It is that time of year again…to TRAVEL! Whether it is to an exotic travel destination or within your own country, it is always wise to plan and prepare to make your travels enjoyable and safe.
While most moms look forward to travel, many of us know that traveling especially alone with children can be challenging– some children travel easily while others do not. I used to think that I had earned a certain rite of passage when I traveled literally around the world with my son when he was a toddler. Of course it was a lot of work but it was manageable alone because of the kind of child he was; able to sit in one place for prolonged periods of time. This globetrotting travel I could not even imagine alone with our daughter who cannot sit still for very long.
The most important thing to consider is how many places you will be visiting. The younger your child, the less tolerant they are to change. One to two destinations is more suitable for the toddler age.
Another thing to consider is the timing of the flight. For many parents, a night flight is a blessing while for others it is a curse. Think about how your child sleeps. Will he go to sleep in unknown places? If you are not buying a seat for your child, he will have to sleep in your lap or the bassinet. The airline bassinets are not suitable for infants much older than 6-8 months of age despite what they may tell you.
Once your destination is set and your flights are booked, it is important to check if there are any immunizations needed. An excellent source for travel immunizations is the CDC website. Here you can click on a country to review vaccines needed. The CDC also has a travel vaccination check list here.
Don’t forget to pack your prescribed medications in your carry on along with medications for pain, fever, and motion sickness. It is wise to bring along a small first aid kit to include band aids and a topical antibacterial cream.
When packing gear, think about the logistics of travel, and the ages of your children. How independent are they? While many parents like to have a small bag pack for each child, they may have to carry everything they bring if the child is too young or simply too tired.
Often times your stroller is checked through to your final destination rendering it unavailable for a connection. While many airports provide strollers (Dubai) sometimes they do not. And when they do, often they run out.
When I traveled with two children under the age of 6, I strapped one child on the front in a Bjorn, a backpack on the back and had a diaper bag slung over my shoulder. It was helpful to be able to manage all on my own. You can move up to the wheelie bag once the kids are old enough to walk at your connections.
The number one tip from moms is to keep changes of clothes (plus swim suit if it is a beach destination) for yourself and children in a Ziploc bag in your carry on.
Activities and Distractions
The hardest part of travel is getting your child to sit still when they are supposed to be seated. This is where activities and snacks come in. One mom I polled like to buy one new small toy which she gift wrapped for each hour of flight. You may have to extend this to every 2-3 hours of flight if it is a long flight. Another mom decorated brown bags with curly ribbons and stickers inserting a small snack and a small inexpensive toy (think Dollar Store variety) into each bag. She packed 3-4 of these brown bags and brought out a new one when her child acted up.
Ensure you have enough food as hunger and fatigue are the two biggest causes of melt downs. Favorite snacks amongst moms are: pretzels, goldfish, Raisins, crackers, biscuits, suckers and M&M’s. One mother gave the M&M’s only on descent to keep her child seated and from crying. Chewing also helps equalize ear pressure.
If you do bring books and DVD’s to use in flight, then make sure they are ones you have put aside a few weeks prior to the trip so they seem new.
And even when all doesn’t go to plan, remind yourself that eventually you will reach your destination even if at the end you have a “worst” travel story to tell.
Medical Q & A
How Long before I travel should I have my immunizations?
It takes 2 weeks for your body to build up antibodies (an immunity) to the vaccine given. So allow a minimum of two weeks before travel before receiving the vaccines. Plan to seek the vaccines 1 month in advance.
Do I need to take any special medicines along just in case traveler’s diarrhea (TD) hits?
If you are traveling to areas where the risk of developing TD is high: Asia (with the exception of Singapore), Africa (outside of South Africa), South and Central America, and Mexico, then I would talk to your doctor about taking along antibiotics for you and your child to use just in case. Ciprofloxacin dosed at 500 mg twice daily for 1-2 days is sufficient in adults while Azithromycin is used for children. The later is dosed by weight.
Should I buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance for medical evacuations purposes and in order to receive treatment is invaluable and very affordable. The more remote the country the more strongly I would recommend travel insurance if you don’t have insurance to cover treatment in that country.
Top Parenting Travel Tips
- Use a label maker to label all your passports on the outside of the passport; front and back. It will make going through passport control much easier.
- Once your child is old enough to read, have your child lead you to your connection. That way he will learn to travel on his own when he is old enough if need be.
- Use Ziploc bags to separate a change of clothes in your carryon for all your children and YOU. If you do have to change because of wet clothes then you can put the wet clothes back into the same Ziploc after you have changed.
- For children who are potting training, Bring along a portable potty like potette
- Pack your check in luggage in differently colored duffel bags for each family member. The duffels pack easier in rental cars and carry more when you have a weight restriction. Here is one recommended by a mom.
- Reduce the gear you have to pack by investing in an inflatable car seat good for 4 & up
What are your top travel parenting tips? What has been your best or worst travel experience with or without children?