family, but especially for children. Newborns and toddlers often thrive on routine in their early years and can feel unsettled and become cranky at the disruptions that occur. Read on for more helpful tips and suggestions for how you can travel comfortably with children.
Planning for the trip:
- Hire a travel nanny: If your full-time caregiver is unable to travel with you, look into hiring a travel nanny prior to embarking on a trip. Travel nannies are childcare providers who are hired specifically to go on vacations with families. Even a teen can need a chaperone! No matter if you choose to travel with your full-time nanny or hire a vacation nanny, travel expectations and requirements should be written into a contract to prevent misunderstandings. Remember, a parent’s vacation is not a nanny’s vacation, and communicating about salary and other items can prevent stressors later on.
- Consult your doctor prior to flying: The best time to see the doctor is at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to traveling. Make sure to inform him or her what country you’re traveling to, the length of trip, activities that your family will participate in, and other personal matters such as medical and vaccine history for everyone traveling. Prior to leaving, confirm that every member of the family is up to date on vaccinations, including the flu vaccine. Your pediatrician can also prescribe medication for ear pressure. All medication should remain in their original bottles, clearly marked with the child’s name and dosage. A doctor’s note explaining the medication and its use could also be helpful.
- Traveling with an infant: Be aware of your surroundings and considerate of your neighbors. It’s important not to be indifferent to the discomfort that a screaming child can cause to other passengers, and apologize if necessary. Make sure to bring toys, pacifiers, etc. for the trip.
- Packing: Don’t begin packing until you familiarize yourself with the weight and dimensions of the luggage you can take on the plane. National flights usually have a weight limit of 50lbs while international flights allow up to 70lbs per checked bag.
Be aware of your baggage limits, especially if flying. This includes checking in advance about carry-on regulations and what food you can bring onto the flight. Parents should also pack plenty of light and non-sugary, non-messy snacks for children. Some healthy snacks include granola bars, a zip-lock bag of high-fiber/low-sugar cereal, string cheese, and fresh fruit. If your child has food allergies, make sure to pack accordingly. Additional tips regarding food allergy safety can be found here.
Kids are likely to get messy during the flight so make sure you pack wipes, tissue paper, and sanitizer. You should also have a change of clothing in your carry-on. If you can, pack items into individualized zip-lock bags to make it easier to pull out. There might be an instance where your partner or nanny will be out of range and you will find yourself alone with the children and luggage. Make sure to pack what you can realistically manage on your own.
- Think ahead about sleeping conditions: If you plan to stay in a hotel, look for a suite or roomy accommodations to give you some extra space with a pull-out sofa or crib. Extra sleeping space makes for a more relaxed time for everyone. Contact the hotel in advance so the cribs and extra pull-out beds will be ready for you when you check-in.
- The day before: Double-check the flight schedule by calling the airline 24 hours in advance to make sure your departure and return times haven’t changed. Sign up for e-mail or cell phone alerts to be notified of last-minute changes. If given the option, print boarding passes at home. Some airlines offer early boarding opportunities so to try to arrive early and take advantage.
During the trip:
- Going through security: Be prepared for the security screening process. Your stroller or car seat will have to go through the x-ray machine. If the stroller is too large to fit through the machine, it will need to be manually checked by a TSA agent.
Any child old enough to walk through may be asked to remove his or her shoes. Their shoes should be easy to slip on and off for comfort and convenience purposes. Discuss the security screening process with children in advance, and remind them that jokes, especially bomb jokes, are unacceptable and not a laughing matter.
- Remember the 3-1-1 rule: There is a 3-ounce maximum for containers storing liquids, gels, and aerosols, and all of these containers must fit in a 1-quart size zip-top bag. Each passenger is only allowed one of these bags. While this rule doesn’t apply to baby food, breast milk, and formula, parents should still check with the airline in advance. There have been a number of instances where mothers were forced to dump out their supplies.
- Before take-off and in-flight: Pack plenty of games and activities to keep your children occupied. Good materials include a coloring book, audio book, or magazines. For children that are old enough, suggest a travel journal so they can document the trip.
- In-flight bedtime: Prior to traveling, whether it be by car, plane, or train, your children should be as well-rested as possible. Babies and children who are rested adapt much easier to changes. Since children are naturally excited, it’s hard for them to sleep en route so if possible, plan your flight around your kids’ naps. If your child has a favorite stuffed animal or toy that he or she sleeps with, make sure to bring it with you.
- Landing: It helps to have an itemized check-list in hand after getting off the plane to make sure all luggage and supplies are accounted for.
Take advantage of the shuttles or trains at the airport. Don’t plan on accomplishing much on your first day of arrival, especially if there is a significant time difference. Despite changes in schedules and scenery, try to keep bedtime routines consistent. Incorporate bath, books, and songs if you need to.
However, try not to feel stressed out about adhering to sleep habits while on vacation. Kids are resilient. If they miss a nap here and there, they’ll be fine. Staying up late and having fun with grandparents is more important.
Traveling with a child that has special needs:
- Traveling with a child that has special needs: For families traveling with a child that has special needs, taking a vacation can be a difficult time. However, with the right amount of planning and preparation, your child can feel as comfortable as possible. That first flight should be no more than an hour or so in the air.
- Go over the travel itinerary in detail: Discuss how your family will get to the airport, wait on line, go through security, etc. Call your airport and ask if there is a special-needs program in place. Many of them will let families take a practice run through security. You can also contact TSA Cares and ask for priority boarding. If your child also has a food allergy, some airlines recommend early morning flights when the aircraft is the cleanest.
- Consider meals and snacks: Parents can request special meal options such as gluten-free foods, bring food from home, or purchase items after going through security. Keep in mind any dietary restrictions or food allergies that your child might have. You should also alert the airline in advance. Additional parenting tips for traveling with a child that has special needs can be found here.
Here at the Nanny Authority, our nannies are well-equipped at dealing with the rigors of traveling on a domestic and international basis. If you are looking to hire a travel nanny or interested in becoming one, contact us via e-mail or at 973-466-2669 today!