Holiday travel got you down? A parent’s guide for planning

The holidays can be a stressful time for all families, especially when it comes to traveling. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Jessica Tsai offers some quick tips to keep your children healthy–and family stress to a minimum, during your holiday travels.

Safety first

Holiday-travel-safetyDiscuss travel safety with your children in advance of your trip. If they become separated from you, identify a specific meeting place they should go and a phone number they should contact. If they are carrying bags, these should remain closed and secure. Reinforce that they should stay with your family as you travel about.

Eat well, plan well

Holiday-travel-eat-wellIt can be difficult to eat well while traveling. Resist the urge to purchase candy bars, fast food or soda that may be readily available in the airport or at a rest stop. Preparing in advance is essential to eating well. Avoid items that can be easily crushed in a bag or backpack, and stay away from foods that may create a complete mess. For younger children, avoid foods that are too large and could pose a choking hazard. Foods that don’t require utensils such as sandwiches are especially convenient when your kids are on the go. And be sure to have your children wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before their meals and snacks.

Stay hydrated

Holiday-travel-hydrationBring an empty, reusable water bottle with you when traveling. At airports, a water fountain is typically available for fill ups once you pass security (avoid paying airport prices for water). In some countries, it may not be safe to drink tap water. In those cases, be sure to purchase water. If you can find a grocery store or market, prices are often more reasonable and you can buy large bottles of water. Encourage your children to stay hydrated — you will likely be walking and moving around a lot on your travels.

Layer it up

Holiday-travel-LayersBe sure to check the weather in advance of your trip. Wear layers (short-sleeve shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, jackets) and pack appropriate shoes. The last thing you want is your child to be stuck in the rain wearing sandals.

Stretch the legs

Holiday-travel-stretchParticularly on long car trips and flights, children can get very restless. While driving, plan to take regularly scheduled breaks so your kids may get out of the car, stretch their legs and take bathroom breaks. While flying, when the fasten seat belt symbol goes off, take the opportunity to have your children walk the aisles and stretch. If they like listening to music or watching movies, remember to fully charge whatever device you are using prior to the trip. It never hurts to have a deck of cards on hand as well.

Don’t forget your medications

Holiday-travel-medicationIf your child has any prescription medications, be sure to pack the appropriate quantity, not just for the duration of the trip but enough for a couple extra days, just in case. If you plan to check your luggage with an airline, be sure to take medications out and place them in your carry-on, in case your checked luggage gets lost. You do not want to be in a situation where you can’t get access to important medications. It is often useful to have other over-the-counter medications packed as well, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Medically necessary liquid medications are permitted in your carry-on bag.

Get vaccinated

Holiday-travel-vaccinationIf you are traveling outside of the U.S., be sure to check the CDC Travelers’ Health website for recommended vaccinations. You can consult your child’s pediatrician to obtain the appropriate vaccines before you jet off.



About the author: Jessica W. Tsai, MD, PhD, is a resident physician in the Boston Combined Residency Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center. She is pursuing a career in pediatric oncology and has been published in the New York Times, Science, and JAMA Pediatrics. You can follow her on Twitter @jestsai.