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Traveling Safely with Children this Holiday Season

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Traveling Safely with Children this Holiday Season

Child in car seatMadison, Wisconsin - As families across the country get ready to embark on holiday trips, it's a good time to review tips on keeping children safe during your travels.

Accidents are the major cause of childhood deaths and a frequent cause of significant disability. But many injuries can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions.

Here are some tips for safe traveling provided by three experts from American Family Children's Hospital: Nicole Vesely, Safe Kids Coordinator; Nan Peterson, the Child Health Advocacy program manager; and Jim Savage, manager of the Kohl's Safety Center.

  • Always use the appropriate car seat for infants and young children when riding in the vehicle:
    • Infants should ride rear-facing for as long as their car seat allows, usually to about age 2 and 35 pounds. Riding rear-facing protects your child's head, neck and spine.
    • When children are ready to transition to a forward-facing seat, children should ride in a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness for as long as possible, until they are at least 4 and 40 lbs. Consider using a harnessed booster to keep your child in a 5-point harness even longer.
    • Then, a booster seat should be used until the child fits properly in the seatbelt without one, which usually isn’t until the child reaches 4-foot-9. This might not be until your child is age 8 or even older.
    • Children should continue riding in the backseat until age 13
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    • Make an appointment to have your child’s car seat installation checked by a certified child passenger safety technician prior to traveling to ensure your child’s seat is installed correctly. Visit to find the nearest child safety seat check.

    • A child who rides in a car seat in the vehicle should ride in that car seat on a plane, in case of turbulence. Be sure your child’s car seat is labeled "certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft." Children who have outgrown car seats should sit directly on the airplane seat and keep the lap belt buckled across their thighs or hips at all times.

    • Check with rental car companies to see if they have car seats available for rent if you are unable to bring your own.

    • All children under the age of 13 should ride in the rear seats of the vehicle.

    • Secure all loose items in your vehicle so that they don’t become projectiles in case of a sudden stop or crash.

    • If driving a long distance, plan to stop about every 2 hours to give yourself and your child a break.

    • Keep warm clothes and blankets in the vehicle for all passengers in case of an emergency.

    • Use thin jackets or fleece on children in car seats so that you are still able to get the harness straps snug to your child. You may add a blanket over your child after properly placing him/her in the harness straps.

    • Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute, as the temperature inside the car can reach dangerous and deadly levels within minutes.

    • If flying, decrease ear pain during descent by encouraging your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle or pacifier. Have older children chew gum or drink through a straw to decrease the pain.

    • Wash your hands often and carry portable hand-washing gel to have accessible at all times. However, be sure to keep this out of the reach of infants and young children.

    • Be sure to bring the age-appropriate safety devices such as cabinet locks or outlet covers to prevent injuries to your kids, whether staying with a family member or at a hotel.

    • Bring along appropriate gear for your children such as bike helmets and ski helmets.

    • If you have an infant and are staying overnight, bring your own folding playpen if possible rather than relying on borrowed cribs. If you must use a hotel crib, inspect it carefully for broken or missing parts, and look up the model on to make sure it isn’t subject to any safety notices.

    Other Safe Travel Resources

    Airplane Safety:
    Car Seat Safety:
    Crib Safety:

    Date Published: 11/18/2011

    News tag(s):  kidssafetysafe kidsparentingouruwhealth