Travel should be a family affair, no matter what age kids are. Sure, family travelers can't just pick up and go to Cozumel right when the mood strikes, but with some additional preparation, planning and knowledge, traveling internationally with children can be relatively painless.
One of the most important things about booking family travel to make sure you use the children’s ages at the time of travel. If the ages are entered inaccurately, flights may need to be rebooked, potentially causing you to lose money and most likely get very frustrated.
Airports may not seem like the most welcoming place for a family, but there are some around the U.S. making an effort to improve travelers' experiences. One way they're doing that is by installing nursing rooms or pods so moms and babies have a private place to nurse or pump when traveling. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports, has six nursing pods and the Houston International Airport has four private nursing rooms.
To accommodate older kids, some airports have added kids' play rooms or areas, like Seattle Tacoma, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Boston Logan International. These play areas can be a lifesaver for parents, as kids will most likely have some extra energy to burn before or after being cooped up on a plane.
Another airport amenity gaining traction is the addition of quiet rooms for children on the autism spectrum. In April 2016, the Myrtle Beach International Airport opened a quiet room near the baggage claim area to provide families with a calming place to go, away from the busyness of the airport. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport also opened a multisensory room in a quiet space on the F concourse, designed to be soothing. A bubbling water sculpture, mini ball pit and tactile activity panel are intended to help children with autism adjust to the travel environment before getting on an airplane.
TSA rules shouldn't deter families from traveling, especially if they have very small children. You just need to know the rules and exceptions. For example, formula, breast milk and juice for infants in excess of 3.4 ounces can be in a carry-on bag, but travelers must notify TSA officers of it before they're screened. Ice packs are also allowed, so travelers don't have to worry about the liquids getting warm. TSA has a web page dedicated to traveling with children with more details, so review this to help you prepare for your trip.
Car seats aren't required for children on airplanes. If a child is less than two years old, they can be carried free of charge onto a plane and sit on the lap of an adult. They don't need a ticket, but they may need a document verifying their age. It's best to check with the airline on what you will need.
Though they're not required, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends car seats for children who weigh less than 40 pounds, so a ticket must be purchased for them. The car seat must be approved for use in cars and airplanes (surprisingly, not all car seats are airplane-compatible), which is generally stated on the car seat's label. Learn more about the FAA's car seat rules on airplanes from their dedicated web page.
Every airline has different policies for the children's items travelers can carry on to the plane or check, like car seats and strollers. United Airlines, for example, allows travelers to carry on a diaper bag, breast pump and child seat in addition to their own carry-on baggage. Again, it's best to check the airline's policies before your clients travel so they know what to expect.
There are some important things to know about kids and passports. First, children traveling internationally, even infants, need a passport. And anyone under the age of 16 applying for a passport must do it in person, with the consent of both parents/guardians. Also remind your clients that passports for children under 16 are only valid for 5 years, so they should check the validity well before their travel dates so they have time to renew it if necessary. Learn more about children and passports on the State Department's website.
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