Whether for spring break, summer vacation, or the fall and winter holidays, families spend a lot of time traveling. The other side of the country is just a plane ride away, so why not have a little fun with your kids and take advantage of school breaks? Of course, no vacation comes without its own hiccups. Time spent traveling while being still and confined is a big concern for younger kids. In addition, airports and long plane rides can be exhausting, for adults but especially for kids. The crowds and tight spaces can also lead to exposure to new germs and illness. So how do you travel with a baby or young kids and keep everyone happy and healthy? With these great tips, of course!
How to Travel With a Baby or Young Kids
Never Leave Home Without These Must-Haves
1. A Medical Bag
Children notoriously get sick on vacation. The change in their schedule, long hours, crowded places, and confined areas make the perfect equation for illness. When you travel with a baby or young children, it is imperative to travel with Tylenol and Motrin, especially if you go to the Caribbean. Getting a 3am wake-up call from your feverish child with nowhere in sight to get a fever reducer is the quickest way to ruin a vacation. Always have the right dose calculated for your child ahead of time. If you are going to a beach destination, don’t forget the sunscreen and after-sun care, too. It’s also a good idea to have a small first aid kit for minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises.
2. A Plane Present
This trick has yet to fail me. Before you leave, pack your child their own carryon bag filled with independent, engaging toys like Play-Doh, LEGOs, magnetic squares, puzzles, and activity books. Of course, you can bring the iPad, but research shows children do better changing activities every 20 to 30 minutes. Pack “grazing snacks” that are low in sugar, high in quantity, and a low choking risk (ex. Cheerios or Puffs).
Most importantly, buy one new engaging toy, and wrap it up in shiny wrapping paper the night before. Show the present to your child right before leaving for the airport, and explain that if they behave in the airport, they will get the toy right before the plane takes off. It not only helps to modify their behavior in the airport, but also provides at least 30 minutes of engagement during take off. The toy is new, so they spend more time investigating and playing with it. When we went skiing one year, I got Mason a book with origami cars, trucks, and trains. It kept Mason engaged for hours, but it also entertained my poor brother-in-law who was recruited to help put everything together!
3. Bottle Up and Bottle Down
This tip is key for parents who travel with a baby. Try to schedule your flight around the time your child takes a nap. The airport preparations might be a little harder with a cranky infant, but the payoff is huge. Once it’s time for take off, whip out the bottle, and feed your baby. The air pressure during take-off in combination with the bottle and a tired baby equals nap time!
If your child doesn’t nap well, this plan might not be right for you; however, I have used this trick for years, and it has made traveling so much more peaceful. A sleeping baby is always the perfect traveling companion.
I also suggest giving your baby a bottle during landing to help with the pressure that causes pain in the ears. The sucking motion equalizes the pressure in the ear canal, eliminating any discomfort your child may have.
CAUTION: Can You Travel With a Baby Who Has An Ear Infection?
Working in Florida, I see a lot of tourists in the emergency room. The number one question I get from tourists is, “Can I travel home if my child has an ear infection?” We ask parents to use caution when flying with a child who has an ear infection because of the pressure that can potentially build up in the ear. The fluid or infection sitting behind your child’s ear drum prevents pressure from equalizing. Air travel, especially during landing, can become very painful for a child who has an ear infection. You can attempt to alleviate the pressure by yawning, blowing up a ballon, or blowing bubbles through a straw into a full cup of water. Encourage your child to open their mouth widely. With infants, the easiest way to alleviate pressure is to breastfeed or give them a bottle.
Even if the plane ride is a disaster or one of your children ends up getting sick, try to recover and enjoy the time away from your everyday life. Vacations are about building memories and bonding with your loved ones. Take a deep breath, relax, and just enjoy the moment. It goes by so quickly.