by Marcy Ahrons, MD
Vacations are fun for the entire family, particularly when you're prepared to entertain children while traveling.
Marcy Ahrons, UC Davis Medical Group pediatrician and a seasoned mother herself, offers this advice for folks traveling with young children:
"Bring lots of foods, not sugary treats, but nutritious snacks like raisins, bagels, whole grain muffins, cereals and applesauce," she says. "And pack extra water and juices, too."
Take along toys that are small, entertaining, and creative. "Board games are great for children. For babies, a busy box or toy suspended from a short string is perfect. Any car trip will be more interesting for baby if you place a picture above a rear-facing car seat," she says.
If you're not sure which toys to bring, for preschoolers select story and music cassettes, clay, finger puppets, sticky sticks or pipe cleaners for play. Older children enjoy card games, like Go Fish and Old Maid. Ahrons points out that lap boards, with paper and plenty of markers, are indispensable for drawing.
"Other good choices are magnetic puzzles and numbered stickers that paste into puzzles," Ahrons says. "Electronic hand-held toys can entertain children for hours, but remember to turn down the volume to preserve your own sanity," she says. "Children love to unwrap presents. Bring presents to unwrap for a special diversion."
Don't forget to take a medical kit. Ahrons suggests that you tuck any current prescription medications in addition to your doctor's telephone number inside a bag packed with these items:
- adhesive tape
- alcohol wipes
- instant ice pack
- calamine lotion
- syrup of ipecac
- insect repellent
One mistake that many vacationing parents make is trying to pack too much into a child's day.
"While traveling, take frequent breaks. Stop at parks and rest areas where the children can run and play. Try to keep children on the same schedule they follow at home—go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time," Ahrons says.
Reading tends to increase motion sickness, so if your child is vulnerable to motion sickness, don't encourage reading while traveling.
"If your child becomes sick, ask the child to lie down, place a cold washcloth on the child's head, and keep the car well-ventilated. Dramamine is a helpful medication for children over age 2, and Benadryl can help younger children."
If you're traveling by air, ask for a seat in the bulkhead, where there is more room.
"If your child's car seat is certified for aircraft use, bring it on board. Although child passenger seats are not currently required for air travel, they are strongly recommended for children 40 pounds or less," Ahrons says.
She says feeding the baby on the way up or down can help alleviate ear pressure problems.
These preparations and precautions can make a vacation memorable for your children and "much more pleasant for you," she says.