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Family Spring Break Travel: Stay Healthy and Safe

Say good-bye to winter blues by taking a family vacation during spring break. Ensure the success of your trip—whether you’re going to a beach resort, theme park, or ski mountain—by planning a healthy and safe holiday.

International trips

Photo: A family on vaccation.Vaccination before vacation. Before going abroad, find out about important vaccines you and your family should have and any health concerns associated with your destination. Contact your local health department or a travel medicine specialist for specifics.

Remember it's still flu season. Vaccines are the most important tool we have for preventing the flu. Talk to your doctor about getting a seasonal flu vaccination and a vaccination against the 2009 H1N1 virus before you travel. Information is available at www.flu.gov.

Travel health insurance. Consider purchasing health insurance if you're traveling outside the United States, because your regular carrier may not cover expenses. Coverage for emergency medical evacuation can be useful. For safety concerns, review the U.S. Department of State's website www.travel.state.gov. It assists travelers in gauging the political climate of possibly unstable countries.

You are what you eat. In developing countries, eat foods that have been fully cooked and served hot. Avoid eating fresh vegetables and fruits, unless you can peel them yourself. Unpasteurized dairy products are a big gamble, particularly if you are traveling with infants. If your baby is bottle-fed, carry powdered baby formula and use purified, bottled water with intact seals. And, because a "hungry kid is a cranky kid," bring sensible snacks for long airplane rides or car drives.

During your trip

Buckle up. On a road trip, everyone needs to be buckled in securely. Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years. Seats should fit body size and be installed properly.

Remember the basics of safe driving:

  • Photo: A family in their vehicle.Keep your speed below the speed limit.
  • Stay alert.
  • Avoid distractions like talking on the phone or texting.
  • Avoid drinking and driving.
  • Avoid venturing into dangerous areas.

Families that play together, stay together. Families should develop their own system for staying together, particularly if they are going into theme parks and other crowded areas. Parents can determine a comfortable level of independence based on the age and maturity of each child, but everyone should know what to do if separated from the group. Caution your children about talking to strangers.

Active vacations. Active vacations depend on reliable outfitters for success. While you are making reservations, determine if activities are appropriate to the ages and abilities of your children. Ask if guides have experience in working with children of those ages. Make sure their equipment is well-maintained and meets safety standards. If you rent bikes or rollerblades, insist on helmets and pads.

Child care. If you are staying at a resort with children's programs, find out about the staff's training and what health and safety measures are in place. Ask if activities are designed to fit the skills of your child.

Prevention is the best medicine

Prevention can be travel-sized. A family vacation can turn into a nightmare if someone gets sick. To handle such situations, pack common medications, such as antibiotics, allergy tablets, first aid supplies, and hand sanitizers. Insect repellent and antidiarrheal medicine are musts. Keep your pediatrician's phone number handy in case of an emergency.

Diarrhea. For small children the combination of diarrhea and a hot climate is especially dangerous because kids are very vulnerable to the effects of fluid loss and dehydration. An oral rehydration solution (ORS) is the quickest way to correct dehydration. ORS packets are sold at stores and pharmacies in almost all developing countries, or you can pack your own in a travel health kit.

Travel wise. Here are a few practical reminders for healthy and safe travels with your family:

  • Take time to become familiar with your surroundings. Inspect hotel rooms for hazards, such as sharp corners on furniture and unprotected electrical outlets, exposed wiring, or faulty balcony railings.
  • Keep a restful pace. Schedule nap times as you would at home. Downtime is especially important for the first couple of days while you are recovering from jet lag. Remember, different environments and changes in schedule can be stressful.
  • Introduce your children to new experiences gently. Let waves lap their ankles instead of plunging their bodies into tall breakers. Put them on the bunny slope first, so they can master the skills needed for more challenging slopes.
  • Check for weather changes, and wear the right clothes. Very cold weather poses dangers, especially hypothermia or frostbite. Dress in layers and remember to cover your head, hands, and feet properly.
  • Wear sunscreen. Avoid overexposure to the sun by wearing protective clothing and seeking shade during the hottest time of day, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
  • Swim in safe places. Before jumping in, ask about bacterial contamination, water depth, and other hazards, such as sharp rocks or coral, riptides, and dangerous sea creatures.
  • Keep children at a safe distance from stray or unfamiliar animals. A medical professional should evaluate any injuries.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash pacifiers, teething rings, and toys often.
  • Children can have ear pain during airline flights, especially during descent and landing. To gain comfort, infants should nurse or suck on a bottle and older children can chew gum to equalize pressure in the middle ear.

Most importantly, relax and have a good time. Kids recognize when parents are tense or nervous, so plan ahead to avoid problems. We at the CDC want your family to create happy memories together.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: February 22, 2010 (archived document)
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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