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Traveling with children during the holiday season

'Tis the season of joy and giving as we enter the holiday season. Millions of Americans from all ages will be traveling by air, sea or land in the next few weeks to visit relatives, friends, or just take the time out to see the holiday sights.  Air travel could be the most taxing due to many restrictions or confinements.

Thanksgiving week will be one of the busiest week for air travel in the country. This holiday can be a genuine travel nightmare for many families as they queue up at airport security lines and the gates. Airport passengers may find this time of the year an excruciatingly stressful time with potential delays and other travel hazards. There will be flight delays or cancellations, and luggages will be lost or diverted. Breathe in, breathe out...

Topping off holiday travel with children may add to the preparation (and stress) of the seasonal pilgrimage to our favorite Thanksgiving and other holiday travel spots.

While there are many tips out there for traveling with children including from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), please consider the following:

Car seats and strollers for air travel - This is a choice that you can make. Is it worth carrying the car seat through the airport line and lugging it in the plane? It depends. Car seats are usually free of charge at airlines when you check them in. If you plan on carrying them in the plane, smaller (smart fit) is better. You may have to consider your destination too. If you plan on renting a car at your destination, note that car rental companies can charge between $8 to $14 per day for each approved car seat. Strollers must pass through security machines and can be gate-checked.

Extra clothes - This is a must. Fresh set of clothes for possible overnights, travel delays, et al. Have them in your carry-on.

Medication in carry-on - If applicable, have medications properly labeled and in clearly marked containers. For easier identification and verification, have prescription medicine in their original containers and pharmacy-printed labels. If needles and syringes are necessary, please have them in resealable bags. Nebulizers and/or inhalers must also be clearly labeled and passed through x-ray.

Hydration - Keep your child/ children hydrated during the trip from the gate and throughout the flight. Water is always best. Consider bringing empty water bottles to the airport, and fill them at the fountains past the security gates. 

Moisturize! - Skin care for children is equally important. Moisturize the kids with hypo-allergenic lotion or cream before the trip. Depending on your pediatrician, Vanicream, Aveeno or other moisturizers and emollients may be used. I also recommend a lip moisturizer or a thin layer of petroleum jelly for the lips.

Snacks - It is easy to purchase snacks at the airport but these could really add up. Bring packed snacks (dried fruit, sandwiches, granola bars, etc). In consideration of other passengers, nut-free snacks are always sensible.

Activity books/ tablets - Travel hubs and airports are not always designed for children. Some airports have kiddie play areas, but so many more do not have them. Consider bringing activity books that can easily be tucked in your carry-on luggage. Handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones are always an option.

Hand sanitizers - Besides frequent handwashing and avoiding coughs and sneezes from your fellow travelers, consider bringing hand sanitizers for the children. Airport gate seats, escalator belts, and other areas are touched by hundreds of passengers each day.

Travel protocols - As in any group travel, it is always advisable to have travel plans in case of emergency. Have a buddy system and always check on each other's carry-on luggage. Assign carry-ons to specific individuals in your group. Jackets, scarves, hats and tablets are commonly left or misplaced at airports during the busy travel season.

Wrapped presents - Although the items may be checked in or carried through security, note that wrapped presents may be opened by TSA or other authorities. Consider gift boxes.

Sleep masks - For longer flights or red-eyes, sleep masks may help with you and your child with sleep patterns/ circadian rhythms. Noise-canceling headphones may also alleviate jet lag and noise fatigue.

Warm, fuzzy sweater or throw blanket - The days of airline blankets for all are long gone unless you have premium class seats. Consider bringing a sweater with a hood or have a throw blanket to keep your young traveler warm. Insert your child's long socks in your carry-on and be prepared to pull it out for instant warm feet!

With the above listed items, you will be your child's hero and will travel like a boss!

Happy travels.



Marigold Castillo, M.D. Dr. Marigold "Dr. Gold" Castillo is a board-certified physician specialist practicing in Bayside, New York. She is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Zucker School of Medicine of Hofstra/ Northwell. She focuses on personalized care in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine.

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