Traveling with Kids (Our Top Safety Tips!)
When it comes to family travel, our mantra is: play it safe! Take some basic steps to ensure your little one's safety, and you'll enjoy your outings and vacations that much more.
What to Pack
- One serious childhood sunburn can increase a child's risk of developing skin cancer later, so sun protection is a must. Pack baby-safe sunscreen, sunhats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and UPF apparel. For more sun-smart tips, see "Baby and Kids' Sun Protection Primer: What Every Parent Should Know
- Insect bites aren't just itchy, they can cause serious illnesses. Adult insect repellents may be too harsh for young skin, so pack gentle, child-friendly bug repellent. If you're traveling with baby gear, don't forget mosquito netting for your play yard and stroller.
- Bringing bottled formula? You'll also need an insulated storage cooler. Unrefrigerated formula can become contaminated in just a few hours, especially in the heat.
- Bring your child-friendly first aid kit, with pain reliever, bandages, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, thermometer, etc.
- You can't destroy all the germs in the universe, but you can minimize your child's exposure to them. In addition to indispensable toy wipes, consider disposable placemats, toilet seat covers, and changing table covers. (Give Mother Earth a break: use earth-friendly disposables like ours!)
- Visiting amusement parks or other crowded areas? Dress your child in bright clothing so he'll stand out from the crowd. In addition, consider bringing a child tether or simple child locator to prevent you from getting separated.
- Just in case, create a "if I get lost" plan and review it with your child.
- Bring your child's health history and ID information, including a recent photo. Better to have your child's identification and not need it than need it and not have it!
Handling Hotel Rooms
If you are traveling with a toddler, experts suggest you childproof your hotel room. Some hotel and cruise lines actually provide childproofing kits upon request, so ask when you make your reservations. To childproof a hotel room:
- Move dangerous items (including coffeepots, hair dryers, complimentary toiletries, drinking glasses, and dry cleaning bags) out of reach.
- Pull furniture away from windows. Make sure the windows and doors have sturdy locks (balcony doors especially).
- It the room includes a sharp-edged coffee table, either cover the edges with hand towels (you can tie or tape them on) or ask that the table be removed.
- Tie up loose blind cords. (Pipe cleaners work great for this.)
- Get down on your hands and knees and inspect for hazards such as pest poisons, peeling paint, or small items missed left behind by other guests.
- Cover exposed electrical outlets.
- If your hotel doesn't provide a kit, bring your own, which can include inexpensive outlet covers, removable, non-marring cabinet locks, and a portable safety gate.
If you're using a hotel crib, inspect it carefully. Several years ago, The National Safe Kids Campaign performed random safety checks on nearly 100 hotel cribs and discovered safety hazards in four out of every five cribs tested. Common dangers included loose hardware, insufficient mattress supports, and soft or loose bedding, a suffocation risk.
Since then, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Safe Kids launched a hotel safety initiative. Some national chains, but not all of them, now participate in the program. The CPSC suggests that when booking a reservation, parents should ask if there's a system in place to ensure crib safety.¹
Kids on Planes
Rule #1: pack all your child's essentials—diapers, food, toys, any medication—in your carry-on. Pack enough to account for flight delays and misplaced luggage.
Rapid changes in cabin pressure can make little ears "pop," so keep drinks or pacifiers available for takeoffs and landings (sucking helps reduce ear sensitivity). Or bring along ear filters, which buffers eardrums against air pressure changes.
Airplanes present unique challenges for parents with young children. Kids under age two are not required by law to be restrained on airplanes, so it's up to every parent to decide how to travel.
If you decide to ride with baby on your lap, consider a flight vest that secures your child to your lap belt. These vests are not designed for use during takeoff and landing, but for cruising, when turbulence most often occurs. (One Step Ahead has sold such a flight vest for many years. We've posted more than 50 reviews from parents who've used it, which you may find informative if you're considering this option.)
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that small children be seated in a Child Restraint System, or CRS, a car seat. According to FAA guidelines:
- For babies less than 20 lbs., use a rear-facing car seat
- For children 20 - 40 lbs., use a forward-facing car seat
- For kids weighing more than 40 lbs., use the airplane seat belt
- Every restraint must bear a label indicating that it's FAA approved, something to check in advance of your flight.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips:
- The only way to guarantee that your child can use a CRS is to purchase a ticket. Some airlines offer discounted fares for kids under two, so ask. If that isn't a possibility, select a non-peak flight time that's more likely to have empty seats.
- Measure the width of your car seat; if it's less than 16" wide, it will most likely fit in an airplane seat.
- Always place your CRS in a window seat, so it won't block the aisle or get jostled by people passing by.³
Bringing your car seat on board is an excellent idea, but carrying it through the airport can be challenging. We carry a number of air travel accessories designed specifically to make flying with children easier.