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TODAY

Sunday, September 15

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Airbags

This summer, a good friend of mine is getting married on the beaches of Cabo San Lucas. Since we will be staying there for a week, our trip marks our first "real" vacation in over three years. As my husband and I stopped to think about it a little further, it also marks our first family vacation. Family. Vacation. What the?! Knowing that the level of planning for this trip was going to be way different from any other, I made a list of what was to be done and/or investigated. With summer vacations beginning left and right, maybe some of the information I gathered along the way will help you with your planning.

One of the first things I considered before making any sort of plane ticket purchase was, "Will I want my kid on my lap for over four hours?" which promptly became, "Will my kid want to sit on my lap for over four hours?" As I glanced over my shoulder and saw Vincent climb onto the coffee table and twirl himself off, my answer was no. With that settled, I opted for him to have his own plane seat. For some of you, this may be a more feasible option (sanity-wise) than having your child on your lap. To those of you whose child can sit on your lap contently and quietly for hours on end, I say, "Whatever!"

After I purchased my plane tickets, I noticed the airline website stated that children under 40 pounds should be put into a safety restraint system of some sort. While it would seem ideal that you just take your car seat with you (since most of them are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration), if you are not renting a car or not staying with family who will be driving you or if you are planning on walking a lot during your trip, bringing a car seat in addition to lugging a stroller with you might be a giant pain in the ass. To solve this problem, you might want to invest in a combination stroller/car seat. There are many three-in-one car seat/stroller/booster chair combos with an average price range of $180-200. While my son doesn't need another stroller or car seat, I definitely think it's worth the price to save me the hassle from carrying all that crap with us. Sure they are funny looking (Is it a fat stroller? Is it a car seat with a crazy handle and wheels?) but I won't care when I have just ONE big item to carry with us.

If your child will be sitting on your lap during the flight, a lap restraint system is also recommended. They are inexpensive (about $30) and can keep your toddler safe on your lap in the event of turbulence. Still not sure what to get? Visit the FAA website for their recommendations.

With the plane planning out the way, I began to think about my packing needs. When I travel, I pack like nobody's business. It's neat and to the point — I even make colored illustrations of what I'll be wearing to save space and time. No one can rival my packing prowess, so for our upcoming trip I am speculating on every possible scenario (from flight delays to cancellations to baby vomit) and packing my one carry-on bag accordingly. When packing your child's carry-on, make sure you have enough diapers (if they're still in them), soft toys that won't double as dangerous projectiles in case your kid decides to hurl them through the cabin, snacks (Did someone say Cheerios?) a change of clothing and a small blanket. Yes, I know the plane will have its own blankets, but your child will appreciate one that she is already familiar with.

Next, I began to investigate what paperwork will need to be done for travel abroad with a child. Here's what I found out. The U.S. Department of State has special requirements for children under the age of 14 to obtain passports. Basically, you will have to turn in a form called the DS-11 Passport Form, you must provide the necessary documents and, to make your life easier, all legal guardians of the child should be present at the time the application is turned in.

Here is a brief overview of what is needed. Begin by downloading the passport application form. Make sure you have proof of your child's U.S. citizenship. Next, you must present documents which show your relationship to the child. You can submit one of these: a certified U.S. birth certificate, certified foreign birth certificate, report or certification of birth abroad, adoption decree, court order establishing custody or court order establishing guardianship. Parents or guardians of the child also need to show some sort of identification, in addition to the items above. You should be aware that if only one parent or guardian will be traveling with the child, you will need to present a Parental Application Permission form along with other notarized papers which state parental consent of the trip.

Once you have all of your information (don't forget to take two 2" x 2" identical photographs of your child taken within the last 6 months) and you've called 877-487-2778 to make your appointment, you're ready to go. If you are not pressed for time, many area post offices will take your passport application. For those needing their passports in a hurry, this option is not feasible. The total passport fee for children under the age of 16 is $82 ($40 for the actual passport, a security surcharge of $12 and an execution fee of $30.)

Of course now I'm thinking, what will happen once I get to the airport? How will a security check be conducted on the kid? Will he even need one? The answer is yes. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, "Every person, regardless of age, must undergo screening to proceed beyond the security checkpoint. Even babies must be individually screened."

The screening process for you and your child will go something like this: all bags and items will have to go through the x-ray machine — that means all bags including your diaper bag, any bag your child might be carrying, your baby's Boohbah, your handy dandy three-in-one stroller (if you have a regular stroller, DHS asks that you collapse it prior to inspection) and what have you. Next, you and your child will walk through the metal detector. Children must be out of their strollers or carriers and if your child can walk, they prefer he or she walk through the detector unassisted. After that, you and your family can move on.

A lot to think about, huh? While I can't tell you how successful or helpful all of these tips will be or how any of this will pan out in reality, as my trip is in August and I have yet to find out myself, I hope it help simplify your travels. If you plan on traveling with your babies before I do, email me at and let me know how it went. I'll have my fingers crossed for you. Happy travels and remember, eventually you will get to the good stuff and have fun!

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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