Tips for Traveling With Kids During the Holidays
Before packing the car or heading to the airport with your kids, remember these tips for a stress-free holiday.
On the Road
If traveling by car, be prepared for traffic and use your imagination for fun ways to entertain kids in the car, like with the alphabet and license plate games. AAA offers the following tips:
- Check your car for regular maintenance. Have the vehicle and tires inspected, and fill up with gas before traveling.
- Plan your route, considering construction and road conditions. If traveling in this region, visit the North Carolina Traveler Information Management System at tims.ncdot.gov/tims for disruptions like accidents, construction, road conditions and closures. You can also call 5-1-1 for this information as well as rail, ferry and public transportation information.
- Try to avoid the busiest travel times.
- Have roadside assistance contact information.
If your kids still need car seats, Debbie Newman, Safe Kids Wake County coalition coordinator, says to:
- Ensure your child is in the correct car seat for his age and height. Visit buckleupnc.org for specifics.
- Check for car seat recalls at cdc.gov.
- Don’t remove kids from car seats while driving. Instead, pull over at an exit, address the problem, and put them back in.
- Use blankets to keep kids warm. Wearing bulky coats prevent the straps from tightening correctly.
In the Air
Expect the unexpected, allow extra time, and remember these tips:
- For carry-on luggage, liquids, gels and aerosols must be 3.4 ounces or less and in a quart-size plastic bag for inspection. Put larger quantities in checked bags.
- Pack some of each person’s clothing in each suitcase. (If one or more bags are lost, you’ll still have clothes.)
- Check in online or on your smartphone 24 hours before your flight to avoid long ticket counter lines. Or when you arrive at the airport, use self-service or curbside check-in.
- Depending on where your traveling, you may need to determine identification requirements for children. Some airlines require a birth certificate.
Navigating Raleigh-Durham International Airport:
- AirTran and Southwest use Terminal 1, currently under construction. All other airlines use Terminal 2.
- Consider your parking options. Hourly Parking: for visits less than 12 hours; $1 per hour; $24 per day maximum. Daily Parking: long-term parking; $2 per hour; $12 per day maximum. Park and Ride Lots: located near the airport with shuttles to the terminals every 20 minutes; $6 per day. You can also look for parking options not run by the airport.
- Consider a taxi or car service to avoid parking. If your kids need car seats on the way to the airport, but you aren’t taking them with you, some car services will store the car seats until you return.
Getting through airport security
Let your kids know they will be screened and that everything must go through the X-ray machine, including blankets and stuffed animals, but will be returned. Keep the following Transportation Security Administration rules in mind.
- Children 12 and under can leave their shoes on during screening.
- Babies must be removed from baby carriers and be carried through security.
- Everything must be screened, including strollers, baby carriers, safety seats and snacks. If items don’t fit through the X-ray machine, an officer will visually and physically examine them.
- Baby formula, baby food and breast milk can be in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces. Notify the officer for screening.
Strollers and car seats
Check with your airline for stroller and car seat guidelines before traveling.
- Strollers can be helpful in airports, and most airlines will check them for free. Most umbrella strollers fit in the overhead bins. Strollers bigger than umbrella strollers can typically be checked at the ticket counter or gate.
- Approved safety seats are allowed for ticketed children. They are not required for children sitting on a parent/guardian’s lap.
- Most airlines will check safety seats for free at the ticket counter or gate. Consider purchasing a car seat travel bag to prevent damage. Or use a bungee cord and attach your car seat to a rolling suitcase or dolly — a convenient way for your child to ride through the airport without a stroller.
Regardless of how you are traveling, don’t forget these items:
- Comfort item – Don’t forget that special blanket, lovie or stuffed animal.
- Snacks –The squeezable pouches are convenient, especially for little ones.
- Water – Consider refillable bottles.
- Games and activities – If you have a smartphone or iPad, download new games or movies. Sticker or mini-coloring books are easy and compact.
With a little planning, holiday travel can be safe and enjoyable for the entire family. Happy travels.
Michele Jonczak is a mother of two boys and a freelance writer from Raleigh.