Surviving Summer Travel

Professionals give tips on making the most of your family travels

Photo: Mandy Tie
The season’s long holiday means you’re probably going to be travelling with the kids. We enlist the help of a family doctor, a nutritionist and a psychologist from Beijing United Family Hospital to help you with the kids each step of the way

BJU docs

Preparing for the trip

Preparing for the trip

JP: Plan ahead. Parents should plan vacations ahead of time to make sure that everybody can be prepared. Family members can set aside time to discuss what the holiday plans are. Avoid travelling with infants or small children to places where they could be potentially be exposed to illness or accidents. 

Vaccinate. Some extra vaccinations are recommended for certain countries. Tick bite encephalitis vaccine might be recommended if you’re going hiking in Austria’s forests and yellow fever vaccine for African or South American destinations. Also, keep up to date with regular shots such as tetanus in case of abrasion injuries and hepatitis A if you’re unsure of the destination’s quality of food and water.

JG: Pack smart. Pack familiar and healthy snacks such as nuts, crackers, or dried fruit. This is particularly important for fussy eaters. Children like to eat food they are familiar with, so if you don’t have ready-to-eat snacks on the go, or know what is available at the holiday destination, you may face the problem of what to feed your child. Also, bring a lunch box and spare zip bags which are useful for packing snacks and keeping leftovers on the trip. 

Refrain from bringing chocolate, lollies or chips. Those may end up being squashed in the bag, melt or add weight to luggage. They also have minimal nutrients, and ruin children’s appetites for a proper meal. 

Do up a list. Travelling can be difficult with children who have food allergies. If you are going to a country that doesn’t speak English, write out a list of their allergies in the foreign language. 

Order ahead. Most flights offer meals for special dietary needs. When you make a reservation for a flight or before you board, make sure you ask if special diets are available for children.

Braving a long journey

Braving a long journey

JP: Distract While young children have a hard time staying seated for long, medication for sedation is not recommended. Rather, keep kids occupied with cartoons or movies. Card games are also good as everyone can participate. 

JG: Hydrate Children up to eight years old need about 1,500ml of fluids a day, including 1,000-1,200ml from water. Older children need up to 2,000ml of fluids a day, including 1,400ml to 1,900ml from water. Make sure children drink a cup of water every two to three hours, or have them sip water throughout the journey. They might need to go to the toilet constantly but that’s also good exercise. Eat If your children miss a meal or drink because they fell asleep, ask the flight attendant to save their meal for later, or ask for snacks such as nuts, sandwiches or fruit for when they wake. 

On arriving at a foreign destination

On arriving at a foreign destination

JP: Set expectations. Prepare kids about the  environment they will be in. Most children however, adapt easily to new places. 

Safety first. Watch children all the time and don’t forget good habits like wearing seatbelts. Check that places are child-friendly such as playgrounds. 

JG: Minimise jet lag. Stay in the time zone as your destination but stick to the usual routine. For example, if the children have breakfast at 7am, make sure you have something to eat then.  

Eat wisely. Find foods similar to what your kids normally eat, and pack them for the following days of travel. When trying new foods, ensure it is safe and clean. Be careful of street food. Meat dishes should be fully cooked while raw food and food that are exposed for a long time should be avoided. Soft-serve ice cream and fresh juices can be a source of bacteria too. 

Have heavy breakfasts. Especially when going on a day trip. Also bring familiar snacks in case you can’t find good food at a destination. You never know when you can find a proper meal for the kids. 

Hydrate. Always bring a bottle of water or refillable bottle. Kids need more water during summer as they will sweat. 

BH: Find balance. Schedule a mix of high energy and exploratory activities with time to relax as well as a mixture of spontaneity and routine activities. 

Seek input. Ask for, and take into consideration children’s input on vacation activities. This helps cultivate a sense of self-efficacy and self-determination. Some prefer to eat and do familiar things while others want to engage in new activities. Respect for their preferences is important.  

Rest and play. Vacation is a time to teach children the different ways to balance the need for excitement and the need for rest. It is a good opportunity to maintain routines while encouraging spontaneous play.

Heading home

Heading home

Photo: Rico Zamudio/
JP: Forewarn. Kids should be warned that the vacation will end soon. Back at home, they can be kept busy making a photo album or to putting souvenirs together. It helps that most children are happy to return home to see their family and friends. 

Fever watch. Look out for signs of a fever on returning from a holiday, especially if you have just returned from a tropical country.  

JG: Home cooking. Your children will have missed homemade dinners so take them grocery shopping with you, restock food for their lunch boxes, and cook their favourite dinner. This helps them get back to their regular eating routines.  

Be firm. If your children ask for treats that they have been accustomed to during the holiday such as sweets and soft drinks, it’s important to let them know that those are only for holidays and special occasions. 

BH: Easy does it. Both children and parents need time to readjust into their routines after vacation. For example, assignments and deadlines can be scheduled a few days after coming home. There need not be a strict separation between vacation and study time. The vacation, brainstorming and play mentality can help kids recharge and reinvigorate their study periods.

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