How to prepare for travelling with a toddler this Easter

Life with a toddler is high speed, fun and sometimes scary. From one minute to the next, your child may learn to walk, say his or her first words and scribble all over the wall. That’s why sometimes it can be challenging to stay one step ahead in your child’s expanding world.

When it comes to travelling with toddlers forward planning is required, so whether you’re going for a day trip or a foreign holiday this Easter you’ll need to think ahead and pack extra to cover unforeseen delays. 

In the following extract from her guide to toddler health, Dr Dawn Harper (as seen on TV) gives her advice on how to stay ahead of the game. 

I remember, for several years I carried wet wipes with me wherever I went and never regretted it! You will probably be in the habit of packing a bag to take with you wherever you go by now. Here is my list of essentials and, as I say, always over-pack just in case:

● changing mat
● nappies
● wipes
● nappy sacks or bags to keep dirty nappies in
● nappy cream
● any medicines that your child may be taking
● toddler bowl, spoon and cup
● bib
● ready-made toddler meals
● drinks
● snacks
● a favourite toy or comforter – essential!
● hat – to protect from the sun in warm weather and the cold in
winter
● a change of clothes.

Does my child need his or her own passport?

Your child will need his or her own passport. This will last for five years, even though, obviously, your child will change a lot in that time. Obtaining a passport can be quite a time-consuming process, so allow at least a couple of months for the passport to come through. You can fast track this process but at a considerable fee so it is better to think ahead. When you apply you will need to provide the completed form (available online or from post offices), two passport photos of your child, one of which must be signed by a professional who knows your child and has known you for at least two years, and proof of your child’s birth, such as a birth certificate.

Do I need to pay for a seat on a plane for my toddler?

Most airlines will allow you to take a child under two for free, but that does mean you will be expected to sit your child on your lap and the cabin crew will provide you with a special seat belt to help restrain your child while the seat belt signs are lit. There have been some concerns as to how safe this is though and you may prefer to pay for a seat and take your car seat with you. If you are planning a holiday with your toddler, here are my top tips on planning ahead.

Vaccinations

Plan well ahead on this one. Your practice nurse will be able to advise you on whether your current vaccines are up to date and what you and your toddler will need depending on your destination. Some vaccines are available on the NHS as they protect against diseases that pose a significant threat to public health if they were to be brought back into the UK. These include diphtheria, polio and tetanus (given as a single booster), typhoid, cholera and hepatitis A. You may be asked to pay for other vaccines such as yellow fever, hepatitis B, tuberculosis (TB) and rabies.

Medicines

If you or your child is on prescription medication, make sure you have plenty to cover your holiday. If your prescription is likely to run out while you are away, your GP will be happy to prescribe for you early but remember it may take a day or two for that to be processed.
Take a list of all prescription medication with you so that if medicines are lost you will be able to tell a local doctor what you are on. Drugs have different names in different countries so make sure you know the generic as well as the brand name. Always carry
prescription medication with you in hand luggage to allow for delays or lost luggage.

Travel sickness

Lots of children suffer with travel sickness and if yours is one of them, you can try to reduce the effect by travelling while your child would usually be asleep, as travel sickness is less likely if the brain is not being stimulated by the motion of the vehicle you are travelling in. Try to avoid big meals before travelling. If you are travelling by car, try to keep the car well ventilated and avoid strong smells such as warmed food or perfumes as these can make things worse. Try playing music to distract your child but don’t use toys or books to do this as this can exacerbate symptoms.

First aid kit

Of course you hope you won’t need this while away but a basic first aid kit saves a lot of hassle for minor injuries and upsets. Below is a list of my first aid essentials:

● antiseptic
● simple painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
● antihistamines
● insect repellent
● rehydration sachets
● anti-diarrhoea medicine
● travel sickness pills
● a small selection of plasters and bandages.

Sunscreen

It is all too easy to reach for last year’s sunscreen but check the best before date. Sunscreen becomes less effective past this date so you may think you are protecting yourself and your family when in fact the sunscreen you are applying is less effective than you think. Always buy a sunscreen that has both a high sun protection factor (SPF; at least 15 and preferably 30) and a high star rating to ensure protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Just one episode of sunburn as a child can double the risk of skin cancer as an adult,
so I can’t stress how important it is to take this one seriously. As a general rule, if your shadow is shorter than you then the sun is strong and it is better to keep small children out of the sun altogether.

Insurance

Even basic medical care in some countries can be very expensive so always make sure you have travel health insurance. If you are travelling within the European Union or to Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you will be entitled to reduced cost or sometimes free health care if you have an up-to-date European health insurance card (EHIC). These are valid for five years and you can apply for a replacement up to six months before the expiry date. You can apply on behalf of your partner and children under the age of 16 (or 19, if in full-time education).

Jet lag

If you are travelling through time zones, try to minimize jet lag by setting your watch to your destination time as soon as you board the plane and eat and sleep as much as possible in that time zone. When you arrive at your destination make sure you get out into
natural daylight to allow your brain to acclimatize as quickly as possible. It’s difficult to control your toddler’s body clock in the same way but at least if you arrive refreshed, you will be able to cope if your child is a little fractious as a result of the disrupted routine.

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Dr Dawn’s Guide to Toddler Health is now available.