It’s hard to believe, but the summer travel season is almost upon us. As we make our travel plans and pack up our suitcases, we can’t forget to keep travel safety at the top of our list. As a parent, it’s our job to keep our children safe. Each year, thousands of young children are severely injured while traveling. We don’t think twice about using infant car seats and booster seats for younger children, but many parents are unaware of the importance of booster seats for older kids. So don’t forget to buckle your older child into a booster seat as you head off for your vacation.
6 Tips for Your Trip with the Kids
1.Check for proper fit of car seats and booster seats—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Infants (under 20 lbs.) should be in rear-facing convertible seats with harness straps at or below shoulder level, toddlers (20-40 lbs.) should be in forward-facing convertible seats with harness straps at or above shoulders and young children (more than 40 lbs.) should use a forward-facing, belt positioning booster seat with the lap belt fitting low and tight across the lap/upper thigh area and shoulder belt snug across the chest and shoulder up to approximately 4’9″. Many times children between the ages of 8-12 still need a booster seat as the seat belt will not fit properly without one and can cause serious injury to the head and lower extremities. Make sure the booster seat you have chosen is truly a booster seat, not a flat belt positioning device. The “boost” keeps kids in a safe position and less likely to slouch. Slouching introduces slack into the belt path and can lead to submarining (where the seat belt slides above the pelvis and into the abdominal area). This is extremely dangerous as it can cause abdominal injury in the event of an accident.
2. Bring along childproofing supplies—toss childproofing items into your suitcase to be well prepared wherever you plan to stay during the holidays. Include electrical outlet covers, door handle covers and if traveling by car, pack a travel baby gate to protect your child in a new environment. When staying in a hotel, you can request a pack and play for sleeping or simply put a mattress on the floor. It’s also handy to have a night light for finding your way around in the dark and for kids that might be afraid in the new a new setting.
3. Pack a first aid kit and medications—whether traveling by car or air, tuck a first aid kit into your bag. Pack items such as pain reliever (for children & adults), thermometer, anti-itch cream, instant ice pack, motion sickness tabs, alcohol pads, Band-Aids, and every day meds that any family member takes. Make sure you have enough for the entire trip plus a few extra days in the event you’re not able to get back home on time due to weather or travel delays. Remember, the maximum size of any liquid is 3 ounces or smaller for an air flight.
4. Plan out Your Road Trip—if travel plans include a long road trip, plan in advance to make the trip less stressful. Always schedule plenty of restroom breaks along the way. Allow the kids to get out, stretch and even run around for a bit to burn off energy. Focus on the journey, not just getting to the destination. Make it fun by stopping at points of interest to take pictures and learn about the sites along the way. Pack magnetic travel games, card games, audio books, movies, electronics (with chargers), coloring supplies, plenty of snacks and bottled water, and a pillow and blanket for each child to make napping more comfortable in the car. Also make sure your trunk includes jumper cables, a spare tire and tools in case of a flat, emergency items, a flash light, and phone charger.
5. Stress-free travel by air—the truth is security and boarding with kids is challenging. Take off some of the stress with a few smart travel tricks. Before you leave, explain the process of the TSA security and boarding to your kids so they have an understanding of what will occur. Bring an inexpensive umbrella-style stroller and gate check it as it’s easy to fold up and take through security. When your child isn’t riding, you can use it to hold carry-on bags. Make sure you have car seats and booster seats packed or checked so you have them upon arrival at your destination. Have each child wear a backpack with their own activities, snacks and lovies. This frees up extra space in your carry-on and leaves them with exactly what they need on the flight. The TSA now offers pre-check. This rapidly expanding program costs $85 and allows you to speed through domestic security lines without taking off your shoes, belts and jewelry. For the kids, pack plenty of activities for the flight and waiting time at the airport. Along with their favorite books and lovey, pack new color books, crayons & washable markers, stickers, notebooks, small puzzles, Play-doh, Matchbox cars, craft kits from dollar stores, and other small items that will keep them busy and occupied for several hours. Electronics are great for both car trips and flights, just don’t forget to pack the headphones and chargers. It’s also important to talk to your kids about ear pain during take-off and landing. Have them swallow or take drinks of water during these times. Infants often find relief from breastfeeding, bottle feeding or taking a pacifier during these times. Older children can try sucking on a lollipop or chewing gum to help their ears.
6. Additional ideas. Staying in a hotel or with family can be stressful for you and your children. Planning ahead really makes everything go a lot smoother. Book a hotel with a pool so you can burn off energy when you have some free time. This also makes it more like a vacation for your kids. When packing items to keep your kids busy during travel, also think about what they can do when at your family’s home or during downtime at the hotel. This is where additional activities come in handy (like small puzzles, craft kits, activity books, etc.). If you’re staying with family, it’s ok to plan a couple things to do to get your kids out of the house. Check into local events and play places to take your kids to. A small break from family is sometimes good for everyone.
Grainne Kelly is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, mom of two and the founder of BubbleBum-the portable, lightweight, inflatable booster seat for children ages 4-11. It easily inflates and deflates in minutes and fits easily in a backpack or handbag, making it perfect for road trips, taxis, and fly ins with car rental. Award-winning BubbleBum meets and exceeds all European and U.S. safety regulations. BubbleBum is leading the way in ensuring that every child has a safe and comfortable booster seat on every car ride.