Fly With Infants – Guide to Bringing Baby on a Plane

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Image courtesy of Tropical studio via Adobe Stock

Anxiety about traveling internationally with infants is fairly common. Traveling with babies can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Here are some common questions and answers about how to fly with infants.

These days there are a lot of code-shares where you book a ticket with one airline but the flight is operated by a different airline. When you fly with infants, pay attention to the rules of the airline that is operating the flight. Those are the rules that will apply.

Fly with infants – How young is too young?

Babies should not fly until they are one week old. Some doctors discourage long flights with children younger than three months old. That’s partly because the recycled air in the cabin is dry, making it difficult to keep young infants hydrated. The recycled air can also be a problem because young infants have low immunity.

In general, babies and infants will be fine on the flight as long as you keep them hydrated. The change in air pressure during take off and landing can be painful for them. Fluids during that time can help because the swallowing action will help to equalize their ears.

The Transportation Security Administration specifically allows formula, breast milk, and juice for infants or toddlers. There may be additional screening measures to clear you through security, but these items are allowed. You can check the full TSA policy on this here.

How far you’re willing to fly with an infant depends on you. Extremely long flights can be difficult because of changing diapers in cramped airplane bathrooms or the need for a lot of supplies.

Pay for a seat?

fly with baby
Image courtesy of Rafael Ben-Ari via Adobe Stock

Check the airline’s policy on this. Within the United States, infants under the age of two traveling without their own seat within the United States do not require a ticket. Bear in mind that a child without a seat typically does not have a baggage allowance (or carry-on).

All infants traveling internationally must have a ticket, even if no seat is purchased and they are traveling as a lap child. Some airlines require you to pay a fee for a lap child on international flights. On American Airlines, for example, this is 10% of the adult fare, plus taxes and fees.

You may use a child safety seat (car seat) if you have purchased a seat for your child. There are restrictions on which seats can have a car seat. Car seats cannot be used in exit rows or the rows adjacent to exit rows.

Bassinets

bassinet
Image courtesy of Igor Stepovik via Adobe Stock

Most airlines now have bassinets that can be attached to the bulkhead on international flights. They may not be used during taxi, takeoff or landing, or when the seatbelt sign is illuminated. Request a bassinet by contacting the airline directly.

The number of bassinets per plane is limited and they are on a first come, first served basis, so don’t make this the centerpiece of your plan.

Strollers

On American Airlines, small collapsible strollers up to 20 lbs may be stored in the overhead compartment. United Airlines and Delta require strollers to be checked at the gate. Strollers are not counted against your baggage allowance and airlines do not typically charge to check them.

For more info on traveling with kids, check out my book on the topic.

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Weekend Getaways from Houston

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Weekend Getaways from Houston

A while ago I wrote about weekend getaways from Washington, DC. Now we turn to weekend getaways from Houston.

Heading south is your quickest escape from Houston, although it means you won’t gain any time zone advantages (you won’t lose time either). Because of that, I’ve shortened the travel time. Here are a few easy weekend getaways from Houston that are all less than a four hour flight away.

© OpenStreetMap contributors

 

 

Nicaragua

Managua is just over three hours from Houston. There is much to see in this diverse country. One suggestion is Mombacho Volcano reserve, an hour south of Managua. The hiking trails on the volcano bring you to a cloud forest and a dwarf forest. Stay in Granada, half an hour from the volcano (book a hotel through Agoda). Quite a change from your average weekend in Houston, I’ll wager.

Costa Rica

Fly into Liberia and head to the beach. Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal are only an hour from the airport. Or travel a little farther south to Tamarindo. Check into a resort and dip your toes into the the warm waters of the Pacific.

Panama

Get a taste of history and visit the Panama Canal. Fly into Panama City, founded over 500 years ago. Explore the locks and then head into the tropical rainforests that surround the canal.

Jamaica

Ok, this one might require you to take a vacation day. There’s only one direct flight on Fridays to Montego Bay and it leaves at 10:30 in the morning. Still, you’re less than four hours from the sandy beaches. Leave the kids at home and stay at an all-inclusive resort like Sandals.

 

Banner Image courtesy of Sunny Studio via Adobe Stock.

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How to Safeguard Your Travel Documents

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Losing your passport while traveling will definitely impact your plans. Here’s how to safeguard travel documents to ensure that any disruption is minimized.

Safeguard Travel DocumentsMake copies (paper and electronic)

Start to safeguard travel documents before you leave on your trip. Make at least two paper copies of your passport. You should copy the information page and, if applicable, the visa page for the country that you’re visiting. Leave one copy with someone back home.

Keep another copy on you but separate from the passport. Consider exchanging a third copy with a travel companion. Finally, scan a copy as a JPG or PDF file and email it to yourself. If you use a cloud-based email service (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.), you’ll be able to retrieve it from any computer.

This goes for any other documents you need while traveling, such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, or prescriptions for medication.

Safeguard Travel Documents from damage

Loss or theft is a top concern. We often don’t think about documents getting wet, dirty, or torn. Slip your passport into a small, re-sealable plastic bag to keep it safe.

Keep Your Passport On You

When traveling, keep your passport on you at all times. Be vigilant in crowded spaces. Carry it in a front pocket or travel wallet. If you’re leaving your hotel room but not the hotel (like going to the pool, for example), lock it in the room safe.

Report Lost or Stolen Documents Immediately

If your passport is lost or stolen, report it to the local police as soon as possible. Make sure you get a copy of the police report. Ask for a letter from the police confirming that you’ve reported the loss. Take these documents and your photocopy of your passport to the nearest embassy or consulate from your home country.

Your lost passport is an emergency to you. It is likely not an emergency to the embassy. 

The consular services at an embassy operate normal business hours. Don’t expect them to crank up the wheels of government on a weekend or holiday. You may have to call or make an appointment. Embassies can issue replacement passports, but the process may take a few days (or weeks), depending on where you’re from and where you are.

For additional tips on travel documents, check out the U.S. State Department website.

Read Travel With Kids to learn how to have a better family travel experience.

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Multi Family Vacation – How to Vacation With Friends

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It usually starts with one parent or the other. Or two of the kids really hit it off. Before you know it, the discussion turns to going on a vacation together. We can all hang out, it will be great – that’s the general idea. Before you click the reserve button, here are a few ideas to make sure your multi family vacation is a success.

Talk about money

Settle on a budget beforehand that everyone is comfortable with. This may be awkward, but it avoids the even more awkward situation of hashing out the bill at the end of the trip.

There should be clear expectations about which expenses are going to be split between the families and which ones are born by each family separately. If you’re renting a large house together, for example, decide who gets the master bedroom, who’s buying the groceries, etc.

Put someone in charge of logistics

Someone is booking the lodging. Someone is buying the plane tickets. Someone is in charge of getting tickets to attractions. It doesn’t have to be the same someone, but everyone needs to know who that person is. That way you don’t end up double-booking or failing to book, neither of which is an optimal arrangement.

Agree on activities – and alone time – and family time

Chances are, there are some of you that are closer than others. Maybe the moms are best friends and the dads barely know each other. Maybe the kids are the same age and get along great. Or maybe they don’t.

Prevent hurt feelings by discussing which activities you’re all going to do together, which ones are going to be done as a family. It’s okay to plan in time for people to go off on their own too.

Discuss boundaries with kids – and with regard to kids

Different families have different ideas about screen time, discipline, and behavior expectations. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to respect each others ideas. Otherwise this can quickly become a source of friction. This comes up most often because the kids will notice different standards and comment on it. They are obsessed with “fairness.” You have to decide how much you’re willing to change your parenting style to match your friends, and whether that’s a temporary (on vacation) or a permanent change.

Don’t force it

Remember, this is a vacation. It’s supposed to be fun. Don’t try to forcibly create a magic memory. Just relax and you’ll find that it happens naturally. You may find yourself doing a multi family vacation every year. Or you may find that it was a one time thing. Either way is okay.

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Do I Need Travel Insurance

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Determining whether you need travel insurance means first determining what that phrase means to you. Travel insurance is a confusing term because it can mean a variety of things. Broadly speaking, you might seek insurance to cover any or all of these areas:

  • Trip Cancellation
  • Medical Service (Routine or Emergency)
  • Medical Evacuation
  • Lost baggage
  • Rental Car and Liability

In this post, I’ll go over each of them to help you decide if you need travel insurance.

Travel with teens accessories
Image courtesy of Photobyphotoboy via Adobe Stock

Trip Cancellation

Trip cancellation insurance covers the costs associated with canceling or cutting your trip short. This is typically due to either issues with your health or that of an immediate family member. Payments can cover costs from a pre-paid package trip, airline tickets to get home, and cancellation fees for activities or lodging. As with all insurance policies, read the “fine print” to see what constitutes a health issue and who counts as a family member.

This type of insurance makes more sense when you purchase it well in advance of the trip. Booking plane tickets for a trip nine months from now, for example, you may want to consider getting cancellation insurance. Airlines frequently offer cancellation insurance as an add-on fee. But read the fine print and crunch the numbers. Only purchase the insurance if the fees are less than the change fees on the tickets or trip package.

Medical Services

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick or injured while on vacation is worse. Take a look at your existing health care insurance plan. Make sure it provides coverage while you are traveling overseas. Make sure it doesn’t exempt the kinds of activities that you plan to do while traveling (African safari, scuba diving, trekking).

If you’re covered, great. Write down any international contact numbers that you’ll need to reach your insurance company and move on. Otherwise, you might want to consider getting additional coverage, either through your existing company or a travel medical insurance specialty company.

Medical Evacuation

There’s medical care and then there’s medical evacuation. If you have to be airlifted by helicopter from a remote location to a city with decent medical care, that procedure can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Is that covered under your existing policy? Is it a likely occurrence?

All insurance is a way to manage risk. If you’re traveling to a major metropolitan area, like Sydney or Barcelona, you probably don’t need this. If you’re going to an extremely remote location and/or doing highly dangerous activities, you may decide it’s worth the expense.

Lost baggage

Your airline carriage contract provides coverage in cases of lost luggage but it is likely limited to a maximum of $200-300 per bag. If you determine that this will not cover replacing all of your belongings, you may want to consider a lost baggage rider. Similarly, you should look at your existing homeowner’s policy to see if it covers replacing high-value items like cameras, phones, and computers while traveling.

Rental car and liability

Do you plan to rent a car while on vacation? Insurance fees can quickly add up and even double the cost of the rental. Before you sign the rental car agreement, check with your existing car insurance provider and your credit card company. You may already have full or partial liability coverage through them. Make sure you know what is required to maintain that coverage – for example, do you need to have an international driver’s license? Is the policy voided when you drive off-road?

Travel Insurance Providers

Below are links to several providers that specialize in travel insurance. I’m not endorsing any of them, just providing information. You should definitely do your own research and determine whether you need travel insurance.

For more travel tips, check out Travel With Kids: How to Travel With Kids Without Losing Your Mind.

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Tips For Flying With Kids

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By nadirhda1906 @ stock.adobe.com

If you’ve flown with your kids domestically, the main difference with traveling internationally is the duration of the flights. It’s only four and a half hours by plane from Chicago to Los Angeles. It takes almost twice that long to get from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. That’s a lot of time in the air with kids who probably don’t want to sit for that long. Here are some tips for flying with kids to make your trip more enjoyable for everyone.

Toys for the Plane

To keep kids calm on plane rides, keep them occupied. One of my favorite travel hacks uses an old lunchbox. Pack it full of crayons, coloring books, and small toys like cars and dolls. For older kids, add books and tablets loaded with games and videos.

For tweens and older, make them responsible for selecting their own materials. This gives them a sense of ownership and makes them feel like they’re contributing to the trip.

Have a few surprises but don’t give them to the kids all in advance. Space them out and reveal them throughout the flight. That way there’s always something new.

Limit Screen Time

These days, planes have pretty sophisticated in-flight entertainment options. The longer the flight, the more choices you’re going to have. If you have strong feelings about TV and movie ratings, you can even ask about setting parental controls on your child’s screen to limit what he’s watching.

With all those options, the hardest part may be peeling your kids away from their screens. Manage expectations early by setting limits on how many shows they can watch. Get them to sleep and get some sleep yourself. The cabin crew dims the lights on long flights, which helps. 

In-flight Meals

Check the airline website to see if they offer a child’s meal option. Two of the three major U.S. airlines (Delta and United) have special meals for children on international flights. Many foreign airlines do as well. You’ll need to order it in advance, usually at least 24 hours prior to the flight.

Put yourself in their shoes

The most challenging thing about flying with kids, especially little kids, is their sense of time is different than yours. For example, you might say, “when the plane lands, we’re going to our hotel.” But when the plane lands, what you’re actually doing is waiting to deplane, walking to customs and immigration, finding your luggage, changing currency, and getting in a cab line. When this happens, kids think you changed the plan when you just skip all those steps in your head.

For more tips on flying with kids and other travel hacks, check out Travel With Kids: How to Travel With Kids Without Losing Your Mind.

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4 Quick Weekend Trips from DC

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Too busy juggling summer schedules to take a long vacation? These weekend trips from DC are all within a few hours by plane with direct flights. Take a long weekend and explore a new destination.

Montreal, Canada

  • Go for a long bike ride along Lachine Canal
  • Stop to eat at Atwater Market
  • Explore Montreal’s vast Underground City, a sprawling network with 20 miles of passageways connecting museums, shopping malls, and residential areas
  • Visit the Biodome
  • Find out more at Montreal’s tourism site

Reykjavik, Iceland

  • Closer than you think; only 6 hours away from DC
  • Hike the Laugavegur trail, one of the world’s most extraordinary trails
  • Explore the Thrihnukagigur volcano
  • Relax at one of Iceland’s many thermal pools and spas like the fabled Blue Lagoon
  • Find out more at Reykjavik’s tourism site
@dislentev via stock.adobe.com

 

Bermuda

  • Kiteboarding, surfing, sailing, snorkeling. Every water sport that you can think of is available
  • Explore the natural beauty of the Crystal Caves
  • Be a Beach bum on one of hundreds of beaches
  • Visit the Bermuda tourism site

Costa Rica

  • Fly into San Jose
  • Costa Rica’s tremendous biodiversity make it a great choice for ecotourism and exploration
  • Enjoy rafting, go on a canopy tour, or simply walk on the beach.
  • Visit a sloth sanctuary
  • Check out the Costa Rica tourism site

Get even more tips on family travel in Travel With Kids.

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Travel with Teens – Tips for a Successful Family Vacation

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Teenagers have a reputation for being moody, self-absorbed, and difficult. That reputation is typically well-deserved. They also are almost adults. That means if you haven’t exposed them to travel yet, you don’t have much time left to do so. It is possible to travel with teens and have a great family vacation. Here’s how.

Advantages of travel with teens

Remember when your kids were little and you had to lug all of their stuff and yours? That’s not the case with teens and that’s a good thing. They can carry their own weight, both literally and figuratively. Teens are old enough to be responsible for their own suitcase and their own belongings. They can be left alone for a few hours. Unlike infants, teens can tell you when they don’t feel good and why.

Teenagers are old enough to start understanding the world around them. They will absorb new surroundings and ask questions. They can also understand the answers. If your teen studies a foreign language, traveling to a country that speaks that language can be a great opportunity to reinforce the usefulness of that skill.

Teens can also be part of the trip in a way that younger kids cannot. Trips focused on more adventurous activities, such as scuba diving or trekking, become more feasible with teenagers.

Disadvantages of travel with teens

Teenagers want to be independent of their parents. Developmentally, this is normal and a positive thing. They have a tendency, however, to express that desire in whiny and negative ways. They can rebel by not listening or doing what they’re told. At home, this is upsetting. In some countries or situations, this is life-threatening.

Teenagers don’t want to spend every minute of the vacation with their parents. They may not even want to go on vacation. They may not understand the way relationships work in the country you’re visiting, which can lead to embarrassing misunderstandings.

Recommendations

Anticipate

Anticipate potential friction points before leaving home. If you always argue about what your teen wears, for example, don’t wait until you’ve landed in another country to have that discussion. It will end up being a sore point for the whole trip.

Communicate

Enforced small spaces can remove some of the barriers to communication that exist at home by forcing you to spend more time together. You’re in a small hotel room or suite instead of a large house. Use that time to your advantage. Create ground rules for screen time so that you have time to talk as well. Explain how much you appreciate their help with things like luggage and younger siblings. If you are lost or confused, admit it. They will appreciate your honesty.

Delegate

Give teens responsibility for their own passports, luggage, etc. If they forget their charging cord for their phones or lose something, don’t fix it for them. Instead help them to figure out their own solutions. Ask them to help navigate and read train schedules, maps, etc. In a few years they’ll be doing that on their own. Make sure they have the skills now.

Separate

Work with your teenager to plan separate activities she can do alone or with a group. Consider an all-inclusive resort where everyone in the family has time to do their own thing. If you get phone cards, get one for your teen as well. This gives her the same sense of freedom and independence that she has at home. At the same time, set clear expectations for activities that the family will do together. Think about high adventure activities where everyone can try something new together.

Travel with teens
© dima_sidelnikov – stock.adobe.com

Traveling with teens involves the same type of balance that living with teens does – the balance between looking out for them and teaching them to look out for themselves. Follow these tips and you’ll find you have a great family vacation. You can find more tips in my book, Travel with Kids.

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Business Trip with Family

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You have to go abroad for work. Why not take your family with you? Here’s how to do a business trip with family.

business trip with familyAdvantages of a Business Trip with Family

There are three main advantages to mixing work with family while traveling. The first is financial. Your employer is already paying for your hotel room and your airfare. These are the two most expensive parts of travel, and now you only have to cover it for the rest of your family. For a family of four, that’s a 25% savings. Usually more, given that adult plane tickets are more expensive. If your kids are young enough that you only need one hotel room, the savings just increased.

The second advantage is emotional. It sucks to miss out on seeing your kids because you have to travel. You’ve done this so many times that the glamour has worn off. Your spouse may envy the fact that you’re jetting around the world. You’ve explained that it’s business, but that explanation sounds insincere. Now you can bring them along.

The third advantage is psychological. Your family gets travel experience, which is nice. They also get a better understanding of “what you do all day” when you’re on a trip. I  know they’ve wondered how much of this travel is really warranted. Now they’ll see first hand just what you do. This gives them more empathy for the next time you have to go on a trip.

Get Approval First

Stay out of legal trouble by checking your company’s policy on doing a business trip with family first. If the policy isn’t clear, or there isn’t one, make sure to get your supervisor’s approval. Make sure you know what the explicit rules are about expenses that you can claim and those you can’t.

Manage Expectations – of Employer and Family

First and foremost, you’re there to work. Make sure your spouse and your kids know that they’ll be on their own on the days when you’re working. They can have an adventure and tell you all about it at dinner. You can eat breakfast together before you head off. Or you can add a few days at the start or the end of the trip to do things as a family. This may mean you’re now covering the hotel bill on your own for that portion of the trip.

Traveling with a team or meeting clients? Make sure they know which nights you’re free for a team dinner or drinks with clients and which nights you’ll be spending with family. Pay attention to cultural clues. If your clients find out your spouse is with you, will they feel obligated to invite her to dinner as well? Whether that creates tension or increases goodwill depends on the culture and how you handle the situation.

Smooth the Way

Is a car picking you up at the airport? Make sure they know you’re not traveling alone. If the family arrives separately, set things up for them to be as easy as possible. Arrange for the hotel concierge to help set up day trips. Make sure they have good contact numbers (and phones that work) in case they need assistance and you’re in a meeting. After all, your spouse might feel abandoned when you travel for work. He didn’t agree to this trip so he could feel abandoned in a new location.

Done right, a business trip with family can give you a cheaper vacation, more time with your kids, and a renewed appreciation (by them) of why you have to travel for work.

Get other tips in my book Travel With Kids. 

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