With the holidays approaching, I am surprised at the number of horror stories I seem to be hearing from parents about traveling over the holidays with their children. Since I don’t want parents to have travel nightmares, let me provide a few “trips” or, rather, tips to make travel with children something closer to a pleasant dream for everyone involved.
If you plan to travel by air with a baby, breastfeeding your baby on takeoff or landing or giving them a bottle of pumped breastmilk or a pacifier helps relieve air pressure in their ears, which can in turn reduce their irritability. Bringing extra diapers for the flight is also a good idea.
If you are traveling in a rental car, make sure the rental agency has an appropriate car safety seat for your infant, toddler, or younger child if you are not using your own.
If you have children old enough to understand you, tell them what your travel plans are: how long the journey will take, time of arrival, how many stops will be made, all so the “how long till we get there’s” are few in number.
Have a set of rules for family travel that can be reviewed each morning so as to avoid power struggles during the day. For example, review who sits where. Have some music or audio books that are fun for your child to listen to, or have a bag of small surprises like little games or puzzles that can keep them busy while on route.
If traveling by car, stop every 60-90 minutes to allow everyone to stretch their legs and use a bathroom. Doing this along with some light but frequent snacks may help prevent motion sickness.
Praise your children if the trip goes well and do something-extra special as a reward, such as having the children choose the evening’s restaurant or go for a family swim in a motel pool.
Remember that this is a great time to spend some quality time with your children, so rather than view travel as an ordeal, look at it in a positive fashion: focus on the fun, and you’ll be there before you know it.
Hopefully tips like this will allow you to pack just the right stuff and route you in the right direction the next time you want to travel with your children.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.