International Travel with Kids: It Can Be Done!
By Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass on VAX VacationAccess
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.
Book it right
One of the most important things about booking family travel on VAX is to enter the children’s ages at the time of travel. This will make your quote more accurate and save any headaches for your clients when they’re traveling. If the ages are entered inaccurately, flights may need to be rebooked, potentially causing you or your client to lose money.
Know the airport’s amenities
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 four nursing pods and the Houston International Airport has two nursing rooms.
To accommodate older kids, some airports have added kids’ playrooms or areas, like Seattle Tacoma, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Boston Logan International. These play areas can be a lifesaver for parents because 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.
Understand TSA rules
TSA rules shouldn’t deter your clients 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. Share it with your clients to help them prepare for their trip.
Air travel with kids
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 your clients 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 its 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 a 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.
Passports for kids
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 valid only for five years; 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.
Family travel resources for you
VAX has a resource center dedicated to family travel, complete with family travel stats, trends, engagement tools, and on-demand webinars. We want you to feel prepared and confident to plan and book the best family vacations for your clients.