By Chelsey Koga, a contributing writer for Sharp Health News and a senior digital producer for Sharp HealthCare.
Before our daughter turned 2 and we were on the hook for a full-fare ticket, my husband and I decided to take our first international trip as a family. We picked Japan because I had lived in the country for a couple of years and wanted to introduce her to friends there.
We planned our itinerary but didn’t do much research. I wish I had at least looked into preparing for the 16-hour time difference and how jet lag affects toddlers.
Kiana woke up at 3 am during our first day in Japan, then at 4 am on the second, and 5 am on the third. She eventually adjusted but when we returned, it took her three to four days to get back to her routine.
We eat Japanese food regularly so finding meals and snacks for Kiana was easier than it would have been in other countries. Still, navigating which milk was whole milk took a quick search on Google to figure out what that translated to in Japanese.
If you are considering an overseas trip with your little globetrotter, Dr. Veda Wu, a pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, shares her recommendations for traveling internationally with a toddler.
Contact your doctor to discuss health recommendations, especially if your destination is a country where certain immunizations are required. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health website to see a list of recommended vaccines and medicines by country; how to stay healthy and safe while traveling; what to pack; and any travel health notices.
What to bring on the plane
Pack small toys that your child has not seen before — a toy car, doll, stuffed animal, drawing board or blocks. Because attention spans are short, having a variety of different activities is helpful. Other items to put in your carry-on are coloring or activity books and stickers.
For snacks, pack a variety of crackers, cereals and dried fruit such as raisins. Don’t forget a favorite item such as a blanket or stuffed animal that will be of comfort during a long flight.
Navigating the time change
Try to adapt to the new time zone upon arriving to your destination and keep to a normal nap schedule. Also, be mindful to adjust according to your child’s cues.
What goes in, must come out
If your child is picky, bring a few pouches or containers of food to have as a backup.
Kids often develop constipation due to a change from their normal diets. Be on the lookout for hard or infrequent bowel movements. Try to encourage your child to drink plenty of water and eat more pitted fruits.
There is also the risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea. You and your child should drink bottled water and be careful about street-vendor food. Giving your child a probiotic daily while traveling can help protect against traveler’s diarrhea and help keep your child regular.
Medications to take
Pack children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen in case of a fever. Don’t forget to bring prescription medications that your child routinely takes such as inhalers and topical steroids. Other items that are good to have are bandages or a small first-aid kit.
In case of a medical emergency
If you need to contact your pediatrician back home, remember to take into account the time difference. Or if you need immediate assistance, ask the hotel about a local doctor.