Vrinda Kumar, M.D.

Vrinda Kumar, M.D.

It’s my first blog entry, and I’m so excited to be sharing some useful information about making traveling with kids a little easier and keeping them as healthy as possible during the trip.

First, a little about myself: I am first and foremost “Mommy” to my two-year-old daughter.  My husband and I live in Naperville, but I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, where my mom is still a practicing pediatrician after almost 35 years in the same office. In fact, she is a huge reason I went into pediatrics.  I saw the relationship she developed with her patients and their families, and she is now seeing the children of some of her earlier patients (how cool is that?!).  After training in St. Louis, I wanted to move to my favorite city in the world, Chicago! This is where I met my husband (also a physician, and a Chicago native), and we have now planted our roots here in the western suburbs.  I thought I knew what it took to raise a healthy child when I finished residency, but after having my daughter, I quickly found that I had SO much to learn.  It turns out that kids don’t read the textbooks!  As with my practicing style and as will be with all my future blog entries, I am coming to you with the perspective of, not only a pediatrician, but also a parent.  Parenting is a journey, with some highs and lows, moments you want to hold on to, and moments that can’t end fast enough. I hope that the small pieces of advice that you find on our blog make your parenting journey a little easier.

Baby girl sitting in suitcase with  things for vacation travel

Traveling can be a daunting task with kids, especially with infants and toddlers.  I remember before having my own child and traveling with her, I would look at parents at the airport with a baby dangling from one arm, a diaper bag hanging off the other arm with the contents falling out, struggling to fold a stroller, and getting their other 45 bags on the belt and cringing at the thought of having to do that one day. Good news, it’s not that bad!  Here are some helpful hints and tidbits that will hopefully make it go a little smoother:

  • Just take the basics! You are going to have your hands full just taking care of your child, so try to keep everything else you are going to be lugging around as light as possible.
  • Make sure you carry sanitizing hand gel and wipes. Water and soap is not always readily available. Thorough and frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of illness!
  • If flying, keep the vents above your head CLOSED. The vents recirculate air (and germs) throughout the flight, so it’s safer to keep them closed.
  • Keep liquids (including breastmilk/formula/milk) easily accessible as you go through airport security. It will save time and effort for everyone involved. TSA is required to test liquids with a fancy machine, but no worries…no one will be touching the actual liquid your baby is going to be drinking.
  • Keep extra diapers and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bags. Your child will without doubt choose the most inopportune time to soil that cute outfit you picked out for traveling day.
  • Keep a diaper changing pad handy. Even though most bathrooms have diaper changing stations, there are often no liners available for it, which means there are plenty of bacteria on the surface. That diaper changing pad will provide a nice barrier between your baby and those germs.
  • Try to plan your trip at a time when your child is most likely to be sleeping (i.e. naptime). The less aware they are that that they are stuck on your lap for the next few hours, the better.
  • If you are flying, take something that your child can suck on during takeoff and landing (pacifier/bottle/straw cup). This will help equalize the pressure in the ears that tends to build up in the ears during periods of altitude change, often causing discomfort and pain.
  • Take plenty of things to keep your child busy! This incudes books, toys, coloring books/crayons, DVD’s, etc. It’s boring for a kid  (and for an adult!) to sit in one place for an extended period of time. It also helps to take something that your child turns to for comfort (stuffed animal, blankie, etc.) to help them stay calm throughout the trip.
  • If you want to be REALLY considerate and you know you have a potential screamer on your hands, you can even consider handing out earplugs to your neighbors…just in case of a meltdown. They will appreciate the effort.
  • If you are going to be riding in a car at any point during your trip, do not forget the car seat. Most car seats and strollers can either be gate checked (pick it up at the gate at the end of the flight) or checked in (picked up at baggage claim).
  • Bring a lightweight stroller that has easy open/close. Your hands will be too full with the little one to be fiddling around with the stroller. It’s also great to have a stroller that reclines for naptime.
  • If your child can tolerate being in a baby carrier, such as an ErgoBaby or Baby Bjorn, it’s a great way to keep your child close to you and to keep your hands free. Airport security with let you go through security with your baby in the baby carrier. That way, you’ll have two hands to fold your stroller and put all those bags/shoes/belts/liquids in the security bins.

As a sidenote, if you are going to be toting breastmilk, it’s best to keep it in a cooler with ice-pack. If you are flying, the water in the ice-pack must be frozen solid in order to successfully pass through TSA. If it is melted at all, they may not allow it. If you are pumping, carry extra batteries for your pump in case you cannot find a free electrical outlet nearby.

If you are traveling abroad, you can always call your local health department to see if there are any additional vaccinations or medications your child may need prior to/during travel.

I hope this helps to make your next trip a little easier.  Here’s wishing you happy, healthy, and safe travels this summer!  Send us a postcard! 🙂