Traveling With Kids: How Young Is Too Young?

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Family Vacation Critic answers some of the most common questions asked by parents considering travel with young infants.

At what age can my child travel on an airplane?

Infants of any age are allowed to fly, although pediatricians suggest parents wait until the child is at least two weeks of age. An upside to infants on planes: airlines allow children two and under to sit on the lap of an adult, saving the cost of an additional seat. However, the negatives can be the same situation, as an infant would be safer strapped into an infant carrier attached to his or her own seat (and it frees up mom or dad to enjoy an on-flight beverage or meal and to easily get up to use the facilities). The wiggle room is highly recommended on long flights, especially overseas.

While infants are not restricted from flights, the enclosed flight is often considered a germ haven. (Think of all the times you've come down with a cold after traveling on a long flight beside a person sneezing or coughing.) Infants are more susceptible to illnesses, especially if they have not received their vaccinations. Some suggest waiting until a child is at least four to six months before attempting air travel.

One problem infants may have is cabin pressure causing pain in their ears. As they do not understand your commands to older children to yawn or chew gum to avoid the pressure, providing an infant with a pacifier or bottle to suck on during takeoff and landing can help alleviate any pressure.

For more on air travel and children, see 10 Ways to Amuse Kids at the Airport and Surviving the Airport with Kids.

At what age can my child travel out of the country?

Children may receive passports as infants, and are required to have a passport when traveling internationally by air. Children under the age of 16 may travel by car or by sea to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean with a copy of his or her birth certificate.

Although infants can travel internationally, there is some concern that children should have their vaccinations from illnesses like measles, mumps, chicken pox and hepatitis B, as these illnesses may be more common in other parts of the world. Children begin receiving their first round of vaccinations at 2 months with most completed by 18 months, so if illness is of concern, you may want to wait until the basic vaccinations are complete.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: "The number of children who travel outside their home countries has increased dramatically. An estimated 1.9 million children travel overseas each year. Although data about the incidence of pediatric illnesses associated with international travel are limited, the risks that children face while traveling are likely similar to the risks that their parents face." The CDC recommends children visit their pediatrician before taking a foreign trip to ensure routine and travel-related vaccinations are up to date.

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