There are enough challenges to traveling with kids. Families don't need sequestration -- the across-the-board budget cuts -- to complicate things. But it has. And that can mean extra headaches for travellers, especially for those who fly or plan to travel internationally.
Between hiring freezes, furloughs, and reductions in overtime, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says that wait times at land crossings could double and airport wait times, particularly at gateway airports such as O'Hare International Airport, could increase by 50 percent, resulting in three- to four-hour waits.
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Likewise, the federal budget cuts potentially can result in cutbacks among TSA agents -- the security baggage screeners at the airports -- and air traffic controllers -- the people who manage the busy skies.
Here are some ways for lessening the potential impact on your family:
• Examine travel plans. If you will need to go through customs and your connection is less than two hours, investigate the possibility of switching your connection. At the very least, research other flight options from the airport where you will go through customs to your destination. Keep a copy with you along with the airlines' phone numbers. If you haven't yet booked the trip, allow the extra time. It can be a drag to endure a long delay with kids, but it's a bigger drag to miss your flight altogether.
• Choose larger land crossings to enter the United States. An understaffed one-lane crossing will swell wait times faster than a multi-lane crossing.
• Book flights for the less-traveled days -- Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. There still may be delays, but the lines should be shorter since there will be fewer other travellers who also need to go through security. As an added bonus, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday also are the cheapest days to fly.
• Be vigilant about your flights. Airlines can (and do) change flights. Give the carrier your contact information so the company can text or email you changes. Most often, the change involves nothing more than moving the take-off time up or back by a few minutes. But it can be a major change, such as changing a direct flight into a connecting one. If you don't have a way for the carrier to alert you to changes, be sure to check the flight details (using your confirmation number) every few weeks and every day in the week before you fly.
• Nasreen Stump writes the TravelingMom with Babies blog for TravelingMom.com. She is a freelance writer who lives in Vermont. Find food recipes and Vermont life at her website, www.ramblingstump.blogspot.com.