Traveling the world with your kids gives them the opportunity to see our beautiful planet, broaden their horizons, and learn all kinds of new things while having fun. As a parent, you want your kids to enjoy the adventure of traveling—but questions about health and safety are always buzzing around in your head and can make a family vacation super stressful. To help mitigate that, we’ve put together some tips for keeping ahead of those concerns so you can have a fabulous, fun vacation with your little ones!

Plan Farther Ahead Than You Think You Should

Obviously when planning any trip, you’re going to research your destination to learn all about the best things to see and do, where to stay, and how to get there. When you’re single, you can kind of wing it—but that’s not a luxury afforded to those traveling with kids.

Well before your trip, start making a detailed itinerary with child-friendliness in mind. Walk through every step of the main checkpoints along your journey, like flights and other transport, accommodation, meal and event reservations, tickets and other details for planned activities, etc. The wonderful thing about planning travel with kids is there’s no shortage of advice and checklists made by fellow caregivers who’ve been through it and can help you—for example, have a look at this post by Jetlag & Mayhem that outlines all kinds of questions and points that can be very helpful for just planning air travel!

In addition to ticketing and booking, prepare a list of emergency contacts and familiarize yourself with the nearest hospitals and clinics at your destination. Make sure that you look into travel insurance to cover missing items and cancellations as well as medical needs—if someone gets sick or injured, you’ll be happy you had it!

Pack Essentials Wisely

Make a checklist of essentials such as clothing and toiletries, medications and first-aid supplies, snacks, and entertainment options like books, toys, and electronic devices. If you’re flying to a place that’s going to be hotter or colder than where you are now, pack items in your carry-ons that will help with preparing them for the climate and ensuring that they’re comfortable as soon as you arrive. Bring extra clothing for those inevitable spills and accidents, and remember comfort items like blankets or favorite stuffed animals to help your youngster feel secure while traveling through unfamiliar or overstimulating places like airports and train stations.

You may also want to look at travel bags and suitcases with lots of compartments to organize and easily access everything you need quickly and efficiently—it’ll help you prepare for all kinds of expected snags and occasional curveballs.

Related: 9 Parenting Hacks to Make Flying Alone with Kids Less Stressful

Maintain a Routine

Children thrive on routine, and maintaining a semblance of their daily schedule can help them adjust to the new environment more easily. Try to stick to regular meal times, nap times, and bedtime routines as closely as possible; this consistency can help reduce anxiety and prevent meltdowns.

When planning activities, be mindful of your child’s usual energy levels and avoid over-scheduling, as tempting as it may be during a family vacation. Providing familiar foods and maintaining their regular dietary habits as best as you can will also help control digestive issues and keep your little ones comfortable. Being on vacation, you might not be able to stick closely to your kid’s routine, so remember to prepare for bad moods and problems sleeping—but if you can at least keep your first day relatively laid-back, they can try to adjust and acclimate to their new surroundings a bit more easily.

Prioritize Hydration and Nutrition

If you’re running around a lot on your vacation (especially outdoors for extended periods), pay close attention to water intake—dehydration is a serious health concern that can lead to significant issues like heatstroke and worse if left unchecked. Be familiar with the common signs of dehydration, like feeling thirsty and lightheaded, tiredness or confusion, and a dry mouth. If your kids start to say they’re hungry between meals and snacks, make sure they’re drinking enough water, as hunger and thirst can be easily confused with one another. Carry a reusable water bottle for each family member and encourage frequent sips throughout the day.

Pack healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and whole-grain crackers to avoid reliance on unhealthy fast food options. Be cautious with unfamiliar foods that may cause allergies or digestive issues. Look into whether the tap water is drinkable at your destination (and at stops in between!)—if you’re traveling to a place with questionable water quality, stick to bottled or purified water to prevent illnesses.

Related: The Best Comfort Foods from 6 Different Countries

Practice Excellent Hygiene

The last thing you want is to bring home a nasty bug from your vacation. Teach your children to wash their hands regularly with soap and water, especially before eating and after using the restroom. Carry hand sanitizer for situations where handwashing isn’t possible. Wipe down surfaces like airplane trays, hotel remotes, and restaurant high chairs with disinfectant wipes. Remind your children to avoid touching their faces and to use tissues when sneezing or coughing. Bring along masks in case a family member gets sick—you don’t want to spread germs in crowded places!

Get Good Sleep

Jet lag and changes in sleeping environments can disrupt sleep patterns, so try to help your children adjust gradually. Bring pillows and blankets to create a comfortable sleeping space for long flights, and remember to keep drinking lots of water throughout your travels. In your hotel, darken the room and minimize noise as best as you can at bedtime to create a conducive sleep environment. If possible, build downtime and rest periods into your itinerary to keep everyone well-rested and energized.

Read our guide to beating jet lag before, during, and after your trip!

Keep Active Safely

Supervise your children closely during all outdoor activities, including any time they’re in a play area or pool at your hotel. Make sure they’re wearing appropriate gear, like helmets for biking or life jackets if you’re going in the water—if you’ve planned adventures with a tour group, check with them prior to travel to see what gear they have for children. You may need to rent or buy your own if they don’t have appropriate sizes or availability for your little ones. When planning your activities, look for age-appropriate ones that match your kid’s skill levels to prevent accidents—if the activity is something you haven’t done before, like horseback riding, for example, check with the provider to see their recommendations. And when traveling through crowded places, keep a close eye on your children and establish a meeting point in case you get separated.

Prepare for Emergencies

Being prepared for an emergency is crucial when traveling with children. Keep up-to-date on any travel advisories that may pop up regarding your destination or different stops—like storms that could impact your flights. Know the local emergency numbers and have a plan for various types of issues, like medical needs, lost kids, or unsafe situations that could arise during travels. Teach your children what to do if they get separated from you and ensure they always have identification with them. Having a contingency plan can help you stay calm and handle emergencies effectively.

Carry a well-stocked first-aid kit with bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, and any prescription medications your kids may need. If you want to be really prepared, finding training for PALS near you can help you be more equipped to handle health scares—hopefully you’ll never, ever need it, but it’s fantastic to know!

Related: Navigating Travel Advisories With Confidence: Your Guide to a Safe and Enjoyable Trip

Manage Travel Stress

Traveling can be stressful for parents and children, and knowing how to handle typically aggravating situations—and being aware of each family member’s stress triggers—will go a long way toward having a positive vacation and not a nightmare trip.

Prepare your children for the trip by explaining what to expect and addressing any fears they may have, like worries about flying for the first time, or about missing things they love at home. Make travel days as smooth as possible by arriving early, allowing extra time for security checks, and having activities ready to keep your children entertained. Staying calm and patient will help your little ones feel secure and enjoy the journey.

Related: 12 Tips for Practicing Mindfulness While Traveling: Immersion and Relaxation

Stay Informed About Health Risks

Check travel advisories and health recommendations from reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Make sure your children’s vaccinations are up to date and consider additional vaccines if recommended for your destination—look into this at least six weeks before your trip, as you may need proof of certain vaccinations to enter certain countries. Depending on your destination, you may need to visit a travel clinic, as some vaccines may not be available in standard pharmacies. In addition to vaccinations, be aware of common illnesses in the area and how to prevent them or mitigate your risk.

Keep Communication Open

Open communication is key to making your children feel safe and understood during the trip. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns about the travel experience so that you can address any fears or anxieties they may have and provide reassurance. Set clear expectations and rules for behavior, especially in unfamiliar or crowded places. Keep in touch with family and friends back home to update them on your whereabouts and any changes in plans.

Enjoy the Experience!

Traveling is an opportunity for learning and bonding, so take time to explore new places, try fun and different activities, and learn about the culture around you. Capture moments with photos and encourage your children to keep a travel journal. Be flexible and open to unexpected adventures, which can become the most cherished memories. Focusing on the positive aspects of the journey will help you stay relaxed and make the most of your time together!

What other tips would you give to parents traveling with children? Share your advice and stories with the Frayed Passport community!

Featured image by Juan Salamanca on Pexels

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