15 Expert Tips to Stay Healthy Traveling (with Kids)

Worried about getting sick while traveling with kids? Coming down with a cold, the flu, or other malady can ruin an otherwise amazing vacation. You’ve invested a lot of money and time into planning your family trip, so don’t let illness spoil your time away. These 15 tried-and-true tips from travel experts will help your family stay healthy while traveling.

Washing hands is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay healthy while traveling or at home
Hand washing is one of the easiest and best ways to stay healthy while traveling with kids (Photo credit: turgayada.hotmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

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1. Wash hands often.

Traveling with the Littles Author Catherine Brady reminds us, “The best way to prevent the passage of germs is by washing your hands. This little step frequently gets lost in the hustle and bustle of traveling, when washing your hands can be the most beneficial.”

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Variety Pack, Naturals and Refreshing Gel Travel Size
Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Variety Pack, Naturals and Refreshing Gel Travel Size (Photo from Amazon.com)

2. Use hand sanitizer.

Soap and water aren’t always readily available. Pack antibacterial gel or alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse or day bag. Use it often: after theme park rides, before eating, after handling cruise ship buffet ladles, and beyond.

Kate Allen from Little Miss Kate & Co. suggests attaching a small bottle of hand sanitizer to each child’s bag when traveling. She says, “There are lots of hand sanitizer options that have clips or holders that will attach them to any purse or bag. Make sure your kids know how to open and close the containers, and that a little goes a long way.”

Use antibacterial wipes to disinfect germ-ridden surfaces during your travels, like airplane tray tables
Use antibacterial wipes to disinfect germ-ridden surfaces during your travels, like airplane tray tables (Photo credit: coffmancmu, Depositphotos.com)

3. Pack antibacterial wipes.

Antibacterial wipes are a parent’s best friend when traveling with kids. Use these to wipe down notoriously germ-ridden surfaces during your travels, like tray tables and armrests on airplanes. You should also disinfect your hotel room or vacation rental by cleaning remote controls, doorknobs, and light switches.

Family on Standby‘s Nick Stretchbery agrees. He says, “We fly a TON with our toddler, and I don’t think we’d make it without bringing a billion wipes with us in the diaper bag. On her 50+ flights, there might have been three during which she didn’t attempt to put her mouth on the tray table or eat something directly off it. Before each flight, we clean that bad boy off, along with the window, because, well…you never know.”

Wearing masks and filtered gaiters can protect from germs and pollution when traveling with kids
My son and husband wearing filtered gaiters in Shanghai, China

4. Wear a filtered mask.

Masks for adults approved by the Center for Disease Control and KN95 masks for kids protect from harmful germs while traveling. These are particularly beneficial in airports, on buses and other public transportation, and in crowded places like markets and theme parks.

Masks also protect from pollution in cities. Gaiters with a filter insert do the same while keeping your family warm during your travels.

Making your own breakfasts while traveling, like my family did in Paris, can help prevent over-indulging
Making your own breakfasts while traveling, as my family did in Paris, can mean better food choices (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Make healthy food choices.

Eating healthfully is the foundation of good health, whether at home or on the go. Sure, you want to try new, exciting new foods while traveling, but it’s important to eat a balanced diet so you can keep your energy up and avoid tummy troubles.

Eat plenty of high-fiber foods like fresh fruits, veggies, legumes, and lean proteins. Be reasonable when it comes to fatty or sugary treats and fast food. For my family, it’s all about balance. Sure, we want that ice cream at Disneyland, but we try to stick to just one splurge per day.

Be sure to eat your veggies when traveling with kids!
Be sure to eat your veggies when traveling! (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Lisa Cameron with Adventures in Familyhood advises packing healthy travel snacks. She says, “To avoid overeating and eventual car sickness on a road trip, I pack each kid an individual snack pack. Inside the pack are healthy snacks such as yogurt, cheese sticks, pretzels, and fresh fruits. The snacks inside are to last for the duration of the trip.”

Cameron continues, “Not only does this method keep their snacking healthy, but it also helps us avoid fights over snacks, which is good for our mental health.”

Fresh produce in San Miguel de Allende
Soak raw fruits and vegetables in iodine solution in destinations where drinking water is unsafe, like Mexico (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Avoid foodborne illness.

Take precautions to avoid foodborne illness when traveling with kids, too. Be sure to wash fresh produce with an iodine solution in international travel destinations without safe drinking water. You can typically pick this up from the local grocery store.

Sandy Gram from the Mixed Blessings blog also recommends travelers, “Try not to eat raw or undercooked meat while traveling to foreign countries where food inspections may not be stringent. And, before eating at a restaurant, look around and check to see if it’s clean.”

Food sold by street vendors can be tempting. Stalls with a long line of locals are probably okay but these types of establishments can have less regulations and access to water and refrigeration for safe food handling. To play it safe, you may want to skip these options altogether.

Weekly Pill Organizer Canvas Travel Medicine Box with Zipper Bag 7 Day
Weekly Pill Organizer Canvas Travel Medicine Box with Zipper Bag 7 Day (Photo from Amazon.com)

7. Take vitamins and supplements.

Even when making a concerted effort to eat right, getting all the nutrients your family needs can be difficult, especially when away from home. That’s why I pack multivitamins for both adults and children.

Get a yummy chewable vitamin for kids with lots of vitamin C. To be sure everyone remembers to take their vitamins while traveling, use a travel pill case marked with the days of the week.

Melynda Coble Harrison from TravelingMel and Mel’s Garden advises, “Take probiotics and essential oil capsules before and during the trip. We take a room temperature-stable probiotic while traveling to help keep the digestive issues at bay, especially in countries where that is likely to be an issue for us.”

Interested in learning more about essential oils for good health? Take a look at these tips for using essential oils while traveling.

A good night's rest helps maintain both physical and mental health while traveling with children
A good night’s rest helps maintain both physical and mental health while traveling (Photo credit: romrodinka, Depositphotos.com)

8. Maintain good sleep habits.

Becky Morales with Kid World Citizen says, “I really feel like a well-rested child (or adult!) is much more likely to have a strong immune system. Adequate sleep is the key to staying healthy while traveling!”

Little Family Adventure‘s Nicki Omohundro agrees. She advises, “If traveling with small children who still nap, maintain your child’s sleep schedule as best you can. It’s tempting to skip the nap because there are so many things you want to see and do while on vacation. But your child needs that rest. If you skip it and push too far, a meltdown will likely ensue.”

Avoid jet lag to ensure the entire family gets enough sleep. Try to get into the new time zone as quickly as possible by getting lots of sunshine and going to bed at a reasonable hour. This will help get your circadian rhythms on track.

To learn how to make sure the whole family is well-rested during your vacation, take a look at these tips for good sleep when traveling with kids.

When in doubt, order bottled water when traveling to a foreign country with kids
When in doubt, order bottled water when traveling in a foreign country (Photo credit: karandaev, Depositphotos.com)

9. Keep your family hydrated.

Staying hydrated is essential for good health. Keep in mind that flying on airplanes with kids (or at any age) can lead to dehydration. The same is true of traveling to higher altitudes. Alcohol zaps hydration, too, so Mom and Dad may want to skip the cocktails, especially for the first day or two of your trip. Coconut water, non-sugary electrolyte-infused sports drinks, and plenty of water are best.

Packing one refillable water bottle per traveler is a great way to keep all family members hydrated. Jurga Van S., creator of Full Suitcase Family says, “We always carry reusable water bottles, one per person, and fill them up when possible. It is good for your health, saves money, and is environmentally friendly.”

GRAYL GeoPress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle - Filter for Hiking, Camping, Survival, Travel
GRAYL GeoPress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle – Filter for Hiking, Camping, Survival, Travel (Photo from Amazon.com)

10. Make sure drinking water is safe.

Before reaching your destination, research whether the local drinking water is safe. When in doubt, avoid tap water. Instead, stick to bottled water for drinking and even brushing your teeth.

Alternatively, bring along your own water purifier bottle. Liling Pang, co-founder of Trekaroo, advises, “Travel with a water purifier that is easy to use. You’ll always have clean water without polluting the environment with tons of plastic waste.”

Use insect repellent spray to avoid bug bites when traveling with children
Use insect repellent spray to avoid bug bites (Photo credit: galitskaya, Depositphotos.com)

11. Protect kids from bug bites.

If traveling to a destination where mosquitos and other biting insects are prevalent, take steps to protect your family from bug bites.

Katja Gaskill with Globetotting says, “Having lived in two countries with my kids where mosquito-borne diseases were a part of daily life and having traveled to a few more, we’ve got our anti-mosquito bite routine down pat! Make sure everyone in the family wears long sleeves and long pants, and avoid dark colors if possible.”

She continues, “Use a recommended bug spray on any exposed areas. Mosquito bands or patches are also a good idea for kids.” Additionally, Gaskill recommends staying indoors at dusk, when mosquitos like to come out to feast.

Be sure to apply sunblock on kids when traveling, even when you're NOT at the beach
Be sure to apply sunblock on kids when traveling, even when you’re NOT at the beach (Photo credit: shalamov, Depositphotos.com)

12. Apply sunblock regularly.

It’s easy to get caught up in seeing the sites or splashing in the ocean and forget to protect your family’s skin from the sun’s harsh rays. Wear clothing with sun protection and apply sunscreen regularly.

Eileen Gunn from FamiliesGo! says, “Pack sunscreen even for trips you might not think of. You need it for outdoor winter activities like skiing, for example. Sunscreen is imperative even on city vacations, when you’re out walking around all day, and you’re taking in more sun than you realize.”

Even when you take all necessary precautions, you or your child may get motion sick like my daughter did during a snorkeling tour in Hawaii
Even when you take all necessary precautions, you or your child may get motion sick like my daughter did during a snorkeling tour in Hawaii (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

13. Avoid motion sickness.

Motion sickness can zap the fun from any vacation. Even if no one in your family has gotten motion sick in the past, it’s best to be prepared.

Kaylie Baker with Happiness Travels Here suggests, “Stay hydrated and keep snacks small and bland. Look out to the horizon and remove anything that is obstructing the view out the window. Hanging toys are not your friend in this scenario!”

Avoid an empty stomach and bring along high-protein snacks like protein bars, too. For more help, read these motion sickness tips and remedies for kids.

Pack medications your family might need during your vacation
Pack medications your family might need during your vacation (Photo credit: devilkae)

14. Keep a separate supply of medicines for travel.

Although you’re doing your best to avoid getting sick, illness can still strike while traveling. It’s important to have some relief on hand when it does.

Rather than digging through the medicine cabinet before every vacation, I advise keeping a separate supply of medicines just for travel. Suggestions include pain/fever relievers, decongestants, cough syrup, antibiotic ointment, small bandages, and medication for relief from constipation or diarrhea. Be sure to pack any prescription medications, too.

Whisky + Sunshine Editor Jana Seitzer suggests, “Always pack antihistamines like Benadryl and hydrocortisone lotion (and Epi-pens if you have a known food allergy) when traveling. Allergies to food can creep up at any time!”

If you or a member of your family has a serious food allergy, be sure to check out our tips for traveling with life-threatening food allergies.

Stay safe and healthy when traveling with kids
Take safety precautions like wearing helmets when biking with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. Make time for safe play and rest.

When planning your family vacation, try to alternate busy days with mellow days. Making time for physical activity and play is a good idea for all ages. Just be sure to take necessary safety precautions, like wearing life jackets when swimming or boating with young children and sporting helmets when biking at any age.

Catherine Brady from Traveling with the Littles says, “Often while traveling, we try to cram in as much as possible. Cut your sightseeing list down and move at a slower pace. This gives everyone time to rest and nap if necessary. And burn-out will be less likely.”

Children do not have the patience or stamina for fast-paced, non-stop travel. Karen Presley Dawkins with Family Travels on a Budget recommends parents remember this when embarking on road trips. She says, “The ‘get there as fast as you can’ mentality is really tough on young kids. Those car seats get hot. And kid muscles need to move. Stop at rest areas to let kids chase bubbles, take a walk or even to do jumping jacks. Happy kids are less stressed. Less stress is better for everyone!”

Facing the direction you're headed can help avoid motion sickness on a boat or any mode of transportation
Fresh air and facing the direction you’re headed can help avoid motion sickness on a boat or any mode of transportation (Photo credit: shalamov, Depositphotos.com)

Learn more travel tips for families.

Planning a cruise vacation? Follow these tips to stay fit on a cruise and learn what to do if you become sick while cruising.

Travel is for all ages and abilities! Follow these tips for traveling with children who have disabilities.

Keep kids entertained on the go with these travel toys for young children and travel toys for big kids.

You’ll love our list of unusual things to add to your family vacation packing list.

Expert Tips for Healthy Travel with Kids

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Keep these tips to stay healthy when traveling on future family vacations. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. Follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What are your best tips for staying healthy while traveling with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: This story is based on tips from travel experts, not medical professionals. Please check with your family doctor or pediatrician regarding any health decisions.


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    1. Thanks, Claudia! Most of us aren’t traveling much right now, but hopefully soon we’ll be able to hit the road again…and we’ll all want to stay healthy & safe when we do!

  1. Learned the hard way that we need to slow our travels down, especially when you start to feel run down. My youngest got sick at Disney TWICE. Learned how to slow down real fast… and take naps on vacation. Ha!

  2. I use antibacterial wipes and wipe down my area on the plane. I wash my hands a lot and make sure that I’m well hydrated!

  3. My tip is: Prior to trips we take extra doses of elderberry syrup, vitamin c and yogurt with probiotics.
    Additional tips: I always travel with bleach wipes and sanitizer. I wipe down my entire seat area on flight. Ive used a scarf during winter months when illness is more rampant. Ive traveled extensively and have never gotten sick.

  4. All of these tips are great. I don’t think I can add much. I make sure to get rest time, take vitamins and vaccinate before international travel, carry hand sanitizer with me, etc.

    This Bioscarf looks cool. I’d love to try one.

  5. Getting lots of sleep is important. It might be tempting to forego sleep in exchange for fun times, but the lack of sleep harms your immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness.

  6. We always have wipes with us. When we travel, we wipe down everything. Phones, remotes. light switches, mouses, etc.

  7. Getting sick while you’re in a vacation is probably the worst thing. Not only will I not be able to enjoy my trip, but getting my hands on medical treatment can be quite a pain to deal with. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips!

    1. Agreed — it’s so important to bring along all medications you think you might need just in case of illness. You don’t want to be in a remote location with no relief!

  8. Frequent hand washing or using hand sanitizers is a must as is carrying wipes to disinfect things when needed.