Traveling as a family can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Yes, it’s thrilling to watch your children’s young eyes widen with amazement as they see sights from spectacular caves in New Mexico to exotic canals in Venice for the first time. And it’s exhilarating to hear their unfiltered thoughts about their travel experiences. Family vacations can be highlights of the child-rearing years—adventures that family members talk about at everything from Thanksgiving dinners to informal get-togethers for decades afterwards.
But, depending on their ages and other factors, traveling with children usually comes with a distinctive set of challenges and, to be successful, involves some careful planning. What are some tips we’d recommend? Here are 10 we’ve found very helpful:
- Especially when one parent is traveling with a child or children outside the U.S., be sure to have a notarized letter that’s been signed by both parents stating that the accompanying parent (or guardian) has both parents’ permission to take the child or children out of the country. Be sure that the traveling parent or guardian has the appropriate medical release and other forms too. You can get these online or through an airline.
- If children have specific medical concerns, give them their own ID information with your telephone number, physician’s name, and medical issues. This can either be on a medical necklace or bracelet or an ID card.
- Schedule to fly at night on your outbound trip. This will help your children sleep on the plane on the way to your destination. Plan for jetlag too. Children will be tired and possibly cranky when it is nighttime back home for a few days. Plan your schedule accordingly. They will also be awake in the middle of the night sometimes. Try to get them to eat on a regular schedule in the new time zone.
- When flying with a young child such as a toddler, don’t assume that he or she will eat the airline food. Bring some food you know your child will like.
- Don’t let your children roam the aisles of the airplane. Instead, take them for walks to burn up energy. You’ll get a lot of smiles walking your kids up and down the aisles. And take slip-on shoes that they can wear to the bathroom. (You don’t want them in the lavatory mopping the floor with their stocking feet.)
- Speaking of flying with a child, entertainment is imperative both for your child’s and your own in-flight sanity. Bring children’s books, coloring books, and games with you. Or load up some stories or music your child will enjoy on your i-Pod. For long flights, one successful strategy is to give your child a “surprise” at certain intervals. Sometimes, tying surprises to good behavior is very effective too. If your children climb into their seats and don’t kick the passenger seat in front of them after take off, for example, give them a neat art project like wiki sticks, which can amuse them on the plane.
- Once at your destination, you can continue to give surprises, if you wish. It really does give children something to look forward to and keeps them in good spirits.
- One fun option for children old enough to use it is to give each child a low-cost camera with a flash. This gives the child the opportunity to participate more fully in the sight seeing. Some parents also encourage their children to create their own “memory” albums.
- Bring and liberally use hand sanitizers and baby wipes both on your children’s hands and face but on yourself. These come in extremely handy when a restroom isn’t available, and they help reduce germs that can lead to illness.
- Check out “family friendly” travel insurance options. When it comes to family travel, insurance plans can vary widely. Some, for example, charge an additional fee for each child. Others only charge a flat fee. So, if you are traveling with two or more children, the flat-fee options will save you money. For more information on this and other facets of family travel insurance, check out this Buyer’s Guide to Family Travel Insurance.
If you are curious about travel insurance options when traveling with children and would like to talk with a licensed professional about them, don’t hesitate to call us toll free at 1-877-219-8169 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’re never under any pressure to buy from us, and we’re happy to share our expertise even if you’ve already purchased insurance from someone else. Whether you’re our customer or not, our goal is to help you travel with confidence knowing you’ve made the right travel insurance choices.