Family vacations can create long-lasting memories and fun learning experiences for parents and children alike, but traveling with children can sometimes be a test of preparedness— and of patience. To assist, ASTA has created a list of suggestions to help make the sometimes daunting task of preparing for a trip with the kids manageable and fun for the entire family. The advice is offered as part of ASTA’s ongoing efforts to communicate agents' value to the traveling public.
“As a travel agent and a father, I know the difficulties parents encounter when traveling with children,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. “Working with a professional travel agent, especially one who specializes in family travel, can make all the difference when it comes to having a relaxing getaway everyone can enjoy.”
ASTA says travel agents can suggest several tips to families traveling with children.
Build excitement. Start a countdown calendar with perhaps a photo or illustration of the destination. Let kids pack their own bags. Decide what type of clothing (preferably loose and comfortable), but allow them to choose their favorites and to pack a special toy. In a carry-on bag, pack some hard candies and gum, hand wipes, tissues, books, paper, markers in a small, tightly sealed plastic bag and perhaps a surprise toy for each child. Protect yourself. Update immunizations for the entire family. If traveling abroad, check with public health authorities for advisable additional vaccines.
Traveling By Air
Allow for extra time at the airport. Give yourself plenty of time to check-in. Be sure to have a safety plan in case anyone gets separated at the airport. Discuss where to meet and what to do. Make a flight plan. Review screening procedures with children before entering security checkpoints so they will not be frightened by the process. Also, all child-related equipment must go through the X-ray machine. To speed the process along, remove children from their strollers/infant carriers and collapse/fold the equipment so it may be examined or put through the machine.
On The Flight
Bring a child/infant seat on board that meets current safety standards and is not more than 16 inches wide. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that children weighing less than 40 pounds be placed in child/infant seats. Getting your seat assignment in advance can help ensure families are seated together. If a flight is full and you cannot obtain seat assignments in advance, advise the airline personnel at the airport. The airline may need to ask other passengers to change seats so children are not seated apart from parents.
Traveling By Car
Get comfy. Bring pillows and blankets. Stop frequently at rest stops to stretch and make use of restrooms. Play games and make sure the car is stocked with plenty of engaging toys and favorite tapes or CDs. Most importantly, keep children involved in the vacation process. Save everything collected on vacation— brochures, napkins, ticket stubs— and have children paste them into a scrapbook. Do your homework. Plan ahead with the rental company to make sure they offer car seats and installation. If not, you'll have to bring your own in addition to a collapsible stroller.
Plan for down time. Have a daily schedule planned with some flexible, free time for the family. Bring outlet protectors and make a sweep of balconies and bathrooms for any potential dangers. Hide small objects, accessible medications and cleaners children could get their hands on. Familiarize yourself with the hotel's fire and emergency evacuation routes and procedures.
Regardless of travel plans, using a professional ASTA travel agent can save time and money, ASTA says, urging travelers to visit www.TravelSense.org. Consumers not only can find travel tips and advice at the site but an ASTA travel agent in their area who specializes in a particular destination or type of travel on the Find a Travel Agent Directory.