Winter travel guide for parents

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: SEBASTIAN STANKIEWICZ/BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

Winter can be a stressful time for traveling. Whether you’re headed to a tropical destination for school vacation or driving to the slopes, here are some quick tips to keep your children healthy — and family stress to a minimum — during your travels.

Safety first

Discuss travel safety with your children before your trip. If you become separated, choose a specific meeting place and make sure they have a phone number to call. If your children are carrying bags, instruct them to keep the bags closed and secure. Reinforce that they should stay with your family as you travel about.

Plan well to eat well

It 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. Foods that don’t require utensils, such as sandwiches, are especially convenient when on the go. 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 could pose a choking hazard. And be sure to have your children wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before their meals and snacks.

Stay hydrated

Bring 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

Be sure to check the weather before 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.

If your child has any prescription medications, be sure to pack enough, not just for the duration of the trip, but also for a couple extra days, just in case.

Stretch your legs

Children can get very restless when traveling, particularly on long car trips and flights. 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, have your children walk the aisles and stretch when the fasten seat belt symbol goes off. 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

If your child has any prescription medications, be sure to pack enough, not just for the duration of the trip, but also for a couple extra days, just in case. If you plan to check your luggage, be sure to take medications out and place them in your carry-on, in case your checked luggage gets lost. It is often useful to pack other over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, in your carry-on as well. Medically necessary liquid medications are permitted in your carry-on bag.

Get vaccinated

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

About our blogger: Jessica W. Tsai, MD, PhD, is a fellow in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She completed her residency in Pediatrics 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.