With the holidays approaching, I am surprised at the number of horror stories I seem to be hearing from parents - not about Halloween since that was back in October - but about traveling with their children. Since I don't want parents to have travel nightmares, let me provide a few trips-I mean tips - to make travel with children something that will result in pleasant dreams for all involved.
1. If your children are old enough to understand, let them know what the travel plans are: how long the journey will take, time of arrival, how many stops will be made and at what time, so the "how long till we get there?" question doesn't come as often.
2. Have a set of rules for family travel that can be reviewed with your children each morning to help avoid power struggles during the day, rules such as who sits where and what music will be listened to and for how long.
3. Pack some CDs, books on tape, or have a bag of small surprises like little games or puzzles that can keep your children busy while en route.
4. If traveling by car, stop every 60 to 90 minutes to allow everyone to stretch their legs and use a bathroom. Doing this along with providing some light but frequent snacks may help prevent motion sickness.
5. It's also a good idea to put together a travel "good health kit" that contains any medications your child is on, plus an over the counter pain reliever, band aids, antiseptic ointment for cuts and bruises, sunscreen (if needed), insect repellant and alcohol -based hand cleaners in case soap and water are not available.
6. If you are traveling in a rental car, make sure the rental agency has an appropriate car safety seat if you are not using your own.
7. Praise your child/children if the trip goes well, and do something extra special as a reward such as a swim in the hotel pool or letting them choose a restaurant.
8. Remember that this is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your children, so rather than view travel as an ordeal look at it in a positive fashion, focus on the fun, and you'll be there before you know it.
Hopefully tips like this will allow you to pack just the right stuff and route you in the right direction the next time you travel with your children.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids