On domestic flights, children younger than 18 do not need identification as long as an accompanying adult can verify their identity. When flying out of the country, consult a good travel agent or the tourist office of the country in question about required travel documents such as passports, birth certificates, visas and tourist cards. Pack a photocopy of your passport and your children's passports separately from the original.
Custody issues arise for parents traveling without a spouse. The level of scrutiny, related to concerns over custody cases, varies by country. Check a destination's requirements under International Travel at www.travel.state.gov/passport. Parental authorization can be verified with "travel consent forms" signed by each parent and notarized. A standard consent form can be found at www.lawdepot.com. Many parents who send children on trips with other families -- either domestically or overseas -- include a signed form giving permission to seek medical treatment and a copy of the child's medical insurance card.
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Do I need a car seat on a plane?
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends child/infant seats for children weighing less than 40 pounds. By the way, bulkhead seats are great for infants, especially for those diaper changes at 30,000 feet; there's nothing wrong with kids flying in pajamas. But avoid red-eye flights, when everyone will be trying to sleep but your kid.
Busy gas station and restaurant stops worry me. Any suggestions?
The Automobile Club of Southern California points out that every time you come to a stop, your car turns into a billboard. Out-of-state tags, a rental car, maps, all advertise the arrival of travel-weary tourists. Always lock doors and place expensive items in the trunk. Put maps, guidebooks and other items that hint that you are not a local out of sight. When taking breaks, accompany your children to restrooms.
What about sightseeing?
At busy attractions, hold hands with youngsters when walking through crowds. Tell your kids where they should go if they get lost. Repeat the warning not to talk to strangers, other than police and authorities.
How do I keep the kids entertained on long trips?
On long plane or car rides with young children, surprise them with new toys and games. Parcel them out as you go, rather than giving them the items all at once. Make sure iPods are full and everyone takes their own chargers. Many parents swear by individual DVD players.
What do I do after they're done with those?
To keep kids occupied, also give them each a map at the start of the trip. Include landmarks and possible stops along the way. This lets them keep track of your progress and provides a sneaky lesson in geography.
My children get motion sickness. Any suggestions?
Consult your pediatrician before leaving. Several over-the-counter aids and prescription medicines are available to help motion sickness.
Any cellphone tips?
Before leaving the house, store important numbers in your cellphone: pediatrician, travel agent, airline, auto club.
Any car tips?
The auto club recommends setting up your navigation system in advance. By taking a few minutes before setting out, you're less likely to get lost or wind up by the roadside. For the safety of your family, don't drive when you're sleepy. Pack an emergency kit with a flashlight, fire extinguisher and first-aid kit.