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Traveling with Children

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KEY POINTS

  • The better you plan and the more aware you are of safety, the happier travel will be for both you and your child.
  • Make sure your child is up to date on vaccinations, and always use an approved car safety seat. Take toys, books, or videos to keep her occupied. Make time to let your child get out and exercise. It’s a good idea to have a picture ID for her.

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The better you plan and the more aware you are of safety, the happier travel will be for both you and your child. Try to keep a normal routine as much as possible. For example:

  • Follow your normal rules during a trip. Do not bend all the rules just because the family is away from home. Children need and want to have the structure they are used to.
  • Don't switch over to fast food or junk food during trips. If you are taking a long trip in a car, bring water and healthy snacks, and stop regularly for healthy meals.
  • Don't let children go to a restroom alone until they are about 6 years old. Only allow them to go alone when you are familiar with the place, know it is clean, and can see the door clearly.
  • Keep a current picture of your child and a copy of his birth certificate with you while you travel. You may need to show proof of age for some air-travel reservations.
  • Wash hands often and bring hand-washing gel to help prevent illnesses while traveling.
  • Dress your child in layers for easy access and comfort.
  • Involve older children in travel plans. Many children like to keep a travel journal or take photos or videos to record their activities.

Car Travel

  • All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. Never place a child in the front seat of a vehicle if it has an airbag. Make sure that your child is buckled into an approved car safety seat.
  • During longer trips, allow for frequent rest stops. Let children get out of the car and get some exercise for a few minutes.
  • Point out interesting sights along the way and keep children occupied with favorite games, CDs, or DVDs.
  • Bring water and healthy snack foods for long trips. Keep a wet washcloth or towelettes in the car for sticky, sweaty hands and faces.
  • Never leave children alone in a parked car, even for a few minutes. Children are at risk for heat illness and injury when left alone. Always check to make sure your child is not still in the car when you leave your car.
  • Always have a first aid kit in your car.

Air Travel

  • Some car safety seats are FAA-approved to be used on planes. Check on this when you buy your car safety seat. Let the airline know ahead of time if you are bringing a car safety seat.
  • Talk with your child about what to expect before going through airport security. Let her know about long wait times and where to wait for you after going through security checks.
  • Changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing can cause your child’s ears to plug up or hurt. Sucking, swallowing, chewing gum, or using a straw to drink juice or water can help.
  • Most children are used to getting some exercise each day, but they may have to stay seated for hours during a flight. If you have layovers, take long walks in the airport.
  • Pack some toys or books to keep your child occupied during the flight.
  • Car rental agencies generally have child safety seats available with their cars. If you do not bring your own, reserve the safety seat when you reserve the car. Call ahead to the local agency where you will pick up the car to confirm that the child safety seat is available.

International Travel

  • Make sure your child is up-to-date on her vaccinations. Check with your healthcare provider to see if she might need additional vaccines. Bring a copy of the up-to-date record of your child’s vaccinations with you. Make sure you have enough medicine and are prepared if your child has special needs or has a chronic health problem.
  • Be sure you have a current passport for your child.
  • Plan ahead for things that could cause health problems, such as high altitude, strong sunshine, and being around water.
  • To help prevent diarrhea, do not let your child eat food from street vendors. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables and raw or undercooked meat. Drink only bottled water, boiled water, or water treated with chlorine.
  • Prevent insect bites by having your child wear long-sleeved cotton shirts and long pants. Use an insect repellent and follow label instructions for use. Note that some bug sprays should not be used on young children.
  • Adjust your child's sleep schedule 2 or 3 days before you leave. After arrival, arrange for your child to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to help adjust to the new time zone.
  • Make sure that each child has an ID and contact numbers in his clothing or pockets.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-10-18
Last reviewed: 2016-06-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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