Traveling with Littles...How to keep your family healthy and sane!

Our family took a much needed vacation recently and went on a road trip through the southwest (Arizona-Utah-Nevada).  Let’s just say this native Chicagoan was impressed by the green desserts, red rock, and the vast canyons.  Traveling is hard with littles!  A lot of my patients had travelled both near and far during winter break and I know some didn't go as smoothly as expected.  

Family trips can be very challenging.  Depending on the age of your littles, you are either dealing with frequent diaper changes, constant sibling rivalry or the dreaded phrase “I’m bored...!”  Then throw in the stress of travel and you might be dealing with an illness in one or more of your littles.  Luckily, there are preventive strategies you can take before and during the trip to ensure a smoother time for all!

For Your Health:

These are some tried and true strategies to keep your family healthy during travel...

1.  Start your family on probiotics and vitamin D (if you aren’t already taking it) about 5-7 days prior to the trip and continue it for the duration of the trip.  For travel purposes, I like using probiotic powder packets or chewables because they are easy to transport and don’t need refrigeration.  

2.  Hand wash or Hand Sanitize frequently!  We sometimes have to take shortcuts to our normal routine during travel, but this should not be one of them.  In fact, we need to teach our littles that hand washing needs to be done more often during travel to keep the bad bugs (germs) from making us sick.  I don’t really like hand sanitizers for a variety of reasons, but prefer using them over nothing in the short term if washing your hands isn’t an option.  You can consider a more natural brand such as EO, babyganics, honest company, etc.  I would not use them in the younger ones who tend to put their hands in their mouth frequently and  consider soap and water or diaper wipes for them.

3.  Keep a travel medical kit.  This should include any medications you take regularly, probiotics, vitamin D, pain/fever reliever such as Tylenol or Motrin (kids version), thermometer, first aid supplies, and vitamin C/elderberry (not for kids younger than 2 years old).  Be sure to ask your doctor for age appropriate dosing. If you are going to be in nature, consider insect repellent and an over the counter steroid cream as well.  I try to pack a handful of each nonessential item (for our family of 4) into smaller containers to keep things nice and portable!

4.  Food as Medicine-  often our nutrition will suffer during vacations for many reasons.  Poor daily nutrition combined with the stress of travel can impact our immune system leaving us vulnerable to illness.  We usually pack as many nutritious snacks as possible to make sure we are trying to meet some of our daily requirements.  Nuts, seeds, chopped veggies, home-made granola, cuties, apples, healthy veggie muffins, and nut butter packets are some ideas of what’s in our family lunch bag when we are traveling.  These combined with choosing at least one fruit/veggie with each meal can keep our bodies on the right track!

For Your Sanity:

I'm a big proponent of travelling frequently and deliberately with your children starting from a young age so they can experience life outside of their own village.  Whether it's a two hour road trip or a 20 hour airplane ride across the world, each of these will shape their little minds with their richness and diversity of experience.  Travel does come with the price tag of stress and disruption of routine, often times leading to cranky, bored, or sleep-deprived children.  Below are some of the travel hacks that may help your family maintain its' sanity...

1.  Activity pouches-  I have a standing age appropriate travel activity pouch for each of my kiddoes.  From inflatable balls to hotwheels to legos- the contents get rotated with their interests.  Pro-Tip:  These should always include blank pieces of paper and writing or coloring tools!

2.  Book(s)- especially great for maintaining bedtime routine for the younger ones.

3.  Talking travel games such as "I spy" or "Count the number of ___ cars" that you can adapt to your situation- have a go to list of these for your littles that can talk.

4.  Research the history of your destination and print out maps/pictures beforehand.  During the trip, narrate these stories at their level.  I promise that your children will have a ton of questions and this will make the trip educational and memorable!

5.  Factor in extra time for feedings/meals and bathroom breaks.  Expect to be off your travel itinerary and you will not sweat the little stuff.

6.  Consistent bedtime- try to maintain this as much as possible for your littles to ensure they are getting enough zzzz's.  This will lead to happier children throughout the day.

The most important thing is to ENJOY YOURSELF AND THE JOURNEY with your littles!  Despite being prepared, our families' trips are still filled with some mishaps and delays...we have all now learned to prevent what we can and to embrace the rest of the imperfections!

***Disclaimer: The above is not intended to be medical advice. Always consult with your health practitioner.