Family vacations live in infamy. Sometimes it's for the lasting memories of family bonding and new wonders experienced together, and sometimes for the horrors of just trying to get to a destination.
"Having three kids I know how stressful it can be traveling with children, especially young children. Listening to 'are we there yet?' trying to maneuver through security or just trying to cure boredom from being crammed in a car or airplane can challenge anyone's patience," said Hannah Chow, MD, Loyola University Health System pediatrician and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Here are some tips to make family vacations less hazardous for kids and parents.
First aid kit:
You never know what vacation may bring so be prepared. Here are some things to pack in a family first-aid kit:
•Basic medications for pain, fever reducers and the sniffles.
•A healthy stash of adhesive bandages and tissue
•Dimenhydrinate drugs works well for children with motion sickness who are 10 years and older. Talk to your pediatrician about drug for younger ages
•Itch erasers for mosquito stings can be found in most pharmacies just be aware of the immediate sting after initially applying the medication
•Hydrocortisone for application to itchy rashes
•Sunscreen. It even comes in small 3-ounce containers to adhere to FAA regulations
•Don't forget bug spray with less than 10 percent DEET if you are going to a wooded/insect-laden areas
•Also a powdered electrolyte solution that is reconstituted into a pedialyte solution This is invaluable if your children come down with stomach flu on a trip
"Please don't ask your pediatrician to call in a new antibiotic prescription while you are on vacation. This impacts our ability to provide accurate medical care for your child. If you have prescription medications, make sure you have enough for your trip. I've had to explain to parents I am not licensed and cannot call in a prescription in Mexico," said Chow.
When traveling internationally consult the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) travel vaccination web site. It gives detailed information on what additional vaccines are needed for certain countries and basic out-of-country travel tips.
Destinations like western Europe, Canada and the Caribbean typically do not require additional vaccinations, but it's a good idea to look at the CDC site to confirm.Consult a traveler's clinic before leaving for your trip.
"Travel vaccines are typically out-of-pocket expenses but worth the money. The hepatitis A vaccine is routinely given to children and I recommend it for adults who travel as well. It protects against a virus transmissible through contaminated food and water," said Chow.
•Do not drink tap water
•Be wary of ice
•Do not eat uncooked street food
•Bring tissues (just in case the bathrooms run out of paper).
"My sister's friends learned the hard way not to eat Peruvian guinea pig prior to a plane flight. Make sure everything is well-cooked and bring a small bottle of antibacterial soap just in case," said Chow.
Keeping kids fed:
One of the toughest parts of traveling is finding healthy food options.
•Snacks for the car:
Pack a cooler or a hamper full of nutritious snacks such as fruit, cut-up vegetables, drinks, crackers, sandwiches and fruit snacks. This will be a nice antidote to fast food or gas station snacks.
•Snacks for the plane:
Here, you are much more limited on space so bring a few snacks that are worthwhile. Bring along cereal and granola bars, fruit snacks and roll ups, oranges and trail mix. Also pack individual drink mixes to add to water. You never know when you'll be stuck on a tarmac with no access to snacks with a "starving" child.
To help cure boredom on long flights or car rides she suggests variety. Go to a local dollar store and purchase inexpensive games, books and toys that your kids have never seen.
"Bring books, movies, games, toys, and don't forget extra batteries and chargers or when the power fades you'll have some very upset kids. It's always a good idea to pack extra headsets as well because these are easily broken or lost," said Chow. "My husband always says whoever invented the car DVD players deserves the Noble Peace Prize."
Loyola University Health System