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2 pediatricians answer your questions about traveling with kids over the holidays


Trains, planes, automobiles. According to AAA, more than 55 million Americans are expected to be on the move at some point during this holiday season. And let's face it, holiday travel is stressful - the cost, the crowds, the weather delays, and then you add kids into the mix. If you've ever done it, then you know it can amp up the stress factor exponentially. So we thought we would try to help by answering your questions about traveling with kids. And for this, we've called two pediatricians who are also parents who have been through it themselves. Dr. Candice Jones is a pediatrician from Orlando, Fla. Welcome.

CANDICE JONES: Thanks for having me this morning. Good morning.

MARTIN: Good morning. And Dr. Jaime Friedman is a pediatrician from San Diego, Calif. Welcome to you, as well.

JAIME FRIEDMAN: Thank you so much, and good morning.

MARTIN: Good morning. So I'm going to start with you, Dr. Friedman. Do you have any worries when you travel with your kids, and if so, what are they, or maybe what's the biggest one?

FRIEDMAN: Well, my kids are grown now, but when they were younger, definitely the biggest worry was how am I going to occupy them, keep them busy, keep them interested, entertain so we don't experience the meltdowns that I think everybody dreads when they travel with their children.

MARTIN: Dr. Jones, what about you? What is your biggest worry when you travel with your children?

JONES: We're right in the thick of everything you mentioned in your introduction. I have a 15-year-old and a 6-year-old, and my worries are always all the baggage, getting through security, standing in the lines. So I understand the pressure that parents are under, because I will be right with them.

MARTIN: So let's hear some questions from listeners. And this is from Erica Voch (ph), and she's in Sacramento, Calif.

ERICA VOCH: What's the real risk of kids contracting COVID on a flight? We haven't traveled since before the pandemic began and would love to, but we're concerned with the risk of COVID since our kids are still so young. They're only 2 years old and 5 months old. The 2-year-old is vaccinated. The 5-month-old is still too young to be vaccinated.

MARTIN: Dr. Friedman, thoughts?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think it's a really good question, and I'm glad she brought up the idea of vaccinating because for kids who can't wear a mask, that's really your No. 1 way to reduce the risk of getting COVID. The problem with air travel is when you're in the air, it's good. There's a lot of air turnover, which can really help keep particles out of the air. But it's those times when you're sitting there during boarding and then also deplaning when you arrive at the airport. I think the best thing to do is do your research on what are the rates where you are, where you're going, bring some hand sanitizer with you and if the 2-year-old can wear a mask, you know, you can actually try that, as well.

MARTIN: Dr. Jones, anything you want to add?

JONES: I totally agree with that. I think anywhere you can create some space for yourself in lines at the airport and take advantage of that family boarding so you have a little more space and you're not all crowded up. Creating those barriers are very effective. And masking, absolutely.

MARTIN: All right, Dr. Jones, let's go to you first on this one. This one is from Amy Leo (ph), who is in Takoma Park, Md.

AMY LEO: How can I ensure in the midst of disrupted routines and new environments that we all get the best sleep possible while traveling?

MARTIN: And you can hear that Amy is in the thick of it. You can hear the baby in the background. She knows what she's talking about. What do you say, Dr. Jones?

JONES: We all have been there as parents. I think this is where we try to manage our expectations when you're traveling, especially if it's international or a different time zone, and give yourself some grace and try to have a little patience for your kids because they will get off, and as soon as possible, when you get to where you're going, just kind of reestablishing your bedtime or having those things that make them feel comfortable - their lovies, their pacis, their favorite treats, anything that can recreate what they're used to is usually very helpful for getting them back on track.

MARTIN: But what I think I hear you saying is don't fly across the country or to Europe or, you know, around the world for a wedding and then expect to go to that wedding the next day and have everybody be happy.

JONES: That's correct. Preplanning is the key. And travel maybe a couple of days before so that you can get acclimated. I know we do that when we travel.

MARTIN: We also got a lot of questions about how to eat on the road with kids. Are there some snacks or meals or something that people could bring along for their kids to help them? And/or is there anything parents should not pack? Dr. Jones, you have thoughts about this?

JONES: You know, I often recommend to parents this is the time where - to keep the peace, where maybe some of all of our pediatrician, healthy rules can be put on pause. But things like if you want to try to go healthy, healthy, non-perishable foods like packaged bars, nut butters and crackers, making a trail mix, even some fresh fruit or dried fruits are fine, and they're easily packable. They'll get through security. But just their favorites is really key.

MARTIN: I want to go to this next question, 'cause I think this is something that is important for people to hear, even if they have kids who have an issue or disability or who don't. And I'll just play that, and then we'll talk about it.

KIMBERLY TODD: My name is Kimberly Todd (ph), and I'm from Sacramento, Calif. We travel often internationally as a family with our autistic daughter. Traveling with her as a young child was very stressful. Can you share information on how to obtain accommodations for a flight or what airport services may be available to traveling families that need additional support?

MARTIN: Dr. Friedman, do you want to start? What are your thoughts about this?

FRIEDMAN: I think it does make sense to call ahead and say, hey - or at least call the airline and say, hey, can we get preboarding? So if you can get preboarding and be out of the crowd and on the plane and get settled, that can be helpful. I do think it's really important, you know, as sort of the theme of this whole session is having sameness and familiarity. So whatever your child with special needs is used to, if there is, you know, something - you know, manipulatives in their hands that they like to have, things that they - if they're very oral, things that they can put in their mouth. If they're bothered by noise and they will wear, you know, noise-canceling headphones, I know that can be very helpful, or have music. And you can make sort of, like, a lanyard with a tag or a tag on the shirt or a T-shirt or something that says, you know, I have autism, or please be patient with me. I see that a lot. And I think that's really helpful because some people just don't understand. A lot of disabilities aren't obvious when you're looking at somebody.

MARTIN: Dr. Jones, any thoughts about this?

JONES: I would also talk to the flight crew so that they're aware of your child. I think they are often helpful and can work with families for whatever special things they need. And if they're aware, if there's a problem, they can step in and be ready to handle the situation. You know, I've said, in the future, tap a person on the back and say, I'm sorry, I have this toddler. She may be kicking the seat, you know, or something like that. So talk to people around you and let them know. And I think people will come together and help make it as easy as possible.

MARTIN: That is Dr. Candice Jones from Orlando, Fla. and Dr. Jaime Friedman from San Diego, Calif. They are both board-certified pediatricians offering their advice for how to travel with kids. Thank you both so much for being here.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, thank you so much for having us.

JONES: Thanks so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNWED SAILOR'S "THE MUSIC BOX") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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