Tips for road, air and rail travel with children
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|   Sep 16, 2014
Tips for road, air and rail travel with children

Your tickets are booked and only bags are waiting to be packed. Irrespective of which mode you are taking to get to your holiday destination, if you are travelling with a young child there’s bound to be some amount of apprehension. What follows are a few tips to help allay your anxieties. 

First and foremost, ensure that you are well rested before any trip.

ROAD:

  • Get your child accustomed to being in the car by going on short drives initially and gradually increase the distances as you all get more comfortable.
  • Pre pack the car if you plan to leave early morning.
  • Invest in a good car seat and ensure that your baby or young child uses it. There are many types of car seats available and we found the combination type (which can be used for a child up to 19kgs) to be perfect. This type is used rear facing till the baby can hold his/her head unassisted and then can be adjusted to face forward. While the car seat helps up the safety and security for your child it also leaves the primary care giver free from constant baby duty while on a long drive. The driver too doesn’t have to worry about being distracted by a frisky tot jumping around the car. 
  • Schedule your driving hours with some indication as to when you will stop for meals or loo breaks. Infants tend to get restless so factor in sectors where you may have to hold the baby for a short duration on non high speed stretches or even a quick stop to let an older child stretch, jump or run if possible.
  • Pack everything you require; this is a big luxury when you are travelling by car. Carry onboard entertainment or plan games that you can play on the way. Carry a portable toilet which could even be a potty seat with a big plastic bag lining.
  • Plan entertainment in the form of audio stories, nursery rhymes CDs, a colourful new toy to play with, a new water bottle, and maybe let an infant use a self soother like a pacifier. 
  • Make sure that your child has plenty of water or liquids and is fed at regular intervals. Carry whatever the child needs. Dhabas provide boiling water and can cook up instant noodles. Any new type of food or beverage when travelling is best avoided as are dishes that could potentially have previously un-boiled water in them like chutney, sambar or chaas. Invest in a travelling fridge if your vehicle has the space. Carry fruit, healthy snack bars, energy drinks, and ample water. Sweets are super as treats for good behaviour but not while the car is moving for fear of choking.
  • Overnight rest breaks should ideally be at places that are clean with comfortable mattresses.
  • Make the journey exciting by pointing out the different types of trees, crops, villages, people, clothes, fruit and markets. This helps expand the child’s vocabulary and serves as a super show and tell.
  • Get your car serviced and in top condition. Check  - tires, including the stepney; the jack set is complete and know how to use the jack; lights; all fluids; battery; spare keys; the manual for nearest 10,000 km checklist; and for any one-off changes required. Include a first aid kit with all possible required personal medication; water and chocolate and lots of hard boiled sweets for the driver; torch; tool kit; spare water; diary for fuel stops, amounts, mileage and locations; and make sure all required vehicle paper work including registration and insurance are in order.

Motion Sickness
Motion sickness occurs when the brain gets mixed and confusing messages from exposure to frequent visual changes which could lead to nausea, feeling ill and even an upset tummy.

If either you or your partner is not an easy traveller and suffers from motion sickness, the likelihood of your child having the same or similar problem does exist. You will never know until you venture out. There are a few things that can help ease the discomfort:

  1. Firstly aim for prevention by making your child assume the right position. The middle of the back seat with a clear view through the windscreen is ideal. If need be, block out the side view movement by using a towel or curtain along the side windows.
  2. Time the journey to coincide with sleep time.
  3. Ensure that your child has a light meal pre-trip and carry snacks like biscuits, bananas and energy bars.
  4. Play games that require the child to focus on objects in the distance and avoid activity books, colouring and reading.
  5. If you have the option on types of routes on a car drive, take the less circuitous roads.
  6. If the sickness does come on, open a window as fresh air helps soothe a funny tummy; place a cool cloth on the child’s forehead and ask him to lie back, shut eyes and relax. Keep handy barf bags, paper towels, wet wipes, a potty, clean clothes and water for clean ups.
  7. If your child is over two years you could speak with your paediatrician about anti nausea medication.

Please remember that symptoms of motion sickness are beyond the control of a child and so try and be calm and never get angry with a child who experiences this discomfort.

FLIGHT:

No one wants to be seated next to the infant or young child on a flight. That’s a fact. So when you are the parent the pressure is definitely on. There are a few things you can do to make the experience less stressful:

  • Ask for the basinet seat on long flight.
  • Listen to the flight attendants – you need them on your side.
  • Pre check the restrooms for space to change your baby and never change a diaper in the cabin; it’s not fair on the others.
  • Ensure your baby or young child is sucking while taking off and landing else the ear pain makes them scream. For a toddler you can carry a lollypop. If your child does start crying in pain in spite of this, there’s not much you can do; comfort the child, try and stay calm and know that the yelling will stop soon even it if does feel like forever.
  • Many airlines provide special services for children whether that is a pre boarding facility, special meals or even activity kits for kids. Ask about these when you are making your bookings.
  • Take along some comfort toys or a blanket that the child is familiar with.
  • Don’t feed the child chocolates and aerated drinks on a night flight. I was a flight attendant once and I can guarantee you if your child has drunk coke and eaten the chocolate bar in the snack tray, you will be running around the cabin while the others are snoring.
  • Look up information and ask your doctor and friends about how to handle change in time zones, jet lag and your baby.
  • If you need your stroller, sometimes the flight staff will let you take in on board. Sometimes you have to give it to them to put in the hold but they will give it to you at the door when you land. Always ask.
  • Pack so that you have a spare set of things you require in your hand luggage just in case your baggage does not come on the same flight as happens sometimes.
  • Cabins get cold so always carry something warm for your child along with socks.
  • Make sure the child uses the restroom before take-off and landing as they will not be allowed to get up once the seat belt sign comes on even if it is an urgent visit required.   

RAIL:

  • Try to look for over-night trains as this way you don’t have to factor in entertainment in small spaces and everyone usually is asleep.
  • Carry food from home as well as your own linen and extra towels.
  • Socks, a light jacket, slippers and spare clothes should be easily accessible.
  • Take a bag with lots of compartments in it so that you can easily reach for things when you need them.
  • Try and take bags that are easy to carry e.g. haversacks so that your arms can be free to deal with your child while on platforms.
  • Ideally let your child memorise your contact numbers as soon as he can talk. If you make up a tune for the numbers the child will learn it faster. Also discuss a plan just in case you and your child get separated. Reassure you child that this is not likely to happen but that platforms are crowded areas and so he should always be around you, ideally holding your hand and not run around.     

Vacations especially during the festive seasons can be fun, relaxing, hectic and stressful. It all depends on how you approach your time off. As Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Travelling together is an excellent way to bond with your family and especially with your young child as you can sit near him, hold his hand and sing or chat endlessly about the world going by without phone calls, the doorbell, the TV or the computer to distract from the undivided attention.

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