One of the busiest times of the year for airplane travel is the holidays. In fact, it is the busiest time of the year. Last year holiday flyers broke records, and around 45.2 million people flew between December 16th and January 5th—with December 23rd being one of the busiest days in many airports (source) and Christmas Eve coming in as a close second (source).
Traveling as a family, especially with young children, is no easy task and can become especially stressful when you’re flying. There are so many things to think of when it comes to packing, prevention, and comfort for your children.
There are several things that you can do when traveling to help make the trip pleasant and easy, while also being proactive to combat any illnesses or germs that you and your child may come into contact with.
We have put together a helpful checklist for you to consider and refer to when preparing for your upcoming holiday travels. This list is geared for families with children, but can also be extremely helpful to anyone traveling.
Remember that when traveling with children, packing light isn’t always an option and furthermore, it may not be the best option. Make sure to have everything that your child and family will absolutely need in their carry-on, in the event of delays or lost baggage. Medications, toiletries, snacks, a few quiet toys, and a blanket/pillow are items to consider. A baby wrap or baby carrier is a convenient way to carry younger ones without having to tote a stroller or worrying about them running off. If you have young children, pack bottles, formula, baby food, toddler snacks, breast pump, breast milk and so forth if you need those as well.
Dr. Roy’s tips for packing and flying with your family this holiday season, while staying healthy and limiting your exposure to germs:
- Make a check list. Create a list of particular clothing items, supplements, medications, toys, food items, comfort items, gifts, and more that you may need for your holiday travels. Try to create your family’s list on a spreadsheet to have as a recurring list that can grow and change as your family does. Debbie set up our family’s list many years ago and it saves time and makes packing significantly easier. Year after year it gets updated to reflect our children’s needs, with items such as “swim diapers” and “baby wipes” being replaced with items such as “football” and “reading books”.
- Plan ahead with snacks. When thinking about travel time, factor in layovers and additional car travel time to your final destination. Pack snacks for children that you want them to eat instead of just relying on what you can find at the airport. Additionally, think of any special foods that your family may need due to allergies, sensitivities, and preference.
- Prepare personal toiletry bags. Debbie set up five travel bags, one for each family member. Things like a toothbrush with cover, ear plugs, lotion, shampoo, conditioner and a hair brush are helpful for each person to have. Small toiletry bags can be packed in carry-ons and will be helpful during long layovers or unexpected issues with your flight. Debbie cleans and restocks them after each trip so they are all ready for our next trip, again helping to make packing for five people a bit easier.
- Pack small blankets for children. Designate one as a floor blanket for layovers and delays and designate a small one for warmth while traveling. A small pillow or neck pillow may be helpful as well.
- Consider comfort items for your young child. Bringing a doll or blanket can be great — just be mindful of whether or not it will be the end of the world if it becomes lost. Perhaps try packing something loved but not a “favorite” so if it becomes lost, it won’t be as devastating to little ones.
- Surprise items. Pack a few, new toys for your little ones to entertain themselves with on the airplane. Remember to be courteous and pack quiet toys such as soft busy books, coloring books, color wonder marker books and activity books. Play dough can be great to play with on a clean seat tray as well as dry erase books. For older kids, pack a new book, magazine, or workbook to keep them entertained.
- Pack any children’s medicine. Remember to pack for emergencies and have on hand any medicine that may be needed, or even daily medicine that you or your child may need. Sometimes it is necessary to have a doctor’s note on hand for airport security when dealing with liquid items.
- Plan and stay prepared. Leave early enough to allow your family to go through bag check-in, security and more. Consider your young children when preparing time windows – so think of things like potty breaks, diaper changes, meltdowns, and feeding sessions. Use travel apps and airline apps to stay up to date on flight information and consider using the family lane for security (available in some airports for families with children in strollers).
One of the hardest parts of traveling with children during cold/flu season is trying to avoid getting sick! There are so many people that go in and out of airports and planes all month long during the holiday season. Denver International Airport recorded 4.8 million passengers in and out of their airports for the month of December 2016 (source). That is a whole lot of people with many different germs! Luckily, there are several things you can do before and during your flight to keep yourselves healthy.
- Be proactive to combat germs. Pack disinfecting wipes, such as Seventh Generation or Cavicide to wipe surfaces such as the arm rests, trays, seat belts and more. Yes, it does look a bit odd to some people when our family gets on the plane and proceeds to wipe down everything in our row, but the truth is, airports are a portal for germs and infectious disease. Did you know that the tray at your seat is full of more germs than the lavatory flush button!? (source) Be as proactive as possible to keep the germs away, without getting overly paranoid. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use toilet paper or linings on bathroom toilet seats.
- Don’t touch your face. Talk to your children about the importance of keeping their hands out of their mouths, eyes and so forth, as these are the main portals of entry for bacteria.
- Boost immunity beforehand. Take your regular supplements such as your multivitamin, Vitamin D3, Omegas, and probiotics. Additionally, you may load up on additional immune support (such as vitamin C, zinc, immunoberry liquid, elderberry, immunotix, or saccharomyces boulardii) before travel. Pack just what you need for your stay so you’re not having to over-pack so many bottles. As always, make sure you are supporting your immune system by eating a balanced and seasonal whole foods diet.
- Continue health measures during travel. Keep children well-rested and allow young children their regular naps as needed. Try not to overdo sugary and processed foods and drinks, even over the holidays, as these foods challenge the immune system.
- Be mindful of surroundings. While you can’t control everything and everyone around you, if you’re standing in line next to someone who appears to be sick or sitting in a waiting area next to someone coughing a lot, try moving away if possible. Being mindful is just an extra step towards prevention.
The holidays are a time of love and family. While it can certainly be overwhelming with gift lists, entertaining, and traveling, we hope this helps make your holiday travels as pleasant and safe as possible.
Have a wonderful holiday season and safe travels!
Read Part 3: Traveling with Food Allergies