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7 ways to keep your kids healthy while on vacation

by Aleza Freeman

Traveling with your kids can feel like anything but a vacation, especially when someone gets sick. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can be ready for anything.

Whether you’re taking a road trip, traveling by air or setting sail, follow our 7 tips to help your family stay healthy and happy on your next vacation.

  1. Make a packing list

    Even the most organized moms can leave vacation packing until the last minute. (We get it.) It’s hard enough to pack for yourself, but throw a baby, toddler and/or tween into the mix … it’s downright overwhelming, especially if you’re traveling internationally or to a destination with unpredictable weather.

    You don’t want to overpack. Yet, you also don’t want to end up floating out at sea without a life preserver, so to speak.

    To help determine what you’ll need, make sure to check what the weather will be like at your destination and think about the activities your family will be participating in when you’re there.

    Is there a chance of rain? Snow? Will you be hiking? Swimming? Will you need insect repellent? You get the idea.

    From there, make a detailed packing list. It’ll take some of the stress out of packing, and less stress is also good for your health.

    If you need a little help getting started, these free, printable family packing lists from tripsavvy cover many of the bases.

  2. Keep germs at bay

    “Did you wash your hands?” It’s practically an anthem for families with young kids, and for good reason. Germs are everywhere, including on your vacation.

    Hand washing reminders shouldn’t take a break, just because you are, especially if you’re traveling with children. In fact, warns WebMd, frequent hand washing is critical on vacation since kids are more vulnerable to illness while traveling.

    Are you traveling by air?

    Studies show an increased risk of catching a cold on an airplane due to close quarters, shared air and low cabin humidity.

    Is a family cruise on the horizon?

    Contagious gastrointestinal illnesses, like norovirus, spread quickly on crowded, confined cruise ships (fortunately, less than one percent of all passengers are effected, according to the CDC).

    While hand washing is the simplest, most effective and quickest way to kick germs on your next family vacation, we also recommend anti-bacterial hand sanitizer (better safe than sorry) and disinfectant wipes to sanitize anything and everything our kids may touch (and they touch a lot).

  3. Up your hydration (but prepare for bathroom breaks)

    Staying hydrated is healthy habit whether you’re on vacation or not, but visiting different altitudes and climates makes it even more essential.

    If you’re flying, you will need to drink even more water than normal. According to Platejoy, a lack of humidity in the average airplane means you should up your amount to at least 8 ounces an hour.

    Refillable water bottles or bottled water will help you and your family get their fill of H2O. You can also try packing some hydrating snacks like cucumbers, strawberries and watermelon. Family travel blog Acupful recommends bringing along pre-made zip-lock bags filled with healthy snacks.

    However, with all that drinking and hydrating, bathroom breaks are imminent, especially for mini road trippers who are in the process of potty training. And let’s face it, a lot of rest stops look downright sketchy.

    Instead of trying to get them to go in strange bathrooms, which can be intimidating, follow this tip from Parents: Pack a portable potty. This way you don’t have to derail their potty training and you can help minimize any accidents along the way.

  4. Bring a first aid kit

    Bee stings, scraped knees, twisted ankles and tummy aches are par for the course when traveling with kids.

    As the in-house doctor (aka mom), you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. The American Red Cross provides this handy guide for making a first aid kit. Along with helping your crew stay healthy while on vacation, bringing your own supplies will also help save you time, money and the stress of having to track down these items amidst your travel itinerary.

    If you’re going on a cruise, don’t forget to include seasickness remedies, like special wristbands, patches and pills. Otherwise you may end up spending a small fortune at a cruise ship gift shop.

    Another important reminder, don’t forget to bring any medications, supplements, vitamins, etc. you or your family members take on a regular basis.

    You may be taking a break, but that doesn’t mean you want to break away from your everyday healthy lifestyle. If you’re flying, carry these items on the plane with you, just in case some luggage goes missing.

  5. Sleep on it


    With so much to see and do, it’s easy to slip up on your sleeping routine while on vacation. But studies show you’re more likely to get sick if you sleep 6 or less hours a night. So, make sure you are counting sheep and catching zzz’s, even when you’re away from home.

    Traveling to a different time zone? Jet lag is a drag for your circadian rhythms, whether you’re 1 or 101. The National Sleep Foundation recommends taking a proactive approach to time changes by slowly shifting your family’s bedtime toward the upcoming vacation time zone for three to five days (depending on the significance of the shift).

    Cruise passengers will rest easy with this tip from the Travel Mamas blog, which points out that there’s less motion in mid-ship rooms. That means there’s less chance of developing seasickness and more chance of sleep.

  6. Chew on this

    We wouldn’t normally endorse giving your kids candy, but sometimes a good vacation is all about compromise—especially when it comes to air travel.

    Air pressure changes at takeoff can be painful for those with small ears but chewing and swallowing may help. If your child is over 3, let him suck on a lollipop or chew gum at takeoff and landing (bubble blowing is optional). If you’re concerned about sugar, sugar-free works too.

    Pacifiers, bottles or nursing works great for popping a baby’s ears, by the way.

    Speaking of ears, they play a role in motion sickness along with your brain. Motion sickness can happen anywhere, including on an airplane or in a car, and it makes traveling torturous for some. WebMd recommends trying natural remedies like raw ginger and mint as soon as you feel sick as well as closing your eyes and avoiding reading.

  7. Think about comfort (yours and theirs)

    You’ve probably spent some time picking the perfect hotel room and booking the best activities. Afterall you are the on-site cruise director (also aka mom). However, you can’t control everything when you travel. So, keep comfort in mind.

    If you’re driving, bring along items that make you and your kids feel more comfortable in the car like blankets, pillows or a sleep mask (unless you’re the driver of course).

    If you’re flying, have your kids help pack their own backpack with items that will help them feel comfortable and occupied during the flight like coloring books, regular books, snacks, games, etc.

    Don’t forget your child’s beloved blanket or plushy. These lovies or transitional objects help kids cope with the unfamiliar, and make the experience of traveling to a new destination better for everyone.
No matter the destination, traveling with your family is always an adventure. Make sure you make the most of it by keeping these healthy tips in mind. Safe travels everyone!
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Aleza Freeman