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Health & Parenting

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Traveling With Kids: A Survival Guide

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

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


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.

  • Plan to stow the stroller on board at the gate, and take the car seat aboard.

  • Get a child-sized rolling suitcase for kids over 5; kids love to help carry.

  • Check whether the airline allows a bassinet on board and if special child's meals are provided.

  • While waiting for your flight, don't try to confine kids to a chair unless it's very crowded. Go from window to window watching the planes. Or supervise them in the play area at the airport.

  • Take kids to the bathroom before boarding.

  • If the baby starts screaming, she may be clearing her ears from the altitude. This is a good time to nurse or bottle-feed your infant.

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