Traveling With Kids: A Survival Guide
Planning keeps kids calm and comfortable -- and preserves parents' sanity.
By Jeanie Lerche Davis
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario
Ask any parent: Whoever designed the car-seat-and-stroller combo was a genius.
Remember the "old" days, just a few years ago, when they were not yet available? Andrea McCoy, MD, sure does. Her husband and very young son flew to meet her at a conference. "He had bags hanging from the stroller, the car seat over his shoulder with my son riding in it -- he was practically airborne! It was really quite the sight."
McCoy, who is chief of pediatric care at Temple University Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, says travel with kids can be enjoyable.
Most importantly, "make sure you bring what your child will need on board -- food, drinks, medications," she tells WebMD. "A baby who gets uncomfortable, if they have teething pain, for example, will suffer until you land."
Also, bring something for a toddler to chew/swallow to help with air pressure changes. An infant can be fed during these times, McCoy says.
Another bit of advice: Spring for a plane ticket for your child. "Many families don't want to pay for a seat for their toddler, and I understand the economics," she says. "But having enough space is important -- not only for you, but for the people around you. Also, a baby is much better protected strapped into a car seat and a plane seat, rather than in the parent's lap."
To get your summer vacation off to a healthy start, here are a few more tips:
Also, take vitamins. Keeping up your immunity is important. Strange places, strange germs -- you might not be resistant, says Hyla Cass, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of Natural Highs: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind-Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good All the Time. Her advice:
Also, pack calming treats. "Sleep, diet, hydration," Cass says. "Those are the big three when traveling." She advises you avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol -- all of which trigger adrenaline rushes. Bottled water is the best choice; keep some in your bag.
Quick, healthy, kid-friendly snacks:
Air Travel Tips
A car seat/stroller combo certainly makes travel easier -- and it's worth the investment, if you don't have one. You'll be well prepared when you reach your travel destination.
Road Trip Tips
Before you head out, let kids run around a while -- to burn off energy. During the trip, don't bypass fast-food playgrounds or parks. Travel with kids is especially enjoyable during nap time, when parents can enjoy peace and quiet.
Make the Trip Fun
Let kids look up the destination city on the Internet and plan some outings and must-sees, says Carol Weston, author of For Teens Only and the travel-related teen book, Melanie Martin Goes Dutch. "Kids like some independence. But have rules about the minibar."
Another lifesaver: When you travel with kids, have a secret grab bag. Each kid gets a little wrapped surprise -- markers, matchbox cars, puzzle books, stickers, activity books, mazes, threading cards (yarn), magnets, Go-Fish cards, silly putty, trading cards, and the like. This is for emergencies only. You also can designate gifts -- "Open only when we get to St. Louis."
With reporting by Star Lawrence.
Published July 12, 2004.