Holiday travel can be stressful, especially for those with children. You feel pressure to quickly install the car seat on the airplane while people are impatiently boarding or keep the kids calm when the disruption to their routine leaves them overstimulated. On this On Call for All Kids, Joe Perno, M.D., an Emergency Center physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides tips on traveling with children during the holidays.
What can parents do before traveling this holiday season?
Perhaps one of the most important items to take on any trip, including day trips, is a small medicine kit. This should include items such as a thermometer, fever reducer, pain reliever, antibiotic ointment, small bandages and an ace wrap.
If your child is on any daily medications, make sure that you have an adequate supply and pack these with the kit. This is the most common thing that families forget. Keep your child’s pediatrician’s contact information with this kit.
Also, it is a great idea to know where the closest children’s hospital is BEFORE you go somewhere in the event of an emergency. This is especially important if your child has a chronic medical problem.
Many families travel by car during the holiday season. How should they prepare for car travel?
First and foremost, always use a car safety seat for infants and young children. If you will be using a rental car, contact the rental car company ahead of time to arrange for a car safety seat if you are not planning to bring yours along.
Children often become restless or irritable on a long road trip. Keep them occupied by pointing out interesting sites along the way or playing age appropriate car games. You may also want to bring soft, lightweight toys, books, a tablet, etc.
Plan to stop about every two to three hours to give yourself and your child a break. Make sure to pack water and snacks.
Some brave families tackle the airport. How should families prepare for airline travel?
If your children are old enough, talk to them in advance about what to expect at the airport. Specifically discuss the security screening process with them and let them know what to expect. Prepare them that backpacks and bags with toys will need to go through the scanner and will be returned to them on the other side. Keeping that in mind, make sure to allow for extra time at the airport to get through security, especially when traveling with small children.
Arrange to have a car seat at your destination or bring your own along. Most airlines will allow you to check your child’s car seat at no additional expense if you’re not using it on the plane.
If you are traveling with infants and/or toddlers, make sure to have diapers, pull-ups and a change of clothes. Pack a small bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight. DON’T pull these out all at once! Space out the surprises to keep your child occupied for the duration.
In order to decrease ear pain during takeoff and landing, encourage your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children may benefit from chewing on gum or drinking fluids with a straw.
Wash hands frequently and don’t forget the hand sanitizer. The holidays are not a good time to be suffering from a cold.
The traveling is over and they have arrived at their destination. Is there anything more families should be doing?
If you have young children, remember to childproof or at least survey the home for potential troubles. Although most parents have childproofed their own homes, grandparents and other relatives may have many potential choking, poisoning or injury hazards lurking in their homes.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.