Paediatricians Reveal What They Always Pack In Their Kids’ Suitcases
Travelling with your children can bring moments of joy and create lifelong memories. But as any parent knows, it’s hardly a simple endeavour. The logistics of packing and transporting the essentials alone can be overwhelming.
“Expect the unexpected,” said Dr Jaime Friedman, a San Diego-based paediatrician and director of marketing at Children’s Primary Care Medical Group. “Always pack extra. Carry on whatever is most important in case of lost luggage.”
“I’ve been on an airplane and run out of diapers,” she added. “I’ve been stuck in a thunderstorm with my son crying in pain needing pain medication. I’ve run out of sunscreen. I’ve had flights cancelled. You never know what might happen, so be prepared.”
To help other parents feel more prepared for their next family holiday, HuffPost asked Dr Friedman and other paediatricians to share the items they’re always sure to pack when travelling with their kids.
“Medicines are important to have on hand because you never know when your child may suddenly get a fever, an injury, or a random bout of growing pains,” Dr Friedman said.
“Especially for young children who can’t take traditional pills or if you will be travelling somewhere in which buying medicine might be difficult, I always made sure to have appropriate formulations of acetaminophen and ibuprofen in case it was needed and I couldn’t find liquid or chewable.”
The paediatricians HuffPost spoke to also make sure to travel with their children’s prescription medication or other specific health supplies in ample quantities in their hand luggage.
“I always pack my son’s emergency medicine for nut allergy and history of asthma, which includes EpiPen, Benadryl, and albuterol inhaler,” said Dr Candice Jones, a paediatrician in Orlando, Florida.
“I make sure my kids pack some of their favourite comfort items and things to keep them busy, such as a stuffed animal, jacket, iPad, earphones, snacks, and something to draw or read,” Dr Jones said. “This saves money and keeps them from getting into trouble.”
Comfort objects offer kids a sense of security, familiarity and calm no matter where they are. The same goes for other familiar items like their usual water bottle or favourite snacks.
“Children are thrown off of their routine when travelling,” Dr Friedman said. “They can get tired, hungry and the dreaded bored. Keeping them comfortable is the key to a successful trip. Have some familiar objects to help reduce fear and anxiety. I used to also travel with familiar books to read at bedtime.”
“I have a ‘first-aid’ kit with Band-Aids, alcohol wipes, acetaminophen, seasonal allergy medicine and Benadryl,” said Dr Hansa Bhargava, the chief medical officer at Medscape. “I pack my first-aid kit in case of cuts and scrapes, and also, a child may have an allergic reaction, so I like to be prepared.”
Including a small tube of antibiotic ointment is also useful in case of accidents.
“I like to bring Vaseline, which can help with chapped lips, diaper rashes and scrapes. Nail scissors, Band-Aids, and toothbrushes are also key,” added Dr Kelly Fradin, a New York City-based paediatrician and author of Advanced Parenting: Advice for Helping Kids Through Diagnoses, Differences, and Mental Health Challenges.
Dr Friedman said she tailors her first-aid supplies based on the destination but typically travels with “topical hydrocortisone, topical antibiotics, Band-Aids, Dramamine, and an antihistamine like cetirizine”.
Screen and non-screen entertainment
“New toys and activities for younger children are important as well, because it will keep their attention longer for car or plane rides,” Dr Friedman said.
Although comfort objects and familiar toys or books are helpful during routine disruptions like travel, you might also want to pack a couple of novel sources of entertainment. Mixing screen-based and non-screen options is a good idea too.
“Even as a paediatrician, I usually have an iPad or mobile device,” Dr Bhargava said. “But I ask them to choose a book to bring too. So, I try to have my kids have some reading time before screen time. Small puzzles as well as crosswords and even some fun puzzle workbooks with pens/pencils can be handy for the ‘I’m bored.’”
Dr David L. Hill, a paediatrician in Wayne County, North Carolina, is a fan of travel bingo games for kids.
“The whole point of travel is to experience the novelty around you,” he said. “And it’s all too easy as a parent to rely on screens to keep your kids entertained while cows, horses, trains, ships, barns, deer, and historical towns go flying past.
“Travel bingo gets your children to look up, out of their laps, and really observe the world around them. The things they see are likely to spark questions and conversations that focus on the very things travel is for and bring your family closer together.”
“For kids ages 4-10 and whether it’s a road trip or a plane trip, I always take some snacks,” Dr Bhargava said. “Snack bars, sliced apples, healthy chips, granola mix always came with me because you just never know about delays. And water bottles for road trips are a must-have.”
Keep your child’s eating habits in mind as you plan the trip and determine how often you’ll dine out.
“Parents should consider the type of food where they will be travelling and consider whether their children will eat that food or not,” Dr Friedman said. “While snacks and drinks are important during travel, once arriving at your destination, you may want to find some groceries to help feed finicky eaters.”
“My daughter suffers from car sickness, so I always pack an extra outfit for her,” Dr Fradin said.
Extra clothing is also useful for air travel.
“On planes, I always like to pack an extra shirt for my child, and yes even underwear and a toothbrush as there are sometimes delays with luggage,” Dr Bhargava said.
Indeed, don’t forget to pack these clothes and other extra essentials in your carry-on luggage.
“I learned the hard way to pack an extra outfit with toiletries for each person to keep with us,” Dr Jones said. “When we went to Machu Picchu, our bags didn’t arrive for several days so I highly recommend doing this when travelling abroad.”
Protection from germs and the elements
“Parents should consider bug spray, sunscreen, hats and other necessities appropriate for their trip,” Dr Friedman noted.
In addition to protecting your family from the elements like sun and insects, try to protect everyone from the spread of germs.
“Tissues and hand sanitisers are a must,” Dr Bhargava said. “Little fingers touch everything, so it’s a good idea to sanitise those hands before eating, to avoid infections.”
Anything that promotes sleep
“Travelling with kids is hard because there’s so much stuff,” Dr Fradin said.
Still, there are certain things you need to prioritise, no matter where you’re headed.
“Items that promote your child’s sleep are essential,” Dr Fradin emphasised. “Favourite stuffed animals, sleep sacks, noise machines, or anything that will help them to rest well can really make your vacation much more enjoyable.”
Information about health care at your destination
Before leaving for their trips, many doctors try to to familiarise themselves with the emergency medicine options for their families, especially if they’re off to an international destination.
“I would recommend talking to your paediatrician about where you are travelling, and asking them where they would go in case one of your children becomes sick on the trip,” said Dr Jean Moorjani, a paediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
“If the area that you’re visiting has a free-standing children’s hospital, that would be my first recommendation to take your child in case they unexpectedly become sick and need medical attention.”
Headphones for you
Paediatricians with children also pack some essentials for themselves when travelling with their families.
“Headphones for listening to music are a must ― for when I need some downtime!” Dr Bhargava noted.
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