Traveling with Children by Dr. Rajiv Narula
With the overall increase in travel, this very important segment of society has also participated in the boom – the children. According to surveys done by Travel Association of America, nearly one half of US adults – 46% said that they had included a child/children on a trip in the past 5 years. Adding to these numbers are children of business travelers, who are increasingly traveling with their globe trotting parents.
Children are special, and deserve to have their needs thought about and planned out in advance. These needs are usually simple, and will help ensure they have enjoyable trips, which in turn will help the parents/ guardians to also enjoy the trip. These needs may range from making sure they are wearing comfortable clothing, having snacks (other than what they may or may not be served in-flight), activities – that require minimal space and are not too loud (this may get dirty looks from fellow passengers.)
Depending on the age of the child/children, there should be a pre travel safety session with them – where rules such as not talking to strangers, accepting foods/ gifts from strangers, etc. should be mentioned . Issues re hotel safety are important – on arrival explore your hotel, make sure you go around with them and see where the exits/ staircases are, this will only take a few minutes but can be very useful.
Now what do you pack for them ? A comfortable carry on bag, that does not weigh a ton. Items that occupy this bag also need to be thought out carefully , they need to weigh minimal and should hold the interest of the child for more than a few minutes. Books, small toys/ games, please make sure they do not pack toys that look like guns/ knives as this will cause you unnecessary delays, at security check points. Other essentials include food items like snacks, juices, candy , gum, etc. Chewing gum during take off and landings will help reduce ear pain that may arise due to ascent/ descent. Babies should be fed or be given a pacifier, this will have the same effect. A walkie talkie set, is a good investment, a reasonably priced ones goes for between $50-60, and has a range of 2 miles. On a recent conference cruise that I went on with my family, we had used one of these and it was very helpful, when we had to coordinate our activities. Packing a set of extra clothing will be appreciated when that drink they were supposed to be drinking ends up on their clothing.
For locations that may need vaccinations, please try and get your Travel Medicine Consultation a month prior to departure. www.istm.org , the web site of the International Society of Travel Medicine has a listing of travel clinics. Most children will be up to date with routine immunizations, but travel related vaccines like Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow fever, Meningitis, JEVAX, Rabies may need to be addressed. Packing a medical kit for emergencies is well worth the trouble – band aids have magical powers,using one on children makes ‘boo- boos’ almost go away instantly.
While on the plane, children tend to get easily bored – activity books, cards, small versions of popular games, writing books, etc , will help the flight attendant from getting beeped’ accidentally’ !You can reward their good behavior by trying to organize a visit to the cockpit. This is usually very much appreciated by the kids. If age appropriate have your child write a travel journal daily- a short something on what they do. Sending post cards to friends/ family/ teachers is a another good activity, and is truly appreciated by those getting these notes.
So in conclusion, as with anything, a little bit of preparation ahead of time will help ensure that trip with your children is a memorable one.