Children and adults alike get giddy with the thought of the holidays. From the giving and receiving of gifts to those wonderfully decadent meals, it’s no surprise it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s to get away from the cold or to visit family, this period is also one of the busiest for long-distance traveling. So, unless you’re the parents from Home Alone, you’re probably going to take your children with you on vacation. For your travels, you might be catching a flight, driving or a combination of both to your destination. No matter which way you choose, you will still need to make accommodations for the well-being of your child. We’ll tell you ways to keep your child safe during this hectic time of year so you can go back to focusing on finding those cheap flights you just know are out there.

No matter which method you choose to get from point a to point b, it’s important to not let the excitement cause you to make mistakes. Slow down and take your time, by doing so you not only make it easier to avoid accidents but also allow yourself to enjoy what is supposed to be a vacation. One way to avoid rushing is to turn down last minute trips. Especially for new parents who are just getting used to the needs of their child, you want to give yourself plenty of time to pack and plan. A good method is to write down everything you used that day, from toothbrush to medication, so you don’t forget it when packing. Also, make sure you spend a good amount of time planning the trip itself. If you’re taking a flight to California and you have a two-hour layover, it wouldn’t hurt to know ahead of time to bring a snack or of some good places to eat while you wait.

If you opt to fly, there are certain things you can do to ensure it is a safe and enjoyable trip. First, ensure you purchase a window seat for your child. They will not only be able to enjoy the view, but this also prevents them from being hurt by carts coming down the aisle. Next, even if your child is young enough to be considered a “lap child,” holding your baby in your arms is simply unsafe and will offer no protection if turbulence or a crash occurs. Instead, purchase a FAA approved child restraint system that is designed for your child’s weight.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children should be in their rear-facing child-safety seat until they are at least one-year-old and weigh over 20 pounds. Children over a year old and under 40 pounds should still be in their child-safety seat, but should now face forward. Once your child has reached 40 pounds they can be secured in the aircraft seat belt. You may want to ask for pre-boarding to give yourself enough time to properly secure the restraint system.

For parents driving with their children, there are safety matters to consider in that regard as well. You are most likely aware that your child should be in a car seat of some sort. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that a baby under the age of two should be in a rear-facing car seat, after that they can face forward but should still be in a seat designed for their weight and height. Once your child has outgrown car seats, they can graduate to a booster seat until they are large enough to fit the car’s seat belt without it. Children under the age of 13 should ride in the backseat with their seat belt properly fastened any time the car is in motion.

Making sure your child is properly secured in their car seat can be difficult in colder months when they are bundled in thick winter coats, and most car seat manufacturers advise against them. To avoid your child being cold or unsafe, simply remove the coat in the vehicle once it is warm enough then put the coat back on before exiting. It is vital to pay attention to not only what is going on outside of the vehicle but what is going on in the back seat. Do not let the radio, cell phones, GPS, etc., distract you from your child because it only takes a moment for them to get hurt by something as simple as power windows.

Airports are crazy and that’s without kids. Hopefully, you don’t get separated from your children but because it’s always better to be safe than sorry, make sure you have a plan in case it happens. Preventing separation is what you want to focus on but simply planning to “keep an eye on your kid” isn’t enough especially if you’re traveling without another adult. Child leashes are great for helping ensure your child is not getting away from you, but if they aren’t your style you can invest in a child tracker. There are all sorts of products on the market from watches to devices you can stick on their shoe. If your child is old enough you can even buy them a special phone that is only able to be programmed with a few phone numbers.

Educate your child. Teaching them your phone number and a family member who knows everyone’s phone number is vital. Even after they know the number, you can still write it down on something they can’t lose like their arm with a waterproof, skin-safe marker. You’ve probably already drilled it into your child’s head to never talk to strangers but you should also be teaching them to recognize who they should turn to when they need help. Depending on where they are they should know who to look for. If they are someplace where things are being sold they should look for someone in uniform, like a cashier. Otherwise, if they are someplace like a park or a rest-stop, they should look for a mother with children. Make sure you teach your child that the last thing they should do if they find themselves separated is panic and call out that they are lost because you never know who might be listening.

Something else you should teach your child is how to get away from someone who intends to do them harm. Again, you have probably already taught your child to avoid strangers and to fight them off, but you should also tell them what to say which is, “Help. Not my parent.” Your child should scream this loudly if they ever find themselves being grabbed by a stranger because, unfortunately, kids have temper tantrums so often in public it’s hard to tell when they are simply being cranky or if they are in seriously in danger.

These are just some of the things you can do to protect your child and there are plenty more ideas online. Do your research, but more importantly, live in the moment. The number of years you will have to take family vacations are limited because kids grow up fast. Make sure the trips you do take together are the best.

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