Patients’ parents regularly ask me about airplane travel, from the best time to start to tips for popping ears and rules for babies and breastfeeding. To me, traveling starts long before you board your flight in being prepared. Here is a list of the ways in which I prepared for our first trip and the resources that I used.
1) Vaccinate. If we have learned anything from the recent Measles epidemic, which started in Disneyland, it is to make sure that your immunizations are up-to-date, especially when traveling. The CDC has immunization tables so that you can easily make sure your child (and you) have all the shots needed at baseline. Furthermore, there is a CDC Travel Health website where you can find country-specific recommendations for additional immunizations based on the diseases that are present in the country to which you are traveling. So my kids made an additional visit to their pediatrician for “airplane shots,” as my 4-year-old explained.
2) Safety accommodations. Before booking our flight, we considered all possible scenarios, including number of seats needed, type of restraints, and logistics of those options. We considered regulations, costs, safety, and comfort in making our decisions.
– The Car Seat Lady’s Before you fly, know your rights post
– TSA Traveling with Children page
In addition to the airplane, we also considered how we would travel in our rental car as well.
– Consumer Report’s article on rental car child seats
– Bubble Bum inflatable booster seat
– Car seat information for Hertz rental cars
We also made sure that our hotel had a crib for our baby. We discussed whether or not we should bring portable items like a pack n’play or booster seat for dining. These are individual decisions.
While we did not have much choice in where we were staying, we were happy to see that the hotel had children’s activities, such as a playground and children’s pool.
– Travel + Leisure’s Best Hotels in America for Families (2013)
– Condé Nast Traveller’s The World’s Best Family Hotels (2014)
3) Entertainment. After settling these safety issues, I started to think about entertaining my children while traveling. We plan on bringing an iPad, but I wanted some other novel items to entertain the children. Here are a few of the things I packed:
– Small containers of Play-doh
4) Medications. As a pediatrician, I found myself considering what, if any, medications we should travel with in case one of the children became ill. The things I considered bringing were Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, Benadryl, and Mupirocin, although I did not bring all of them given where we were traveling. If your kids take any chronic medications, this is the time to remember to refill them and pack them, including enough to last for a few days after your trip just in case you get delayed.
5) Food. My children are always snacking and since I do not know if anything will be served on our flight, I am preparing to bring a snack that I know they will enjoy. To help their ears pop, I am going to choose something chewy for take off and landing.
6) Stay healthy. I see a lot of children returning from trips with a new virus. Most of the time, these are unavoidable, but in order to reduce the chances that my kids pick up new germs on our voyage, I’ll be bringing along some quick methods for sanitizing (like these Wet Ones). Most importantly, we have been practicing good hand hygiene and how to use public restrooms leading up to our trip.
7) Comfort. Whenever I fly, my lips and hands get so dry, so I imagine my kids will feel the same way. I decided to pack products that my kids and I could both use.
– Small fleece blanket from Ikea
– lip balm from Duross & Langel
– Cerave moisturizing cream
7) Exploring a new city. Not every destination will have a website with local hot spots for kids, but many large cities do.
– Mommy Poppins: NY, NJ, CT, Los Angeles, Boston
– Zig Zag City Guides: NYC, Rome, San Francisco, Paris, London
– Delicious Baby kid-friendly city guides: multiple cities around the world
So, with these tips and resources we are ready for our first airplane trip as a family of four and hope that this post helps you in planning your next family vacation. Please leave comments with your own favorite resources.
[A version of this post was previously published on Mommy Call on 3/4/15. The above are my own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.]