If there’s anything harder than traveling with a child, it’s traveling with an unwell child. We’re currently planning a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand in December, which has reminded me of all the things that need to be done to make such a big trip as pleasant as possible. I won’t guarantee we’ll all stay healthy, but there are definitely some easy steps I’ll be taking to try and keep everyone happy, healthy and enjoying the trip!
What to carry with you
If you’re traveling by plane, there’s not a huge amount of stuff you’ll want to add to your carryon (save that space for toys and other distractions, right?) but a few small things should help the whole family feel better by the time you arrive:
- a small hand cream, face cream and lip balm (reapplied regularly during the flight);
- antibacterial wipes and gel for use while you’re in transit. I’m not a big fan of these for day to day use as they are so drying (and shouldn’t substitute for a good hand-washing routine) but they give you an added level of confidence when you’re stuck in a dirtier than ideal plane seat for 13 hours….
- re-fillable drink bottles for the family – helps you keep track of how much water you’re drinking, and means you don’t have to wait for the stewards to do the rounds with drinks (also allows you to avoid yet more juice for the littlies)
- carry all of your prescription medications with you including epi-pens, and for the kids carry pain relief, antihistamines, a soothing diaper cream and a saline nasal spray (helps to moisten the nasal passages and helps our daughter to get some sleep), as well as your trusty digital thermometer.
Things to pack
First Aid kit
You can buy a ready-made first kit (some good basic ones are here and here), or of course put together your own. The minimum I would pack is:
- Antihistamines (Benadryl)
- Anti-itch cream (Cortisone)
- Children’s pain reliever (Nurofen and Calpol/Pamol)
- Anti-diarrhea medication and rehydration sachets
- Anti-bacterial cream (Savlon)
- Crepe bandage
- Band aids
Steps you can take while on the road
Basically, the focus here is to keep as close to your healthy routine as possible even when you’re on the road.
Prioritise sleep for everyone – it’s very easy to fall into the trap of ‘go go go’ when you’re on a long-awaited trip and want to make the most of it. But a family that doesn’t prioritise sleep, is in my experience a family that gets the sniffles… So take all reasonable steps to create the best sleeping environment you can, and respect the nap (with blackout shades or a pram cover if necessary)!
Keep hydrated – with a focus on water. It’s easy for little ones to get dehydrated, which makes them cranky (at best) and seriously unwell (at worst).
Probiotics and Supplements – keep taking these, if you do at home, and consider adding an immune boosting vitamin supplement with Vitamin D. The probiotics might just ease the pressure on little ones’ digestive system as you encounter new food and drinks.
Sanitise sanitise sanitise – without going crazy, keep up the hand-washing and sanitise hard surfaces when you’re out and about. Be especially conscious of aeroplane interiors, high chairs, and restaurant tables and chairs.
Keep your body at the right temperature – especially when traveling in Asia, you’ll find that air conditioning in shops, hotels and restaurants can be blisteringly cold to ‘offset’ the warmer temperatures outside. I don’t have any proof but it just seems that the constant change from hot to cold must be a strain on the body – pack some layers so you don’t get cold indoors or on the aeroplane. I love anything from aden + anais for the plane and in the stroller.
Eat well – always make the first meal of the day count. When we’re out of our normal routine, and especially if we don’t have access to a kitchen, we make a special effort to have a good balanced breakfast. Some eggs, yogurt, fruit and cereal or toast covers the nutritional bases and makes you feel slightly less terrible about the rest of your meals… Also remember to keep your consumption of protein up (more expensive than carbs when traveling, but filling and helps the body resist infection).
Use your judgment when eating out – look for busy restaurants and if you’re really in doubt, eat fresh washed fruit and well-cooked food. Travel is not always the time to eat medium rare meats – especially if you’re traveling somewhere in Asia or India where you’re not sure about germs or your own tolerance to the new environment. One of my least fond memories is of 6 month-old C sucking on a spoon in a 5 star hotel restaurant in Hong Kong (not somewhere I associate with food poisoning for adults, anyway!) and having an upset stomach for the next 2 weeks of our trip. Lesson learned….
Allergies – sadly a subject always on my mind these days…. if you’re traveling anywhere where you can’t converse pretty fluently in the local language, I highly recommend arranging for a set of Allergy Translation Cards. We’ll definitely be picking some up for our stopovers in Asia, just in case!
Diarrhea: Resign yourself to the fact that you or your toddler might have diarrhea for a few days while traveling, despite your best efforts. To help avoid getting diarrhea, eat yogurt, which has enzymes that can ease your system into the country’s cuisine.
If you are struck down, make your diet as bland and boring as possible for a day or so (bread, rice, boiled potatoes, clear soup, toast without butter, weak tea); keep hydrated; try eating a banana once you start feeling better. Of course if you or your child has a fever together with stomach upset, keep a close eye on it and see a doctor sooner rather than later.
Get your Vitamin D but also sunscreen – Easy to forget, so make it a habit to put on sunscreen each morning when you go out, and reapply to the whole family every few hours. Sunburn is a both a health risk and a real downer so best avoided!