Everybody’s Kung Fu fighting on your hard-earned family vacation. Here’s how to keep kids, teens, spouses and grandparents safe and happy on a travel adventure.
Family vacations are supposed to be relaxing — a time to unplug and spend some quality time together. So why is everyone arguing?
You’re not alone. “Countless family meltdowns on vacation occur because some — or all — family members are just exhausted,” said Monet Hambrick, a mom and writer behind The Traveling Child blog. Arguments also erupt over finances, unpleasant surprises and unmet expectations.
Travel planning — as well as a travel protection services membership — can help you avoid some stress during your family’s hard-earned vacation.
Traveling with Small Children
For new parents, preparing small children for a car or plane trip can be a daunting task. Kid excitement runs high on vacations and it may be difficult to get them to wind down. Here are some tips for planning family travel:
Start with a safe location/destination. Look at health risks, safety risks, crime statistics and coronavirus restrictions. Global Rescue’s free Coronavirus Update can point your family in a low-risk direction, or you can sign up for a free Destination Report to vet your destination.
Plan an itinerary. While you’re researching safety and health issues, you’re probably also researching things to do. It’s fine to map out a few activities, but be willing to compromise if the weather, entrance lines or attitudes don’t comply.
Have the right documentation. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, all children, including infants, must have their own passport or Trusted Traveler Program document for U.S. entry.
Carry documents if you are traveling alone with minor children. For example, if the child is accompanied by only one parent, the parent should have a note from the child’s other parent: “I acknowledge that my wife/ husband is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter. He/she has my permission to do so.”
Decide about seating for children. You don’t need to purchase an extra seat for a child under age 2. If you don’t want a child on you lap the entire flight, you can purchase an infant ticket (not full fare). Bring your own car seat.
Sign up for TSA Precheck. It can be difficult for young children to wait in long lines. Low-risk travelers can apply for an expedited security process, departing from a U.S. destination, in 120 airports. Returning to the states, Global Entry, run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, speeds up process of entering the United States.
Pack some extras. Make sure you have favorite blankets and stuffed toys to encourage naps, which will help with time zone changes or jet lag. Bring lollipops for ear pain and snacks for when blood sugars run low. Consider a child-size rolling suitcase for kids over age 5; kids love to be helpful.
Provide safety education. Don’t start the adventure without children knowing what to do in an emergency, memorizing phone numbers, having contact info/ID on them at all times, and holding hands with adults in public areas. You’ll also want to remind children, particularly those under the age of 12, to continue all the coronavirus protection measures they follow at home.
Traveling with Teens and Preteens
Although the kids are older, it doesn’t mean the family trip is easier. Social media is influencing everyone’s decisions and according to a vacation survey by Alamo Rent A Car, nearly half of families decide where to go or what to do on vacation based on the pictures they see on social media. Parents seem to be especially influenced at 61% versus 36% for non-parents.
If you’re traveling with teens or preteens, try a few of these ideas:
Ask for your teen’s input. Chances are they’ve already seen vacation spots on their friend’s social media sites, investigated places they’d like to go and investigated ecotourism destinations with sustainability in mind. And they’ll be more invested in the trip if they’ve helped plan it.
Choose a location with lots of options. You’ve already done your research on the safety and health risks of the destination. Ask your kids to choose the hotel, researching the options it has for them: access to the beach, indoor or outdoor pool, game room or nearby activities. Teenagers will want to go and do things on their own and you’ll want them to be safe.
Don’t ban technology. Of course, you don’t want your child’s nose against the screen the entire trip. But a cell phone or an iPad can be handy during the downtimes of travel, or tracking your teen while they are off on their own. A Global Rescue membership includes the My Global Rescue Mobile App, to help families keep track of the people they care about with geo-fence designated areas and check-in functionality.
Set some age-appropriate rules. This could include limiting the amount of money or valuables they carry, or scheduling check-in times or curfews.
Family Travel Tips for Any Age
Toddlers, teens, grandparents? Traveling with family requires patience, planning and practice. Here’s how to get started.
Poll the family. Don’t put one person in charge of planning. Not only is it stressful, but everyone needs to have a voice. Ask everyone how they want to spend their vacation, then use the results to pick the destination. According to a recent Global Rescue travel survey, this is how 39% of respondents plan a trip.
Plan activities and downtime. The grandparents may not be interested in hiking or walking tours. Teenagers want to try scuba diving and paragliding. Propose a variety of activities — with contingency plans or alternate options at the ready — and include downtime in the vacation schedule as well.
Make sure everyone is healthy. Everyone in the family should schedule a travel health consultation three to four weeks before the trip. All immunizations and vaccines should be up to date.
Plan your route. Depending on the ages of your clan, you might want to consider a flight with a layover (small children and seniors get a chance to stretch their legs). Teens can most likely handle a longer direct flight.
Check in online and pick your seats. With younger children, you’ll want assigned seats so you are all sitting together.
Add extra time to the travel schedule. Factor in any weather changes. Look up airport wait times before you get in the car.
Find out what documentation you’ll need. Make sure your child has your personal information on them at all times, along with copies of their travel consent forms, travel itinerary and passport. More valuable documents like passports and vaccination documentation should stay with a parent or guardian. Grandparents should bring a list of medications. United Airlines provides some advice for domestic and international travel.
It’s okay to overpack, just a bit. According to a 2020 Global Rescue survey, nearly everyone (75% of respondents) over packs for a trip. A family vacation may be the one time where it’s okay to pack a few extras. For example, you may not need a Band-Aid daily when you’re at home, but not having one on a trip can be a major hassle.
Invest in travel membership services. Global Rescue family memberships include a primary member, spouse and up to six dependent children under the age of 26. Every member will be able to access medical, security, evacuation, travel risk and crisis management services. Losing items, like a passport, can make a vacation stressful, but you’ll have 24/7 assistance with a travel protection membership. If things take a wrong turn with a serious illness or injury, you’ll be able to get medical assistance or evacuation services.
If you’ve checked off the items on this list that apply to your upcoming summer vacation, you and your family members are ready for safe travels. Now breathe deeply, count to 10 and enjoy your vacation.
“I’ll be giving travel protection memberships to my older kids who have aged out of our family plan throughout the year as birthday presents.”