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Travel Tips - With Children

Traveling with children

If your child is traveling alone, you should write all the numbers that would be helpful for the child on a note, or in a little date book for when she/he arrives at the final destination.

Don't count on your toddler being willing to eat airline meals and snacks! Little chewy fruit snacks work great during takeoff and landing for keeping his ears comfortable, and the different shapes keep him interested.

One of the best toys we have found for keeping our toddler occupied on trips is a travel-sized MagnaDoodle. When he drops the 'pen', it is attached by string; there are no pieces to lose; and he doesn't run out of paper. We write easy words on it, and he learns to read them, and gets really excited when he knows one ... or, we draw simple pictures and he figures those out. It should be great for kids of all ages - Mommy & Daddy have fun with it, too!

Look into purchasing some Goodnites. These protect kids from accidents (which tend to happen often while travelling) but are more underwear-like. They fit kids over 125lbs. Any kids who you are travelling with (especially in the car) should wear them just in case. It can really save clothes and car interiors in heavy traffic. Goodnites can fit kids anywhere from 3 to 16 years old too.

When traveling with children by air, if at all possible book at non-peak times (late at night, midday and Monday to Wednesday). This gives you a chance at a free seat for your child to stretch out and sleep. Arrive at the airport early. Sprints down an endless terminal are difficult enough, but nearly impossible when packing a baby on your back and holding a small child's hand. When traveling by car and you bring along "treats" NEVER give out them out too fast! Try every hour. You might even take a timer.

When travelling with small children, take along a package of outlet covers. Most hotel rooms neglect to provide these little shock savers, and there are often outlets placed tantalizingly at child height. For rooms equipped with stoves/ ovens, remember to bring knob covers, or simply remove the knobs while not in use.

When travelling with children, be sure to pack a change of clothes for yourself. Time and again my children have spilled sticky drinks all over me on the plane and I was glad I had thought to bring extra clothes for myself! Also it helps to premake airsickness bags at home as the ones the airlines provide are not always there. Another tip--put some cold drinks such as Capri Sun or juice boxes in your carry-on. If your child is thirsty and it will be a while for the drink steward to come down the isle, you will be glad you have them.

While traveling, particularly with small, wandering children, one worry seems to enter all our minds; "What happens if I loose my child?" Here's a tip that will help defray some of that worry. Before starting on the trip, visit a local hospital and ask if they will make one of those plastic bracelets for each of your children. Usually, they will. Then you can put whatever information you'd like on a slip of paper and insert it into the bracelet. If you're traveling to/through foreign countries, you may want to put the information in several languages.

The most successful idea we use is crafting in the car. We use serving trays to create their crafts on top of. Before we leave, I prepare all of the projects we can make, and once we are travelling, it is up to them. The serving trays also work wonderfully for puzzles, board games, and play dough.

Go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of cheap make-up, toys, and anything that looks like fun for kids (age-appropriate items) and if they don't whine, argue, complain, or attempt to hurt each other - they get prizes every 50 miles or every 45 minutes. When they were really young we did this every 30 minutes. It's a lot of fun, and they have all new stuff to use on their vacation.

When traveling in the car or on an airplane, a great entertainer reusable stickers. Your children can stick and restick them on the windows of the car or airplane. Also, lollipops are good for earaches during flying. I travel with my 2-year-old at least once a year by airplane, and when we have to change airplanes, I put a safety bracelet on her connecting her to me. That way I can put my backpack on my back, she's connected to my wrist, and my hands are free to carry her carseat. By the way, I tell her it's a bracelet - and I point out that I am wearing one, too, and that she can take it off when we reach the next gate.

Take lots of children's stories and music on tapes, plenty of cheap toys, and new books.

Wrap individual goldfish, gummi bears, and (a small amount) of M&M's individually in aluminum foil. Small children will delight in unwrapping them to see what's inside. This is a great tip for plane rides. (Make sure to keep a trash bag next to him, though).

When taking long road trips with younger children (6 and younger) have them wear diapers or pull-ups (or for older kids, goodnites) while riding in the car. This has saved us from many accidents. If they refuse to wear them, keep a couple in the glove box and have them put the diaper on when they need to go.

Sounds obvious, but ... Make sure you have your children go to the bathroom before you leave the airport - and have something for them to do so you have a nice flight there and back. Good Luck!!!!

Always keep a recent photo of your child in your wallet - in case you loose them in a crowed area, and need help in locating them.

When travelling with children, especially if one parent only may accompany the child(ren) out of the country - make sure that you have a signed and notarized letter from both parents stating that permission is given to the accompanying parent (or temporary guardian) to take the child out of the country. Make sure also that the accompanying parent or guardian also has the necessary medical release forms for said child(ren). This is especially important when travelling to Mexico. Travel agents or the airline should have these forms available.

To keep children entertained and well behaved during long airplane trips, buy a small carry on (children's size), with wheels. Go to an "everything is a dollar" store, and fill the bag with "surprises". Have the children carry/roll the bag around the airport etc., and during the filght, give them one surprise every 30 minutes or so. You will be amazed at how entertained they can stay, and perhaps give you a chance to "catch a nap".

Pack an entire day's worth of clothing, a change of clothes, sufficient disposable diapers, and food in a Ziploc bag. Make one Ziploc bag for each day of travel. Each day, one outfit goes on baby, the rest of the supplies go in the diaper bag and you are ready to go.

When traveling with children with medical concerns ... Make sure they have their own identification, whether it be a medical necklace or an identification card. Make sure it has your telephone number, the name and number of their physician, and their medical concerns.

When travelling with children, write down the name, address and telephone number of the place you are staying at on a piece of paper, and "I'm lost, please call my parents" or something of the sort, and make sure your child carries it in his/her pocket/wallet. Tell the child that whenever he or she gets lost, he/she should hand the piece of paper to a woman (make sure your child hands it to a woman, much safer than a man usually!) so someone can help them. I've found children don't remember hotel or street names, while a piece of paper makes sure they get it right.

Buy hand sanitizer from Bath & Body Works or Linens 'n Things - it works without water and is perfect for cleaning grimy, sticky hands when you can't find a restroom.

Buy an inexpensive camera (with flash) for children old enough to use it. The trip is then photographed from the child's prospective. My daughter absolutely adores doing this. She then creates a memory book with her photos.

Use baby wipes not only for wiping hands, face, etc., but also for getting out stains on clothing.

For long road trips with children, take a little spiral notebook and ahead of the trip write down names of all the cities you will be passing through. Then on the trip, as you get to each city, point it out to them and they can check it off their list. They get sort of a visual idea of how much more of the trip they have left and it gives them something to do every so often. On the return trip, they start at the bottom of the list and work backward. This worked really well with a six and eight year old on a trip from Michigan to Florida.

To help our kids remember their trip in their own words we buy postcards of the places we go and on the back of each one they write down whatever they want to remember. At the end of the trip we punch a hole in the corner of the postcards and put them on a ring so they have their own special mementos of the vacation.

Prior to your trip, prepare a homemade "book" with a page for each day you will be gone. Write the day/date at the top of each page. As you travel, your child can use any sit-down time to fill in what you are doing that day, draw pictures of interesting things you saw, paste brochures, or get the autographs of anyone - from your waiter to the occasional celebrity! Your book will be just the thing to share with your friends when you return.

Here is a great activity for long road trips with the whole family: Write down the names of your children's favorite songs on separate pieces of paper. Mix them up in a small box or bag (an empty wipes container works great!) While you are traveling, have your children take turns pulling one piece of paper out of the box. Everyone in the car has to sing the song that's written on the paper.

Car Doldrums: There's nothing like a good long stretch to help relieve car seat cramps. If your children are in booster or car seats, they will definitely need to move around every so often. Look for parks, rest stops and other locations that offer not only the chance to stand up, but an opportunity to play. Rule of thumb: a 20-minute break for every two hours on the road -especially with little ones.

Snack-Time Tips: Juice boxes, easy-to-eat snacks, wipes, napkins and trash bags are important. Car trips are the perfect opportunity to use those Tupperware containers that are really too small to be useful at home. Be sure to prepackage each snack for each child - that way you're not trying to pass food back and forth.

Games: You played them as a youth - now it's your chance to pass along the family favorites to the young un's. The license game - ever so popular on those cross country journeys - would work for the preteen set. Toddlers and preschoolers can help learn their colors by identifying the colors of cars. And be sure you learn a few family type songs. Even if your voice isn't of concert quality, you're sure to at least amuse your children. And if that doesn't work, you can always pawn them off on other drivers by getting them to wave to people from the back seat!

Airplane Advice: Pack some finger foods, like fruit, pretzels and cereal for your children to enjoy during the flight. These items might help them adjust to in-cabin pressure changes. For younger children, try using bottles, "sippy cups" or pacifiers to help ease inner ear pressure. For older children, chewing gum can serve the same purpose.

Prepare your children in advance for the trip you will be taking. If you are traveling by car or plane, you can show them on a map the route you will be taking. Even young children enjoy following the route on a map. Show your children travel brochures on the places you will be visiting, and if you can check out some books from your local library about where you will be going, you can use them too.

Memory making is a very important part of your trip. Your children can enjoy creating their own special memories. Have them keep a scrapbook or journal for your vacation. They can cut pictures out of brochures and paste them in, keep their ticket stubs, have new friends they meet sign their books, and much more! Even young children can color or draw things to represent what they have seen on the trip. Mom and Dad can help the younger ones by writing down some of the things they really enjoyed doing on their trip.

If you are going to fly, have younger children's ears checked before you leave. Nobody wants to travel with a child who has an ear infection.

In planning a road trip with younger children, prepare surprise packets for them to open periodically during the trip. Perhaps you could plan for two a day - one midmorning, the other mid-afternoon. In these packets could be such items as books, travel games, snacks, small toys. This gives the child something to anticipate . . . as well as something to do.

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