It’s that time of year and families everywhere are preparing for the annual road trip to Grandma, Grandpop, or Uncle Joe’s house for the holidays. To help with your holiday travel planning, we consulted Bubblebum founder Grainne Kelly for her expert advice. If you travel frequently, your kids are older and can use a booster seat (and you can’t stomach lugging those heavy car seats from airport to airport), we highly recommend the inflatable Bubblebum booster!
Check for proper fit of car seats and booster seats. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, infants (under 20 lbs) should be in rear-facing convertible seats with harness straps at or below shoulder level, toddlers (20-40 lbs) should be in forward-facing convertible seats with harness straps at or above shoulders and young children (more than 40 lbs) should use a forward-facing, belt positioning booster seat with the lap belt fitting low and tight across the lap/upper thigh area and shoulder belt snug across the chest and shoulder up to approximately 4’9”. Many times children between the ages of 8-12 still need a booster seat as the seat belt will not fit properly without one and can cause serious injury to the head and lower extremities. Make sure the booster seat you have chosen is truly a booster seat, not a flat belt positioning device. The “boost” keeps kids in a safe position and less likely to slouch. Slouching introduces slack into the belt path and can lead to submarining (where the seat belt slides above the pelvis and into the abdominal area). This is extremely dangerous as it can cause abdominal injury in the event of an accident.
Editor’s note: Pennsylvania’s car seat laws are different than listed above. Be sure to check current car seat legislation in your home state.
Bring childproofing supplies. Toss childproofing items into your suitcase to be well prepared wherever you plan to stay during the holidays. Include electrical outlet covers, door handle covers and, if traveling by car, pack a travel baby gate to protect your child in a new environment. When staying in a hotel, you can request a pack and play for sleeping or simply put a mattress on the floor. It’s also handy to have a night light for finding your way around in the dark and for kids that might be afraid in the new a new setting.
Pack a first aid kit and medications. Whether traveling by car or air, tuck a first aid kit into your bag. Pack items such as pain reliever (for children & adults), thermometer, anti-itch cream, instant ice pack, motion sickness tabs, alcohol pads, Band-Aids, and every day meds that any family member takes. Make sure you have enough for the entire trip, plus a few extra days, in the event you’re not able to get back home on time due to weather or travel delays. Remember, the maximum size of any liquid is 3 ounces or smaller for an air flight.
Plan out your road trip. If travel plans include a long road trip, plan in advance to make the trip less stressful. Always schedule plenty of restroom breaks along the way. Allow the kids to get out, stretch and even run around for a bit to burn off energy. Focus on the journey, not just getting to the destination. Make it fun by stopping at points of interest to take pictures and learn about the sites along the way. Pack magnetic travel games, card games, audio books, movies, electronics (with chargers), coloring supplies, plenty of snacks and bottled water, and a pillow and blanket for each child to make napping more comfortable in the car. Also make sure your trunk includes jumper cables, a spare tire and tools in case of a flat, emergency items, a flash light, and phone charger.
Additional ideas: Staying in a hotel or with family can be stressful for you and your children. Planning ahead really makes everything go a lot smoother. Book a hotel with a pool so you can burn off energy when you have some free time. This also makes it more like a vacation for your kids. When packing items to keep your kids busy during travel, also think about what they can do when at your family’s home or during downtime at the hotel. This is where additional activities come in handy (like small puzzles, craft kits, activity books, etc.). If you’re staying with family, it’s ok to plan a couple things to do to get your kids out of the house. Check into local events and play spaces to take your kids. A small break from family is sometimes good for everyone.
General Car Safety Rules
Make sure your car seat is installed properly. Visit a Safe Kids child restraint check-up event. There are over 500 safety inspection stations across the U.S. that are set up to help teach parents how to safely transport kids. Many safety stations are located in GM dealerships, hospitals, or fire stations. Check for an event or check-up station near you here.
Buckle up your child for every drive, starting with the first ride home from the hospital. Set a good example by buckling up for every ride, too.
Keep babies in a rear-facing car seat until they are about 2-years-old. Check your state law and car seat manufacturer’s guidelines for height and weight. Kids receive the best protection from head, neck, and spinal injuries in a rear-facing position.
When installing forward-facing car seats, attach the top tether after tightening the lock and seat belt or lower latches. Ensure the seat is securely fastened before putting your child in the car seat. Tug on the seat, and if it moves more than an inch, it has not been installed properly.
Treat kids like VIPS. keep them in the backseat until they are 13.
Check car seat labels to determine if they are an appropriate fit for your child’s age, height, and weight.
Toys can injure kids in a crash, so only bring soft toys than can be secured with a tether and can’t float freely in the car.
Check your car seat’s expiration date, as most car seats expire within six years. Check the label to make sure it still meets safety requirements. If it is out of date, discard it in a dark trash bag so it can’t be pulled from the trash and reused.
Don’t buy a used car seat from a thrift store or Craigslist, as it is important to know the history of the car seat by knowing the previous owner. Once a car seat has expired or been in a crash, it is deemed unsafe and must be discarded.
Use the pinch test to ensure the car seat straps are snug enough. When buckled in, parents should not be able to pinch extra fabric on the strap around the child’s shoulders.
Your child is ready for a booster seat if he exceeds height and weight limits, his shoulders are above the harness slots, or his ears are above the top of the car seat.
Never leave a child alone in the car, as the temperatures in a car can escalate quickly in summer weather and cause a heat stroke or even death. Always take kids inside when you’re running errands.
A multi-award winning entrepreneur, Grainne Kelly is the CEO and inventor of Bubblebum UK Ltd, manufacturer of the world’s first inflatable car booster seat. Founded in December 2009, Bubblebum now exports to 27 countries globally and is stocked by major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, Halfords, John Lewis and Target.
Mother of two, Grainne Kelly invented Bubblebum to meet a personal need; frequent travel between her native Ireland and England left her transporting bulky fixed booster seats back and forth on the plane because the car rental companies were not providing booster seats for her children. Grainne took her idea from concept to shelf in just 9 months.