A family walking along the beach A family walking along the beach

Plan for One, Plan for All

Dr. Jen Hartstein

Travel tips from Dr. Jen Hartstein

Planning for a family vacation means planning for everyone in your family! If someone in your family identifies with one of these categories, plan ahead using the tips below, so your family feels comfortable and is set up for success!

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Picky Eaters

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Bring Snacks: Bring your favorite snacks with you on the plane, in the car and to the hotel. This way your picky eater will have something they love even if you can't find it locally.

Research Beforehand: Research restaurants during the planning phase and find items on the menu that your picky eater will enjoy. You can even read restaurant reviews or ask locals for recommendations once you arrive.

Try New Things: Encourage your picky eater to try something new. It's okay if they don't like it, at least they tried it!


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Call Ahead: Make sure the hotel is aware of any serious allergies that could be present in the hotel room or meals that you order at the property so they can accommodate.

Research Before You Go: For seasonal allergies, check the pollen count. This information is usually available on your phones' weather app.

Prepare a List: Make a list of every medication you'll need and bring extra doses if you can. You can also locate the nearest pharmacy or doctor ahead of time, in case of an emergency.

Talk to Your Doctor: Prior to traveling, visit your doctor or allergist to ensure you've taken all the necessary precautions or to get some tips.

Physical & Mental Disabilities

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Plan Ahead: Calling ahead can alleviate a lot of day-of stress. Do your research to confirm each part of your trip can easily accommodate your family. You can also call your hotel concierge for local guidelines on places to go that are accessible.

Consult with Your Child's Physician: Call your child's physician to ensure you're aware of any activities they should steer clear from. They can also provide tips on how to make the trip even more seamless.

Plan a Day for Rest: When planning, try to include some days of rest so everyone can recharge. Rest days can be lounging by the pool or just staying in the hotel room. Also, don't be afraid to allow a little screen time during a rest day.

Don't Expect Perfection: A smooth trip never made a skilled planner. Things are bound to go wrong or not as planned while on vacation — don't stress! Exhibiting signs of stress or frustration can affect the entire group, especially children with anxiety or depression. Try to go with the flow and make the best of every situation.

Overcoming Fears


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Ask & Answer: Before the vacation, ask your children if they have any questions about flying and explain to them the process at the airport. By providing an overview of what to expect, it can help alleviate stress of the unknown.

Bring Distractions: Make sure you pack enough activities for your child to do while on the plane. Even if your flight has TVs, bringing along a device to watch movies provides them with more options since most airlines have a limited selection to choose from.

Let the Air Crew Help You: When boarding, introduce your child to the flight attendants, establishing them as friends vs. strangers. They can also show your child the different safety protocols and, if you're lucky, give you a sneak peek inside the cockpit!

Prepare and Protect: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment has become essential to ensure the safety and well-being of travelers. Though your airline may provide these, take the time to discuss what you'll need as a family (e.g., masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.) to remain safe and healthy while on vacation.


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Bring Comforts from Home: Pack a few of the traveling child's favorite toys or items such as a blanket, sippy cup or stuffed animal; this provides a sense of normalcy while on vacation.

Stay on Schedule: Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. When you skip naps or forget snacks, children are more likely to experience stress. Stick with what you (and they) know, so you both avoid having a meltdown.

Start a Countdown Calendar: Create a calendar with words or stickers of activities you've planned throughout the trip. During the trip, have your child cross off each day, this way they're able to see what's to come and how long you'll be away for.


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Talk it Out: Work towards understanding the reason behind children's fears. If you know what they're grappling with, help them overcome their fear and feel more at ease in the water.

Go Together & Bring Toys: If you want your child to experience aquatic life, join them to show it's safe and you're there if they need you. If you're going to spend a lot of time near water, pack some goggles, floaties or other water toys to bring more fun to the activity and less fear.

Start Swimming Lessons Before the Trip: Before the trip, sign your child up for swimming lessons, turning their fear into something productive and, hopefully, fun! Use the date of your vacation as an end goal where they can show off what they've learned once you're on vacation.

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