Traveling with Children-10 Tips to Keep You Organized

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Traveling with Children --- 10 Tips to Keep You Organized

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August 19, 2014
By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Overseas travel with kids. Four little words to strike fear into the heart of any parent (and those people sitting next to said kids on a transatlantic flight.) How do you fly to Italy, or take the plane to England or even just across country, with children and without losing your sanity and sense of humor? Take a deep breath and plan that dream trip. Traveling with young children can be easier and less stressful than you think. All you need are some fail-safe organizational tactics.

1. Know When You Need To Pay For Your Child's Airline Ticket

Check your airline's policy to see when you need to pay for a child to travel, when they go free, and when you pay a small supplement for an infant to sit on your lap.

American Airlines, for instance, says children under two years of age who sit on your lap need to have a ticket in their name for 10% of the applicable adult fare (for international flights).

If an infant travels in her own seat with AA they need to be in a safety seat approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Children over the age of two must have their own seat purchased.

Southwest and other airlines carry children over the age of 14 days; a medical release is needed for any baby under 14 days old. Again, check the policy if you are traveling with a very young baby.

Here's the most important tip.  Take the birth certificate to prove that your child is under the age of two, for the reduced fare.

Double-check what baggage allowance you get for infants - lap infants are allowed one checked bag on British Airways, for example. You may need to check a stroller but most airlines will take it into the plane (you wheel it to the door of the aircraft where staff will stow it.)

2. Choose Your Seat With Care

Many airlines, including for example British Airways, will let you reserve a seat for yourself and an infant who won't be traveling in a seat of their own as soon as you make a booking, free of charge.

This will normally mean the seats at the bulkhead position, which are allocated for carrycots that slot onto a table that extends from the wall.

Even if you don't use the carrycot (bassinet) or seat, it is helpful to have the extra legroom and  you don't risk your child banging the person in front in the head every two minutes.

Bring a thick blanket or a travel mattress and your toddler may even like to sleep stretched out on the floor in front of you.

3. How To Breeze Through Airport Security

Trying to get children, strollers, yourself, and all the associated items though the metal detectors can cause a meltdown. The trick is to have everything organized beforehand - try to put everything inside bags, and keep your baby in the stroller until the last minute. It is often easier to carry a baby in a non-metal sling so you can have your hands free as you put the stroller on the conveyor belt.

Rules on liquids on planes seem formulated to make your life stressful, and it gets harder when you are traveling with babies or toddlers.

Since 2006 the TSA states that "all liquids, gels and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers, and packed in a one quart, zip-top bag."

However, baby formula, pumped breast milk, baby food, and medications for baby are allowed to be over these limits and you don't need to put them in a ziplock bag.

You may have to open the container to demonstrate that it contains milk or baby food, but you shouldn't have any problems bringing onboard the amounts necessary for the flight.

4. After Security: Kids Run Wild

After you cleared security, make the most of the relative space and tranquility before you have your children cooped up in the plane.

Wear your kids out so they will sleep on the plane (we live in hope!), make sure the restroom is visited and snacks are doled out.

Discover the play area, if there is one, or find an empty gate area for playing in. Or, if you have a long wait or layover at a large airport, ride the train (over and over, if needed.) Young children are fascinated by the movement and the speed - sit at the front and travel back and forth.

5. Boarding Without Tears

It's tempting to leap up and get in line as soon as they announce priority boarding for families with young children. It is helpful to have the time to get organized before a lot of other passengers are seated around you.

But do you really want to spend 30 minutes extra onboard?

The best solution may be to send one adult first with the stroller and the bags, then the other carer follows with the kids at the last minute. Put a few important toys or books in the seat pocket and make sure you have everything else you need for the takeoff immediately to hand.

6. Helping Children With Ear Pressure On Takeoff

Changes in air pressure when flying can cause ear pain and vertigo.

Around 10% of adults and 22% of children have damage to their ear drum after a flight, according to a 2007 study from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ear pain symptoms usually resolve themselves once the air pressure is normalized, but it can be difficult traveling with children who don't understand what is going on. Give gum to older children on takeoff, and for babies use a pacifier, or nurse them with a bottle or the breast as you take off.

7. Entertaining Children While Flying

By far the factor associated with air travel that most worries parents is how to entertain the little ones for the duration of the flight.

Pack plenty of "busy bags" - ziplock bags with sets of different toys or activities that you can pull out one by one as the flight progresses.

The items don't have to be fancy or expensive - try popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, Lego, cards, stickers, crayons, paper dolls, stamps, books, toy cars, and snacks - avoid sugary snacks.

Bring new things or items they haven't seen for a long time so the novelty factor will buy you a few extra minutes of peace. And remember - relax. Try to, at least. Keep in mind that this is only a very small portion of your life and you can forget all about it in a few hours time.

8. Travel Tips for the Nursing Mother

If you are breastfeeding your child, most airlines will be entirely happy for you to nurse and you won't encounter any problems.

If you want to be sure that there won't be an issue, email the airline beforehand to find out about their breastfeeding policy.

Nursing on a plane is not always the most comfortable thing and some moms are intimidated by the close proximity of the other travelers - if you feel you will need extra privacy, bring a blanket to cover up. If you have a young baby, it can help to feed them while they are in a sling so you can continue to have them in the sling as they fall asleep. Nursing during takeoff can help calm a child and prevent ear pain but some airlines have requirements for infant harnesses during takeoff, which can restrict the ability to nurse - ask the attendant before you board so you can be prepared. 

9. Carrying Milk And Storing Baby Food

Don't rely on the flight carrying any milk for your child. And don't drink the tap water on the plane. Carry the milk you need and extra water so you can be prepared for all eventualities.

Check the regulations for carrying ice packs and gel packs onboard to refrigerate milk and food - however, many airlines will not allow these, and you will not normally be able to store anything in the airline's fridge. Even if your toddler is off formula, a few small packets of formula will help you out in an emergency, or you can bring milk boxes that don't require refrigeration.

10. Bag Essentials For Kid Travel

These are our kid-travel essentials. What else would you add to the list?

Favorite blanket or sleeping toy
Change of clothes for baby
Change of clothes for you
Wipes and a changing mat
Baby food pouches (unopened) plus spoon
Formula, or milk in unopened carton, and water bottle
Board books
"Busy Bags" with small toys
Baby carrier
Andů. dress your toddler in a jacket with a hood so you have something to hold onto when walking the aisle for four hours.

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