Many families dream of a family vacation on the Gulf Coast. The famed turquoise and white beaches are just perfect for child’s play. The sand doesn’t get too hot, the water is clear, and nearly every hotel, restaurant and attraction from Destin to Orange Beach caters to families with small children. In short, the Emerald Coast is a young family’s paradise.
However, a road trip with an infant and a toddler can quickly turn into a parent’s worst nightmare. Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics released their top 10 tips for traveling with children by car to help you plan a safe and enjoyable trip for the whole family…right down to a bag of tricks.
1. Always use a car safety seat for infants and young children. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit, she should ride in a forward-facing car safety seat. Updated recommendations on safe travel can be found on the AAP parenting web site.
2. Most rental car companies can arrange for a car safety seat if you are unable to bring yours along. However, they may have a limited selection of seats. Check that the seat they provide is appropriate for the size and age of your child before accepting it.
3. A child who has outgrown her car safety seat with a harness (she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat) should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age).
4. All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
5. Never place a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.
6. Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt, even in a taxi.
7. Children often become restless or irritable when on a long road trip. Keep them occupied by pointing out interesting sights along the way and by bringing soft, lightweight toys and favorite music for a sing-along.
8. Plan to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours.
9. Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute. Temperatures inside the car can reach deadly levels in minutes, and the child can die of heat stroke.
10. In addition to a travelers’ health kit, parents should carry safe water and snacks, child-safe hand wipes, diaper rash ointment, and a water- and insect-proof ground sheet for safe play outside