Traveling with children
Traveling with children presents special challenges. It disrupts familiar routines and imposes new demands. Planning ahead -- and involving children in the planning -- may lessen the stress of travel.
Before you leave, check with your physician. Children often have special medical concerns. The doctor can also advise you about medicines you might need if your child becomes ill. Know the dosage of common medicines for colds, allergic reactions, or flu.
PLANES, TRAINS, BUSES
Bring snacks and familiar foods along. This helps when travel delays meals or when the available meals don't suit the child's needs. Small crackers, unsugared cereals, and string cheese make good snacks. Some children can eat fruit without problems. Cookies and sugared cereals make for sticky children.
Take premixed formula for babies. On airplanes, the flight attendants can warm it for you. Small jars of baby food travel well. They have little waste and you can dispose of them easily. Unless you are certain you can clean utensils, opt for disposables.
Airline meals may not appeal to all children. Many airlines offer special meals such as fruit and cheese if you request it at least 1 - 2 days ahead of time. Air travel tends to dehydrate people. Drink plenty of water. Women who are nursing need to consume more fluids. Children often have trouble with pressure changes at takeoff and landing. Chewing sugar free gum when taking off and landing helps equalize ear pressure. Most children can learn to do this at about age 3. Bottles (for infants), drinking beverages, and sucking on pacifiers can also help prevent ear pain.
Try to maintain your normal meal and sleep schedule. Ask that your child be served first (try a snack from the menu or bring something to munch on). If you call ahead, some restaurants may be able to prepare special kid's meals.
- Encourage children to eat normally, but realize that a "poor" diet won't hurt for a few days.
- Check food for safety (see traveler's diarrhea for information on E. coli and giardiasis).
Many travel clubs and agencies offer suggestions for traveling with children. Check with them. Remember to ask airlines, train, or bus companies and hotels for guidance and assistance.
For foreign travel, check with embassies or consulate offices. Many guide books list organizations that help travelers.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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