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    Hassle-Free Traveling with Kids

    Is a ski trip or beach vacation in your future? Or maybe you’re planning a car trip to visit Grandma? Like my family, many of you may be preparing for travel over spring break or the summer right now. And depending on the age(s) of your child(ren), it can be a real challenge to make a trip a successful vacation – instead of a huge hassle.

    As Jerry Seinfeld says, “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.”

    While your travel plans may look good on paper, the devil is in the details. Do you have a child under 4’9″ and you’re traveling by plane? What are you going to do about a carseat or booster seat once you arrive at your destination? If you have an infant or toddler, will your travel day disrupt his perfectly good nap schedule? And, other than buying drinks for your fellow passengers, what will you do if your child is the one screaming on the airplane for 20 minutes nonstop? These, and dozens of other anxiety-producing questions are sure to put a damper on the prospect of having a relaxing trip!

    So here’s my checklist to help make your trip less stressful:

    General tips

    • Lower your expectations! You may have grand plans for a full day at Disney World, but your child is sick of seeing Mickey by 3 p.m. Follow his lead and take a break back at the hotel – or else you will pay for it!
    • Always take more snacks and drinks than you think you will need.
    • Bring new toys/books/music with you. Their novelty will buy you a few extra minutes of entertainment. Bring an iPod full of kid-friendly tunes.
    • Be prepared for fussy moments. The excitement, time change, and change in routine can induce some ugly behaviors… for both kids and adults.
    • Plan your trip together. The more involved your child is, the more interested he will be once he arrives at your destination.

    Traveling by car?

    • Travel during a time that your child is usually napping/sleeping. That may reduce the antsiness in the backseat.
    • Take frequent breaks, for everyone’s sake. Just getting out of the car to smell the fresh air and stretch legs helps keep positive attitudes in check.
    • Make it educational. Yes, it’s easier just to pop in a DVD or let your child play with a portable gaming system. But, take advantage of this time together to talk or learn about your destination.

    Traveling by plane?

    • Plan ahead on the carseat/booster seat issue. You will either need to lug yours along, borrow one from friends/family at your destination or rent one from your rental car company.
    • Try to travel at off-peak times and days to avoid delays and crowds. No one likes to wait around in an airport or on the tarmac – especially tired and, potentially hungry, kids. (Hence, the reason to bring extra snacks/drinks!)
    • Get a seat for your child under age two if it isn’t too costly. This is the safest option, and it’s also the most comfortable for everyone.
    • Have your young child drink on take off and landing to help equalize the pressure in his ears. Older kids can yawn or chew gum.
    • If you’re traveling on a long flight (5-6 hours or more), talk to your child’s doctor about offering a medicine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to help him sleep. This isn’t really an option for babies under 6 months of age, but ask if you’re considering it for an older child.
    • If you are stuck with a screaming child and the captain has asked everyone to remain in their seats, try whispering quietly in his ear as he will have to quiet down to hear what you are saying to him or try offering something to drink or eat. If all else fails, just apologize profusely to your neighbors! They aren’t upset with you – they are just happy they aren’t the ones with the cranky child!

    Happy travels!

    - Ari Brown, MD, FAAP

    Comment on this blog post, ask questions, and talk with other parents on the Parenting Exchange.

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