by Robert D. Fertig
Traveling with children can be a joy or an ordeal and the result depends a lot on proper planning. Initially, ask for the child’s input as to where they want to go and what they want to see once you’ve narrowed down a couple of choices. Allow them to help you finalized the destination by going through the process of adding and eliminating hotels, activities and restaurants because of taste, budgets, or logistics.
Let them have some say in what clothing they take and if they want a toy or two. Just make sure they understand that everything they want to take must fit into their suitcase. Consider giving them an inexpensive camera to take with them so they can shoot their own photographs. When traveling by air, carryon luggage should not exceed 22″ x 14″ x 9″.
Each child should be allowed a backpack, in addition to the suitcase with the understanding all dolls, stuffed animals, electronic games, snacks, etc. must fit into the suitcase and can’t be too heavy for them to carry.
If possible, rent videos of the places you will be visiting. Discuss where you will be going, how you will get there and what to expect along the way, including getting though security at airports. When going through security, strongly advise them not to make any comments about threats, weapons or bombs, and explain, in detail, why this is so important.
Go through a practice drill of screening them and their luggage/backpack, dolls, etc., until they feel comfortable with this procedure. Share the literature and maps that have been acquired and provide a highlighter so they may keep track of the travel route.
Explain that everyone, regardless of age, must go through screening, even babies. Always allow extra time to get through security as traveling with children often creates delays. It will help if you have explained to them why there are security checks and about the details including shoe removal, pat downs and baggage searches. For full details check www.tsa.gov as regulations change frequently.
If your children are small, dress them in bright colors that are easier to spot. Teach them how to call out to you by using your name rather than, “Mommy” in the event you are separated. And talk with you teens also. Seriously. They, too, wander off, so be prepared by suggesting a designated meeting space should you become separated.
If a child becomes separated from you, advise them to ask for help from a uniformed employee or a uniformed police officer. Place the business card of your hotel in one of their pockets in case they are lost and can’t remember the name of the hotel.
If you are a solo parent traveling with your children, countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and others, require proper documentation in the form of a letter of consent from the other parent.
Do not over-plan your time. Children do not like to be rushed.