Tips to Travel Safely and Enjoyably with Kids
Whether you’re a veteran parent or new to the job, brush up on traveling safely—and enjoyably—when the kids are in tow.
Have a safe and stress-free family trip with these tips for on-the-road travel.
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three out of four children in safety seats are not properly secured, and not every child seat works in every car or truck. Here are ways to ensure the integrity of your seat installation.
- Have your child seat inspected. Parents should attend a seat checkup every year, says Torine Brooks Creppy, Executive Director of Safe Kids Buckle Up at Safe Kids USA. Find a car seat inspection station near you with help from NHTSA.
- Don’t buy a child seat unless you can return it if it doesn’t fit in your vehicle.
- Pick the best seat. Complete a side-by-side comparison of child seats using the NHTSA’s Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings.
- Understand LATCH. By law, new vehicles sold in the United States are required to have the “LATCH” system, which stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.” It is meant to simplify child seat installation because it does not use the vehicle’s seat belts. Unfortunately, LATCH is not a cure-all. Not all LATCH systems in vehicles and on safety seats are the same. Also, LATCH isn’t for kids weighing over 48 pounds (or for a combined total of 65 pounds including the child and seat). Review your owner’s manual and child safety seat instructions for information about the maximum allowable weight.
- Beware winding devices. Experts advise against using winding devices to tighten the belts around child seats. A too-tight seat belt can’t stretch as needed in a crash.
Many parents don’t realize that anything not securely restrained inside a car may become a dangerous projectile in a crash or during evasive driving maneuvers. Projectiles can include:
- Small items: Even small items can be dangerous as this example shows: Multiply the weight of an object by a vehicle’s speed. A flying 6-pound toy has an effective weight of 240 pounds when a car stops suddenly from 40 mph.
- Other passengers: Adults need to buckle up, too. In a crash, unrestrained riders could injure or crush kids who themselves were properly secured.
- Snacks: An unexpected bump or sharp turn could cause food to catch in a child’s throat.
These products may be handy additions to your vehicle. Some are available in new vehicles; some can be retrofit in others.
- See more with a back-up camera. This camera activates when the vehicle is in reverse, showing objects and children who may be in your blind spot.
- Ride comfortably with sun shades. These may help lower temperature, eyestrain and stress. Avoid locations that block the driver’s view and choose the most secure mounting possible.
- Alert others with a parking alarm. These activate as you approach people or objects out of your field of view.
- Entertain the kids with video or DVD theaters. Kits are available to fit these media players and screens overhead or in a console.
Your traveling experience may be more pleasant if the little ones are occupied. Try these tricks:
- Set aside toys specifically for trips. That way they’ll seem special and new, even if used on a previous excursion. Avoid hard, sharp toys that may be dangerous in a crash.
- Play a game. Have one child count green cars while another tallies up blue ones, or pick a distant state and watch for license plates.
- Schedule longer trips when younger children are likely to sleep.
- Vary DVDs, CDs and audio tapes by borrowing from the library.