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Traveling With Kids: A Survival Guide

Planning keeps kids calm and comfortable -- and preserves parents' sanity.
WebMD Feature

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:

Pack Mindfully

  • Assemble first aid supplies -- hand wipes, thermometer, aspirin or Tylenol, bandages, antibiotic cream, rubbing alcohol for bug bites, lip balm, an antidiarrheal, and an antacid. If motion sickness is a concern, ask your doctor about medication. There are both over-the-counter and prescription options available.
  • Ginger root, lemon drops, peppermints, and soda crackers can also ease a queasy stomach.

  • Melatonin may aid sleep and cut jet lag (take at bedtime before, during, and a few days after, following all instructions).Your health professional can help determine the proper dosage and whether melatonin is right for you.

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:

  • Bring lots of vitamin C, and take two grams (2,000 mg) daily a couple of days before leaving. Large doses of vitamin C have been found to decrease the duration and severity of colds. Bring the kids' multiple vitamins. Kiddy vitamins contain nutrients that help balance a child's mood.

  • Don't leave medicines in an open suitcase on the floor. If you have babies or toddlers, make sure all medications are secured.

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:

  • wheat crackers

  • nuts

  • string cheese

  • hard boiled eggs

  • carrots


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