Ah, vacation. Most people can’t wait for it. The word alone makes them feel more relaxed. But for those who travel with children, the idea of a vacation can conjure the exact opposite feeling: stress.
Going on vacation with children, especially with infants, is a little more complicated than travelling alone or with your partner. Yet if you are organized and abide by the following tips, the experience, especially the time you actually spend travelling, can be simpler than you think.
If you are planning air travel with your children, you should first check the airline’s policies and regulations regarding minors.
Find out what travel documents you will need. According to Isabelle Arthur, Air Canada Media Relations Manager for Quebec and Eastern Canada, you should bring your child’s birth certificate or non-governmental ID when traveling within Canada. If you travel to and from the United States or internationally your child’s passport is required.
Single parents should remember to take their custody documents with them. Arthur strongly advises, “that you hold a notarized letter of travel consent signed by the other parents or legal guardian.”
Also, if you travel internationally it’s wise to contact the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting, just to make sure that you bring the documents they require for your child’s entry into the country.
Book flights that coordinate with your child’s feeding and sleeping schedules. “Consider flying on quiet travel days and times,” says Tatiana Weber, a travel agent with Heritage Travel. This way you avoid crowds and noisy flights.
When travelling with babies or toddlers, find out what kind of stroller the airline allows. If your stroller is heavy and large chances are the airline will ask you to check it with your baggage. This means that your children will either walk or you may have to carry them from check-in through security to the gate and onto the plane. You can play it safe by using a small umbrella stroller. Collapsible strollers can usually be checked at the gate and are returned at the end of the flight.
Most airlines provide bassinets for babies. If you need one, just check the weight requirement. For example, on Air Canada flights a baby can’t weigh more than 25 pounds and should be unable to sit upright if they are to use a bassinet.
Once you’re on that plane your children will be restrained to a seat for a large amount of time. Let them exert some energy before the flight, especially if you have a toddler.
Some airports have play areas. But an open space where your child can be physically active will also serve the purpose.
Change your baby’s diaper before you board. It’s easier to do in the airport bathroom than in the confines of the plane’s tiny bathroom.
Don’t pack at the last minute. Start by making a list. This will help you sort out what you already have and what you need to purchase for the trip.
Make sure you pack plenty of diapers, wipes, bottles, bibs, sippy cups, pacifiers and extra clothes in your carry-on. These items need to be readily available. And don’t forget snacks. Think dry fruit, cereal, crackers and granola bars.
Pack a backpack for your children. Fill it with toys and items that will keep them entertained throughout the flight. That’s what Reuben Ross, a father of five boys (ages ranging from two to 13) from Montreal does. “Each one of my boys, other than the baby, is responsible for his own bag. In it they put the snacks they want to eat and the toys they want to play with during the flight,” says Ross.
Books, stickers, crayons, a colouring book, pipe cleaners, yarn, small dolls and plastic figurines are some items you may want to include in your child’s carry-on. Bringing a portable DVD player is also ideal. Just plop your child’s favourite movie inside and your little one is sure to be entertained.
If you are flying overnight, bring your child's favourite stuffed animals, blankets or pillows. They will help them fall asleep. Just make sure not to leave them behind once you leave the aircraft. That could be disastrous.
One last thing
Now that you are boarding the plane equipped with toys and snacks, all should run smoothly. Just don’t forget that during take-off and landing you should ease the effects of cabin pressure by nursing your baby or letting her use a pacifier. For older children, offer finger foods.
Traveling with children is a challenge, but it’s not as hard as you imagine. If you are prepared you may actually consider repeating the experience.