There are many reasons parents and kids travel together—family vacations, life events (such as funerals), job transfers, etc. No matter the reason for your travels, do what you can to plan, prepare, and act on the unexpected.
Path to improved wellness
Mode of transportation
- By air. Flying can have its own set of challenges. Cramped conditions, delays, and stares from other passengers can make for a stressful trip. If you’re flying with children, be sure to bring the following:
- Ear relief. Flying can cause pain and pressure in our ears. Chewing and swallowing helps relieve that pressure. Bring something a baby can suck (pacifier, bottle) when the plane takes off and lands. Baby food is helpful too. Don’t forget to bring a spoon. Bring snacks, gum, or a drink for older children. There are special plugs you can insert in ears to help relieve the pressure. Talk to your doctor about whether it is right for your child’s age. Don’t let your child sleep during takeoff or landing. They need to be awake and reminded to swallow. Ask your doctor about pain relievers or nasal sprays that could help with ear pain from flying.
- Entertainment (books, tablets, paper and crayons, stickers, music). Take advantage of airport delays to get up and walk around with the kids.
- Prescription and over-the-counter medicine your child needs. This might include medicine for altitude sickness, swimmer’s ear, motion sickness, diarrhea, etc.
- First aid kit (make your own if you like). This should contain basics, such as band aids, ointments for cuts and scrapes, wipes to clean a cut or scrape, sunscreen, and a soothing gel for sunburn. Add whatever items you need for your child’s age. Bring a list of your child’s medicines and dosages in case your child has to see a doctor while you are away.
- Attach some form of identification to your child in case he or she gets separated. This could be a bracelet with your contact informaton. Give an older child a phone. If your child is old enough, make sure he or she has memorized your phone number.
- Airline requirements. Check the website of the airline you will be flying. It may have tips for breastfeeding, traveling while pregnant and child safety equipment such as strollers and car seats.
- By car. Driving gives you more freedom to take breaks than flying. Bring plenty of healthy snacks and water for the drive. Don’t forget entertainment in the car too. You might even be able to include a board game. Take breaks to get out of the car and stretch or exercise. Bring important medicines and a first aid kit, just as you would when flying. Identification is important for car rides too. Children can get separated at restaurants, rest stops, shopping malls, etc.
- By train and bus. This has similar challenges as flying. Think about cramped seating, snacks, and entertainment. Look for opportunities to get up and stretch when you can. Attach some form of identification on your child. Give older children a phone.
- By ship. Be prepared for illnesses by bringing medicine to treat nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
While you’re away
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, important medicines and entertainment are still important. Don’t forget to bring the medicines your child needs and a first aid kit. You may be spending long hours in a hotel room or at a relative’s house. Depending on your mode of transportation and needs, consider bringing a portable bed (for babies), mattress guard rails for small children, and a stroller. Be sure to pack clothes that can be layered to adjust to changing weather and temperatures.
Research the area you are visiting before you leave. You may need certain vaccinations ahead of time. You also may need to prepare for things, such as unclean drinking water. Bring anti-nausea medicine in case the drinking water causes illness. The same is true for food safety. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are unclean and lead to illness. Bring something to treat bug bites if you are visiting an area with a mosquito problem, or if you will be in wooded areas. Also, research the medical facilities near where you are visiting. In case of an emergency, you don’t want to waste time researching at that moment.
Even under the best of circumstances, traveling with children can be stressful. Slow down when you can. Expect bumps in the road. Don’t get upset with changes to your routine or your child’s behavior. The trip will be stressful to them, as well. You can handle problems better if you adjust your expectations.
Things to consider
- Some destinations may have health issues (temporary or long term) or political unrest. This could be overseas or in the U.S. Prepare for your destination in advance.
- Travel delays happen. Flights get cancelled. Cars break down. Think about what your children would need if your travel was delayed.
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has important information about flying with children. This includes tips for traveling with children who have special needs, disabilities, and mobility issues. It also includes important screening information. Check the TSA website each time before you travel with children. Requirements can change periodically.
- Have your child drink plenty of water. Traveling, in general, causes dehydration. People forget to drink or don’t have time to drink.
- Bring extra supplies. This includes diapers, wipes, and clothing.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Should I bring extra prescription medicine for my child in case we are delayed?
- What are the signs of a food or water-borne illness?
- If my child has ear tubes, will that relieve the pain and pressure of flying?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.