Family vacations are a great time to create lasting memories for parents and children. But it’s no secret that vacations can sometimes be stressful, too, especially with the threat of COVID-19. Whether you’re embarking on a road trip or flying to a far-off destination, planning and preparation are key to ensuring a successful trip. The common vacation pitfalls that lead to stress can be prevented by following a few simple tips before and during the trip.
Preparing and packing
“What you’re most at risk for are common illnesses, like influenza. So, preventative care from that standpoint, getting your flu shot, washing your hands, covering your cough [will all help].” Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, recommends if you are sick yourself, you probably shouldn’t travel for spring break.
With the concerns in the news about viruses like influenza and coronavirus, people are wondering if traveling this spring break is safe.
“First of all, your risk of acquiring coronavirus—unless you’re going to travel to a site that is in China or where there is an outbreak right now—is very low,” said Dr. Chawla.
No matter where you’re going, make sure you and your kids are up-to-date on vaccinations against common illnesses, such as the flu. If you’re traveling abroad, additional vaccines may be required. To find out which vaccines your family needs, ask your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travelers’ Health website for lists of recommended or required vaccinations in different countries.
As you pack, remember to bring the medications your family uses on a regular basis. There’s no way to guarantee you’ll find them at your destination. A first aid kit, stocked with over-the-counter medications and bandages, can also come in handy. Also, don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent. Hand sanitizer is a good to have for those times you can’t find soap and water.
Common travel issues and how to treat them
If you’re flying across time zones, it can take time for your internal body clock to catch up. To prepare, parents and kids should get plenty of rest before the trip. At the destination, try to follow local time and keep kids awake until their usual bedtimes.
Motion sickness can be worse on an empty stomach, so have kids eat a light meal or snack before traveling. Parents can also encourage kids to look outside the car rather than inside. If a child feels sick during a road trip, take a break so they can get some get fresh fair. You can also ask your pediatrician about motion sickness medicines.
Do what you can to ensure that you are preparing some of the meals for your kids, focusing on meals that are well-balanced. Choose healthy snacks and if traveling internationally, choose fruits that you peel. Keep hydrated with plenty of water as kids can easily get dehydrated in the sun and with activities like swimming.
Planning the journey
The key to keeping children engaged and happy on a trip is by getting them involving in the planning. Teenagers may enjoy researching the destination online and picking an activity for the family. Younger kids can be given a short list of options and choose something special they’d like to do or see. You could also allow kids to plan one or two days of the trip themselves. The more involved the whole family is, the better chance everyone will enjoy the trip.
Keep in mind, while some planning is necessary, too much can cause stress and frustration. Taking a less-is-more approach to the itinerary can help the trip go smoother. Try scheduling only a half day of structured activity, then make the rest of the day easy. This leaves extra time in case you didn’t schedule enough time for a certain activity. Be flexible and open to changing the plans if the family finds something more fun or interesting.
Before your vacation, discuss with kids how much screen time you all agree to. Some set downtime each day with access to screens may be welcomed by everyone.