If you’re planning to pack up and take your children to get away and explore new destinations or reconnect with family and friends this summer, keeping a few things in mind will make for a more enjoyable and safer trip.

“One of the ways parents can help make summer travel with kids, especially young kids, a little easier is to plan way ahead,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

As a pediatrician and a parent, Dr. Bradshaw says to start by communicating to your kids what they can expect during travel.

“Make sure you’ve told older kids what the plan for the day is, how far you’re driving or how long you’re flying, because kids who are prepared tend to perform better when they are under the pressure of travel.”

Here are a few tips to make the trip go smoothly:

  • Allow your family extra time to get through airport security, especially when traveling with younger children.
  • Kids often become restless or irritable when on a long road trip or flight, so pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied.
  • If you’re driving, plan to give yourself and your children a break about every two hours.

When traveling by car, make sure younger kids are in a proper car seat or booster seat according to their age and weight.

Never put a child in the front seat, as their bodies are more vulnerable to the sudden force of airbags, even in a minor collision. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that children younger than 13 always be seated in the back seat of the vehicle.

“We strongly encourage you to stick by those rules for the safety of your child,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “Motor vehicle accidents continue to be one of the top causes of death in kids.”

Car seats should also be used on planes for younger children. Although the FAA allows children under age 2 to be held on an adult’s lap, the AAP recommends that they be secured in a car seat. If it’s not feasible to purchase a ticket for a young child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats where your child could ride buckled in a car seat.

COVID is another factor to consider when traveling this year, so have your family wash their hands frequently and plan accordingly. Especially for kids who haven’t been vaccinated yet, Dr. Bradshaw recommends that kids wear masks in crowded settings, such as airports to reduce their risk of exposure.

Lastly, when traveling with kids, try to stick to routines as much as possible, including mealtimes and bedtimes, especially if you are crossing time zones.

Plan ahead, stay safe, and you’ll be able to enjoy building family memories together wherever you go.