Traveling with Children

Flying with Kids
No one dreads flying more then parents with small children who are especially susceptible to the changes in altitude pressure. We have traveled with infants and toddlers and find that there is no way to predict how your child will react to flying for the first time. In all our experiences, however, we have never had an issue with our children upsetting other passengers. Ofcourse, every travel experience is unique and it's not safe to assume that people will always be so understanding. Indeed, before we had children we often would request seating as far away from families with infants as possible. Oh how things change!

You never know who you might meet!
We would recommend bringing a couple of games and activities that can keep your child busy. Drawing paper, crayons, books and games are all good bets for keeping a child's interest. While the airlines usually  have in-flight entertainment for kids nothing beats bringing your child's own favorite selection of movies and videos so if you can bring a portable DVD player or laptop it will come in handy. We like bringing our laptop wherever we go because it's easy to put on a movie and prevent a melt-down. 

Typically, children under 2 fly for free or pay only the taxes (they are not purchasing a seat but, rather, will sit on your lap) while children over 2 years of age pay full-price. There are exceptions to these ticketing practices, however,  and the age limitations can either be higher or lower so it is prudent to check with your airline to confirm what their policies are.

Baby Air flight Vest
For parents traveling with infants the best seats on an airplane to reserve are bulkhead seats as they offer more leg room and a small area where infants and toddlers can safely stretch their legs or roll on their backs (though it's recommended that children of all ages remain seat belted at all times).

It is possible to purchase a lap belt to strap infants in that connects to their parent's lap belt. We tried this method but it only worked for takeoff and landing as our child wanted to move around as much as possible once the plane leveled off. (See: Air flight vest). For additional information on flying with kids this handy site provides answers to many of the most common questions parents have about flying with children: Flying with Children).

***Update 8/2011- We recently flew on 6 different flights with our two sons (age 5.6 & 1.5) and were told by several airlines (American, Iberia) that child safety lap belts & vests were not proven to be affective in the event of an airline crash. Indeed, the only airline that issued us an infant lap belt was British Airways. We were told by an American Airlines steward that the force of a plane crash is 4 times greater then the force of a car crash and that the vests and belts were not strong enough to withstand an airplane crash and that infants using these safety devices would most likely fail to be properly restrained if a crash did occur. The airline advised that we bring on board with us a car seat as this would provide the best protection possible in the event of a crash. Ofcourse, instead of flying for free, infants riding in a car seat would be required - on most airlines - to pay about 50% of the price of an adult ticket because a seat is necessary for the infant car seat (airline policies differ so check with your carrier).

Anyone entering Italy must have a valid passport or visa. It is important to make sure that your child's passport is valid and will not expire less then 3 months after the date of travel. It is a great idea to make a color photocopy of your child's passport and keep it hidden in a separate location from the original. In the United States, children up to age 16 must be accompanied by both parents (or have an affidavit in lieu of one parent being present). Children must not smile when their passport photo is being taken and kids with long hair must part their hair to the sides.

It is generally a good idea to take the same precautions in Italy as you would at home. Like any foreign country, Italy has plenty of dangers for children.

The most common crime is theft and pick pocketing. Children traveling with family members are typically not a target for crime but there are exceptions so keep an eye on your young children at all times. If you are accosted by a criminal while with your children the best thing to do is give the assailant what he/she wants.

Family tip **** - Whenever we travel to a heavily touristed area as a safety precaution we slip a note card in our child's pocket with our hotel address, our child's full name, our email address, telephone number and our full names. Along with this we write: "Ciao, io sono perso può per favore aiutarmi a trovare i miei genitori? Non parlo l'italiano. Io parlo solo inglese" ("Hello, I am lost can you please help me find my parents? I do not speak any Italian. I speak only English.")

Driving with Kids
Driving anywhere children can be quite an adventure. Driving in Italy with children can be fun and easy. It is possible to rent a car seat from your car rental provider for a nominal daily fee.

Hotels with Kids
Most hotels are very accommodating to families with children. However, some hotels prefer adult guests only so make sure you make inquire as to what your hotel's policy is regarding kids. Always request cots and cribs/bassinets in advance as most hotels will have these on hand (some charge a fee) but in limited quantities.

It is also our suggestion to ask the manager if a first aid kit is on-hand and if not where the closest place to get medical attention for kids might be. Some big chain hotels have medical staff on call so be sure to check with your hotel provider.

Swimming pools are always a huge safety issue especially for young children. Always make sure that your younger children are supervised by the pool at all times.

We have found it helpful to explain to our kids what to and not touch in the hotel room. What might appear complimentary to your child might not be complimentary if taken or opened. In higher end hotels drinks in the mini fridges have touch sensors that record what was moved off of them. We learned the hard way when we received a larger bill then expected as a result of our son moving the bottled drinks around and taking them out of the refrigerator.

If you are traveling with an infant or child that requires milk or refrigeration of a medical supply always be sure to ask the concierge if a refrigerator is available if there is not one in your room.

Eating with Kids
Eating with kids in Italy is very easy. In the major cities it will be possible to get all types of children's foods in the supermarkets, restaurants and even fast food chains. Pizza & pasta can be bought almost everywhere. Cheese and ham sandwiches are also readily available. And, ofcourse, there is Nutella everywhere. Nutella is an amazing hazelnut spread and is delicious on almost anything. Kids will love trying Italian pizza along with the wide variety of pasta dishes too.

Most restaurants have high-chairs for younger children. From our experiences, the high-chairs we've seen and used aren't the best or most stable but are generally safe and suitable for young kids. When we traveled with our 1.5 year old son we took a portable chair with us which proved to be very useful.

In the smaller towns it has been our experience that the restaurant owners and staff love children, especially young children. We often received special attention as a result of our son's presence...

A picture is worth a thousand words

Baby Supplies
It is possible to buy baby food supplies in the big supermarkets. Sometimes the smaller convenience stores carry baby supplies too. The pharmacy will also carry certain infant medications along with diapers too.

If you require special supplies for your child it is advised that you bring them from home. Often when visiting the smaller towns, when we most needed supplies for our young son we found it very hard to get supplies as a result stores being closed due to holidays, for daily rest, etc.

Activities for Kids
For families traveling with kids of all ages often one of the main concerns is finding activities for their kids to do. Fortunately, Italy loves children of all ages and there is plenty to keep grownups and children busy and happy.

It is generally understood that most children can take just so much of the tourist grind and would welcome a nice change of pace. In our experiences, children traveling to Italy love gelato, shows, movies, bicycle riding, horseback riding, the beach, swimming, sports and just running around in a local playground.

Some very good activities for kids resources:

Family tip**** - We try our best to make traveling fun for our two boys. In addition to allowing activities that we normally would not allow our boys to do (watching movies, playing video games, etc.) we play more games with them then we typically would do. Good games and activities to play and do are card games, eye-spy, spot the plane, singing songs, coloring & drawing, and many more. We also try to make it interesting for our boys by turning all of our traveling trips into ways to grow their various collections. When we travel on a plane, train, bus or boat we try our hardest to find a replica toy copy for them to purchase as one of a couple of mementos of their trip. For example, every time we fly a new airline the boys are entitled to a small, inexpensive, die cast airplane of that particular airline. Every time we rent a car the boys are entitled to a small matchbox equivalent. And every time, well, you get the idea!  It is also possible to collect almost anything - stickers, coaster, spoons, post cards, stamps - so find something inexpensive and fun that your children can collect to remind them of their trip and to keep their interest!

Dealing with Homesickness
We have all experienced homesickness at least a handful of times during our lives so it is easy to relate to what some younger children might experience when they travel even though their parent(s) are with them. To this day, every time we take a trip our eldest son always says immediately upon arriving at our destination (and sometimes sooner) "I miss home, I can't wait to get back, I'm homesick already." This reaction is natural and talking to your child(ren) about the highlights of your trip that await them is a great way to ease their minds. Also, emphasizing how a break in routine is a good thing will encourage their sense of exploration and teach them to accept change as a positive thing. We always use the "you're so lucky to be traveling" card which never seems to fail.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Real Time Web Analytics