Traveling with your kids can be a blessing and a lot of fun! But it can also be a source of frustration if you don’t plan it right.
If you are somewhat new to traveling, you may be feeling like your experience as a parent means that you don’t need to prepare for your travels, but being prepared means that you will make the most of your travels with the kids!
There is really no magic potion to make every trip perfect – but there are many things you can prepare for to make traveling with your younger generation fun and relaxing. Here are some family travel tips for your next trip.
Involve Your Kids and Grandkids in the Planning
When you are planning a trip with your kids make sure that you involve them in the trip planning process. If you have already selected a destination, get them involved in planning the activities. For example, if you have decided to go on a cruise, open up the booklet or the website and let them help you plan the excursions. Giving them that little bit of decision making power will get them excited about the trip.
Traveling with older children vs younger children can make a difference in what activities you chose to do and even what destinations you choose. If you are traveling with older children, it can be helpful to involve them in choosing not only the activities, but the destination as well. If they feel like they have a little say so in each small part of the planning, it can go a long way in making the trip more enjoyable.
Car Seat Safety
No matter where your destination and how you are getting there, at some point, you are going to be in a car. Whether you are taking a road trip or just jump in the car to head to the airport. Back when we were growing up, at least for many of us, seat belt safety was really a non-issue. Some vehicles didn’t even HAVE seatbelts. That, of course, changed with the times, and as our own kids were growing up, seatbelt and car seat safety awareness really grew. It is an important message for all parents, grandparents and other caregivers – make sure your child is not only buckled up, but if they still require a car seat, make sure they are in the right seat that is installed properly.
Child Passenger Safety Week (September 17-23, 2017) is a great time to brush up on car seat safety tips and make sure your child is in the right seat, with the right fit and installation. During Child Passenger Safety Week, more than 1000 events are expected in 45 states across the country to raise awareness for proper car seat installation and usage. The week culminates in “Seat Check Saturday,” where Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will help parents and caregivers make sure their car seats are installed correctly. In most cases, this service is FREE.
It can be hard to stay on top of all the details by yourself, but there are incredible resources like NHTSA.gov/TheRightSeat, which has videos about how to install car seats and booster seats correctly and guides to picking the right seat by age and size.
You may be thinking – this is just a road trip, what type of documents could I possibly need? This is where it gets tricky. Maybe you never wind up needing any of these documents, but you must remember, when traveling, it is always better to err on the side of caution!
For domestic travel, you won’t need as much as you would if you were traveling outside the U.S. But it is always good to have a notarized letter from the parent(s) giving you permission to travel with the children if you have friends children or children who are not your own coming along for the ride. Especially as they grow into teen years, they like to invite friends to come along. You will also want a notarized letter from the parent(s) that would give them permission to authorize medical care on their behalf should an emergency arise. If available, you will also want to have a copy of the children’s dental and health insurance cards, should you need to use them.
For international travel, you will need all of the above, plus a few things. Although a passport is always the easiest solution, if you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or some areas of the Caribbean, children under age 15 do not have to have a passport. You can simply use a certified copy of their birth certificate. However, if you are flying anywhere else, it is best, and likely a requirement, that children have their own passports. Always check the U.S. Department of State’s website for country specific information before traveling because it can take a while to get a passport and you want to be prepared.
Have fun, Relax and Don’t Forget to Capture the Moment!
Traveling can be stressful, no doubt. And traveling with little ones or even older kids can be more stressful than your usual travel. Don’t be overly ambitious about what you and your body can handle – this goes for both parents and children! Trust that the children need rest – even those teenagers – and so do you, so make sure you schedule some down time. It will make your trip much more relaxing and enjoyable! And whatever you do – don’t forget to capture the memories. This time of travel is a time for bonding and something that they will always cherish. Make sure you give them something to remember forever!
If you’re not too busy – the NHTSA is hosting a fun twitter chat on September 20th from 3-4pm EST using #TheRightSeat to learn more about child passenger safety and hear some great tips from other moms, dads, and caregivers on traveling with kids!