When Kids Get Sick On Trips

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Kids get sick, that’s just a fact of life.  Most of the time you are at home where you can deal with illness without much of a hassle other than re-arranging your day.  Such as my son throwing up all over our car a couple weeks ago just as we were loading up the car to leave for the baby sitters so mommy could go to her skating practice.  But what do you do when your child gets sick on your vacation?  Especially if you’ve flown thousands of miles to get to your destination!  Here are a few tips to manage a sick child on holiday while trying to still salvage your trip.

When my son threw up the other day, it reminded me of our vacation to Budapest and Bratislava a couple years ago when my oldest son (then just 4 years old) threw up all over our hotel room in Slovakia on the last day of our trip, an hour before we were supposed to check out of the hotel.

We were still living in Germany at the time and drove the 6 hours to Budapest, Hungary and Bratislava, Slovakia.  We were going to be gone a total of 6 days.  After a wonderful time in Budapest, we on to Bratislava for the last 2 1/2 days.  The morning we were going to check out and drive home I was packing some things in our suitcase when I heard a cough, then a quick gagging sound.  I immediately looked over at my son, already knowing what was coming next and shouted at my husband to get him to the bathroom since he was a closer to our son.  My husband lunged over to him and picked him up from behind and started to walk to the bathroom.  At the exact moment my husband took his first step, my son let loose the full contents of his stomach.  The spew spilled out directly in the path of travel my husband was on and just like in a cartoon, his next step went right into the slippery pile of puke that sent my husband’s feet right out from under him.  He landed flat on his back, in the puke, arms clinched around our son who landed safely on my husband’s stomach.

It’s just one of those things you can’t help, laughing through. The problem however, was that I had become an efficient packer, and even though we were road tripping it and that allowed me a few extra luxuries for the long drive, clothing was packed rather precisely and finding something clean enough for a toddler to wear on the last day of vacation was a challenge.  My poor husband was in the same boat!  It was also a Sunday so all the regular shops were closed so I could just pop into a store and buy a new outfit. Fortunately we were in a very friendly hotel and the late check out was not a problem nor did they make a big deal about the mess.  Somehow we managed to clean up everyone and made it home safely.  Thank goodness it was the last day of our trip!  But just in case yours is at the beginning or the middle here are a few things to be aware of and some tips for prevention.

Strolling around all bundled up and with an eye infection :(

Strolling around all bundled up and with an eye infection 😦

1. Even if you have enough clothes for your trip, still wash the first set of outfits in the sink after the first day and let dry in the place you are staying so that you will always have an extra set of “just in case” clothes that are clean.

2. Look up what a Pharmacy is called in the country you are visiting. In German it’s the Apotheke in French is Pharmacie. You will notice similar variations with the “Ap” or “ph/f” at the beginning of the word for many European countries.  And a red or green “+” (plus) sign is very common for medical/pharmaceutical locations.

3. Be aware that in some countries, such as Germany, these are closed on Sunday and holidays. However there is always an emergency pharmacy open in the city somewhere and a sign should be on the closed ones telling you where the emergency pharmacy is located.

4.  For young children, most European medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen and other medicines for anti-vomiting come in suppository form instead of an oral pill.  So if it looks a little waxy like and larger than you think a kid should be able to swallow, you know you’ve gotten the suppository and that it is for your little one’s bum not the mouth.

5.  In the event that your child isn’t feeling well and you dread wasting a day cooped up in a hotel, make that day a park or nature day.  If your child is small enough for a stroller, go outdoors and see the natural environment of your destination, or stroll a public park.  As long as they are appropriately dressed for the weather, the fresh air will do them some good in getting over the illness.

6. Gallon size ziplock bags and baby wipes can be your best friend!  Even if your child is already potty trained, baby wipes are wonderful for cleaning up messes in a pinch.  Ziplock pages are a great way to seal soiled clothing, or rags should an unexpected illness arise.

7.  Anti-bacterial hand sanitizers are always a great idea.  I’ve also found anti-bacterial hand wipes from The Dollar Tree when I didn’t want to take the risk of  liquid bottle accidentally squeezing out inside my bag.

8. Take some powdered packets of Pedialyte. Easy to pack and then just mix up with water in case you or  your little ones get traveler’s diarrhea.  If you don’t have these, look for Gatorade or Poweraid (I found Poweraid to be more common than Gatoraid in Europe) to help replenish lost electrolytes. Also remember to stick to bottled water if you’ve gotten sick, as there is a chance that it was the tap water that made you or your child sick, depending on your destination.

9. Talk to your doctor/pediatrician or travel doctor before you go on your trip if you are venturing anywhere slightly exotic.  They may be able to give you some antibiotics to take with you to treat specific illnesses common to your area of travel, such as traveler’s diarrhea. You should also check if there are any specific vaccinations you should get before traveling to that area.

10. Know your medical insurance.  If you aren’t covered for travel outside of your home country, ask before a trip if you can purchase a short term traveler’s protection policy.  It might be cheaper and easier to use than a 3rd party trip insurance.  If you or your child gets really sick and you need to seek medical non-emergency medical help and you haven’t purchased coverage already, still try to call your insurance company before you go and see if you can get it activated on the spot. And lastly, there are also 3rd party travel insurance groups that can provide short term trip coverages for illness.  We’ve never used any 3rd party travel insurance as our insurance we in Germany covered all of the EU and we bought the extra package with our current insurance in the US that covers international travel.

A sign on a local German pharmacy on Sunday telling customers where the emergency pharmacy will be open for the day.

A sign on a local German pharmacy on Sunday telling customers where the emergency pharmacy will be open for the day.

Be sure to check out my other post “Travel Doctors-Help Protect Your Family On Your Next Trip Overseas.

Travel Doctors-Help Protect Your Family On Your Next Trip Overseas

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Getting a general check up at our travel doctor appointment.

Getting a general check up at our travel doctor appointment.

In my 6 years of traveling overseas with the kids, I never really thought about making a special appointment with our doctor or pediatrician specifically for our journey.  Since, most of our traveling was within Europe or North America, and our kids had received the vaccinations that were on the normal schedule for inhabitants of those countries, I never worried too much about infectious diseases.  But now we are taking our first trip to Asia and I wanted to be prepared after hearing for several years about different diseases that were more unique to that part of the world.  Our general practitioner that we had in the US before we moved to Germany just so happened to also specialize in travel medicine, so we knew that a travel medicine specialty was a think some doctors had.  Naturally, we called upon the same doctor as we prepare for our upcoming trip to Japan since we knew him and he had also prepared my husband for his potential job travel to Asia and Africa.  Here are a few things we learned about working with a travel doctor and the benefits it provides while preparing for international travel with kids.

1. First off, what is a travel doctor and how do you find one? A travel doctor is simply an M.D. who took on some extra training/education in infectious diseases or world health. They stay abreast on different diseases around the world and the prevention of such.  They also offer vaccinations beyond the normal ones prevalent to the area where you live.  You can start with a simple Google search in your are for a travel doctor, or check with your county’s public health office.  For example, King County, where I live has a Public Health Travel Clinic.  Many cities have specific “Travel Clinics” where doctors and nurses have pooled together under this specialty.  Other private practice doctor’s may have just chosen this as an additional specialty (like ours) and will post somewhere on their page that they also specialize in “Travel Medicine” or “Infectious Disease.”

2.If you have never seen a travel doctor before, be sure to send all medical records for yourself and your children to the doctor well in advance of your appointment.  This will be important for children. While a travel doctor will also know which vaccinations are suitable for children at certain ages, you can find out which vaccines are recommended in advance and then discuss them with your child’s pediatrician too for your specific child in case you have specific concerns regarding your child’s health.

3. A travel doctor will usually have more vaccinations for different countries than a normal doctor, but be sure to tell them when you make the appointment which countries you will be traveling to and how many people you think will need the vaccination so they can be sure to have everything you need at your appointment.

4.Let your kids see you get your shots first if they will also need to get shots as well. Make sure you tell the nurse beforehand that it is important to do it in this order.  My husband and I were both at the appointment and in an effort to conserve time, the doctor and I went in another room to finish going over my additional medical history with one kid while my husband stayed in the other room to get the kids started on their one shot.  The nurse chose our middle child, who still remembered getting his 5 year kindergarten shots just a couple months prior, to go first and he was terrified.  He didn’t realize he was getting just one and it would have been helpful for him to have seen mom and dad be brave with theirs.

Watching dad get his vaccination, after the kids got theirs.

Watching dad get his vaccination, after the kids got theirs.

5. At the end of our appointment, our doctor went over some of the other minor illnesses related to our destination, including the common traveler’s diarrhea and some ways to prevent and treat. He also discussed several other general health concerns and prevention for travel.

6. Our travel doctor also asked us if we wanted him to give us a prescription for an antibiotic to fight a bacterial “traveler’s diarrhea” should we contract it. There is a prescription you can get in powder form that does not need to be refrigerated until you mix it with water and since it is just a powder, you don’t have to worry about a liquid spilling in your luggage. Plus, if you don’t need it on your vacation, you can save it for future use within its expiration date.

7. We also received a prescription for water purifying tablets (iodine) just in case there was some kind of natural disaster and we became unsure of the water source.

8. Our doctor brought up other points regarding insects and the spread of disease and had a list of different types of repellents, including some non-toxic more natural based ones that would help keep away some of the more common disease carrying ones like mosquitos and ticks. Of course, if you are sticking to just the city on your trip, it’s not much of an issue.

9. Before your appointment, be sure to check with your insurance to see what coverage you have regarding adult vaccinations and general appointments. For ours, everything was covered on our plan because our appointment was considered preventative.  We only had a co-pay for the antibiotics that we got for all 5 of us.

10. Finally, be sure to check on the Department of State’s website (for U.S. citizens, or your country’s State Department’s website for non-U.S. residents) to see if there are any countries where you must show documentation of specific vaccines.  You will want to obtain these records to take with you on your trip.

In all, our appointment took about an hour and a half for all 5 of us and we left with a great piece of mind for our health on our upcoming trip to Japan!

5 Favorite European Cities for Family Vacations

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When my husband and I first started traveling with our children, and later as I traveled alone with them, we never really picked out a place based on how “kid friendly” it was.  My three children all took their first international trips before the age of 2 years old, and since we were living in Europe when they were all under the age of 5 years old, they went to several different countries at very young ages.  At first, they were just along for the ride.  We went to places that we wanted to see, and then just found something cool for them to do once we got there.  What we found during those toddler years was that the kids just want to be like us.  If we’re excited about something, they are too.  It’s all about how you present the activity.  Amidst our hit and miss journeys with the kids, I chose to highlight 5 of the city vacations we took as a family that stood out the most for being enjoyed equally by parents and kids.

1. Budapest, Hungary.  I’m putting this charming capital city right at #1! It earns its spot not just because we enjoyed our time there so much, but because we didn’t have enough time to see everything the city has to offer and I long to go back.  We visited in January, so our winter experience will be a little different from a trip in the summer.  We chose to do the Hop-On-Hop off tour that left from a park across the street from our hotel (Le Méridien Budapest).  At the time of travel our two boys were 2 and 3 1/2 years old.  They got a big kick out of the large bus and listening to the headphones.  Highlights of the trip included: Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Hungarian Parliament Building, the Szechenyi Baths,  and the Városliget (the main “City Park”).  The Városliget has so much to offer families – both the zoo and circus are located here – but we did not make it to visit either of them on our 3 day trip.  Since we were there in the winter, we were able to ice skate outdoors on the lake in the Városliget.  It was a magical setting with the beautiful Castle Vajdahunyad in the background.  Our dining highlight was at the New York Cafe. It’s as glamorous inside as any palace in Europe.

Ice Skating in Budapest

Ice Skating in Budapest

2. Paris, France. I know, typical tourist you’ll say.  But who can resist the city of lights.  There’s a reason our travels have taken us back there time after time.  There is always more to see, and yet I often end up back at some of my favorite 3 or 4 spots each time.  Plus, Paris has an abundance of playgrounds that are really cool and very close to all the other “adult” attractions.  As awesome as the Metro is for getting around, I now find walking and the bus much more enjoyable with the kids than the smelly underground that is constantly posing a risk to theft from pick pockets.  While visiting, make sure to take the kids to the playground on the side and back of the Notre Dame (get wiggles out before you visit the cathedral or as a bribe for good behavior after the tour).  Spend your lunch in the Tuileries at the large playground in the middle of the park next to the carousel.  Then take the kids to the Lourve after they’ve had some fun running around.  For parents that are nervous about art museums and kids, try going on a Wednesday or Friday night if your little ones will sleep in a stroller, the museum is open until 9:45 p.m. on these nights.  The Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Plantes are also favorites of ours with enough to keep both adults and kids entertained for days.

Playground in the Tuileries. Paris, France.

Playground in the Tuileries. Paris, France.

3. London, U.K.  How can you not love London, except for the perhaps the prices?!  We had so much fun on our first trip there with our kids that we ended up extending the holiday an extra 2 days!    An entire day can be spend just roaming Hyde park.  Its 3 major playgrounds are wonderful stops in between wandering rose gardens and memorials.  The favorite was the Peter Pan themed, Diana Memorial Playground next to Kensington Palace.  No wonder Prince William and Princess Kate decided to make Kensington their family home.  While we didn’t take our kids to the Tower of London or Windsor on our family trip, we’ve always had success with castles and kids so a trip to these sights would be worth it for the whole family.  After you’ve watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, walk through St. Jame’s Park where there is a small playground as well as an abundance of different types of birds walking around, you’ll then end up at the Horse Guard Parade next to the British Cabinet offices and the famous 10 Downing Street.  After watching the horse changing of the guard it’s a quick walk over to the beautiful Westminster Abbey and Big Ben at the Parliament Building.  A ride on the London Eye is well worth the wait and the money.  We did it with a 3 and 1 year old.  There is also a wonderful playground across from the London Eye.  Use these different playground stops to get get rid of some energy in between some of the more formal sights and museums that “mum” and dad want to enjoy.

View from the London Eye.

View from the London Eye.

4. Munich, GermanyI may be a little bias to Munich because I actually lived there for 2 years, but I think most tourists who have visited the city with kids would agree that it’s a gem for families.  Munich in general is a very clean and safe city with an excellent public transportation system.  Beyond the traditional tourist attractions mentioned in guidebooks, a few things make Munich stand out as a fabulous family destination.  Beirgartens with playgrounds!  Yes, you can bring your children to the “bar” so to say.  Munich is full of wonderful biergartens that serve traditional Bavarian food and the all famous Mass of beer.  Outdoor seating is first come first serve and, besides being able to bring your kids to play on the playground while you have a “cold one”, you can also bring your own food!  You must purchase your drinks there, but while food is available for purchase, it is perfectly acceptable to bring your own picnic lunch to eat at the beer garden while enjoying a nice Helles or an Apfelschoeler for the kids.  We spent most of our beirgarten hours at Hofbräukeller (not to be confused with the Hofbräuhaus) and The Chinese Tower in the English Garden due to the proximity to our home.  However, the Hirchaugarten on the other side of the city is also extremely popular for families.  Additionally, Munich has several restaurants that will offer an indoor play area for kids and often includes child care workers to watch them while parents enjoy their meal.  It’s typical to tip the workers 1-2 Euros per child for this service.  Brenner Grill is a great Sunday brunch spot with this service.  And since it is right next to the Residence (city palace), you can feed them and let them play before taking a tour inside the palace.  Munich has several world-class art museums for adults as well as the famous Deutsches Museum that is a hit for the whole family!  All these attractions have playgrounds nearby.  And no one can mention Munich without emphasising the Englischer Garten.  Spend the day there for loads of fun with the whole family! You’ll also find numerous activities at the Olympia Park where the 1976 Olympics were held.  You’ll find activities such as putt-putt (mini-golf), ice skating (indoors), boat rentals for the little lake in the summer and the BMW Museum (BMW Welt).  Plus lots of green park to explore! This city is definitely one of the most relaxed urban environments in Europe!

Playground at the Chinese Tour Biergarten in the Englischer Garten, Munich, Germany

Playground at the Chinese Tour Biergarten in the Englischer Garten, Munich, Germany

5. Vienna, Austria.  Austria continues to be one of our favorite countries in Europe overall.  We took a trip to Vienna in November and then again in December for Christmas.  To even our own surprise, we did the most “adult” things on our visits with our boys (ages 3 and 4 1/2 at the time) and yet they still had a blast.  We visited the fewest number of playgrounds; I am pretty sure we only went to one the whole time.  Yet even their young eyes were fascinated by the glittering gold and paintings in St. Peter’s Church. We took them to the Albertina and Belvedere Art Museum and had fun asking the boys to tell us what they saw in each painting.  At the Schloss Schönbrunn, you can tour the remarkable grounds of the palace and the imperial apartments, and then let the kids get a taste of what it was like to be a royal child in the children’s museum.  This offers a whole wing of the palace dedicated to hands on child-centered museum activities and dress up.  While we visited the palace at Christmas, we got to experience the Christmas market that featured extra craft huts for kids and games in the market center.  The most memorable experience for me was taking our boys to a classical music concert in the very room where Mozart performed for his first time in front of the Empress Maria Theresia at The Auersperg Palace.  It was too cute seeing them listening and watching the music and some dancers and then occasionally pretend to be the conductor with their arms.  While we did not see the performance of the Spanish Riding school, it was a big regret and it is highly recommended by other travelers.  Also recommended by others but missed by us is spending the day in the Prater.  We did sneak in a tour of the Hofburg (main palace), though. Overall, half the fun was just walking through the beautiful streets of Vienna and letting the kids see the horse drawn carriages and delightful cake and pastry shops, and of course sampling a few!

Sharing Vienna with other children via the Flat Stanley/Flat Sarah project.

Sharing Vienna with other children via the Flat Stanley/Flat Sarah project.

Clearly there are more things to do in each of these cities than we were able to fit in. However, the experiences left a lasting impression on our whole family and we found it quite easy to see many of the sights one wouldn’t normally think to take children to.  Europe in general is a great place for children, and it was quite difficult to narrow it down to 5 favorites to highlight.  Some other cities in the running were Edinbourgh, Scotland; Brussels, Belgium; The Hague, The Netherlands, Berlin, Germany and Valencia and Barcelona in Spain.  Keep checking back for more posts on our trips to each of these cities!