By Molly Martyn, MD
With the holiday season coming, many families are making plans to travel to see family and friends. Airline travel with infants and young children can be both joyful and stressful. Travel is often unpredictable, but advance preparation can go a long way when it comes to traveling as a family.
The Travel Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) both have tips on their websites for safe airline travel with children. Below are some ideas and information to help your trip go more smoothly.
PLANNING AND PACKING
1. Many families find it helpful to use a checklist for packing, something you can use for the next time you travel. Keep a pencil and piece of paper nearby while you go through your daily routine with your child and make notes of things that you will need to remember to pack. In general, the less gear you have to tote around the better, but having an extra pacifier or a favorite comfort object with you will help make life easier for everyone.
2. For older children, talk with them in the week prior to your trip about what they can expect at the airport and the new things they will get to explore and experience with a trip to the airport, an airplane ride, and at their destination.
3. Check with your airline ahead of time regarding checking car seats and strollers. If you bring a car seat or booster seat, they can often be checked as an extra piece of luggage without additional fees. Most airlines will allow you to check a stroller at the gate, which is helpful because it means you can use your stroller to go through security and navigate the airport.
4. Pack more food in your carry-on bag than you think you will need in case your travel is delayed or you find yourself waiting on a runway. If you are traveling with an infant who drinks formula, bring extra. If you are traveling with young children, pack plenty of nutritious, filling, familiar snacks that do not need to be refrigerated.
5. Baby formula, breast milk, and jarred baby foods are allowed through security, but must be presented to a TSA officer. Pack them separately from your other liquids or aerosols. You can read more on the TSA website.
6. Bundle diapers, wipes, a changing mat, and a few plastic bags together so that they are easy to access for diaper changes. Pack extra clothes in your carry-on. Footed pajamas are a good option because it is only one item of clothing to change in case of an accident, spit-up, etc.
1. Children less than 2 years of age can legally travel in a parent or guardian’s lap, which is what most families opt for given the cost savings. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children travel in their own airplane seat, restrained in a car seat appropriate for their size and age. A car seat that can be used in an airplane will carry a label stating that it is certified for use in both motor vehicles and airplanes. Once children are 40 pounds, they can use the aircraft seatbelt. Unlike in cars, booster seats are not routinely used for airline travel.
You can find out more information on the FAA’s website.
2. Babies and small children can be carried through TSA screening (strollers and car seats have to go through the XRay machine). TSA should not ask travelers to do anything that will separate them from their children.
3. Have a plan with older children about what they would do in case you get separated while traveling (a place to meet, who they can safely ask for help, etc).
IN THE AIR
1. Changes in altitude during take-off and landing can cause uncomfortable pressure and fullness in ears. You can help keep infants comfortable by having them nurse or suck on a bottle (this mimics what older children and adults learn to do to “pop” their ears by yawning or chewing on gum).
2. To occupy older children, pack a bag of “special treats” such as books/crayons/games to be used on the plane.
3. Look forward to a safe arrival at your final destination!
Good luck and travel safely. If you want to read more, here are some good sites and additional tips:
1. TSA Policies: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/traveling-children
2. FAA Car Seat and Safe Travel Information:http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/
3. American Academy of Pediatrics Travel Tips:http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/Travel-Safety-Tips.aspx