In the movie "National Lampoon's Family Vacation," the Griswolds set out for family fun, only to find accidents and misfortunes around every corner. Unfortunately, this ode to Murphy's Law rings true for many families. But with some good planning family vacations can instead be happily remembered for what went right.
"Parents should never leave home without their pediatrician's phone number," advises St. Louis Children's Hospital pediatrician Mary Morgan, MD. "That plus a well stocked first-aid kit goes a long way toward avoiding trips to an out-of-town emergency room."
Dr. Morgan says parents should travel with bandages, their favorite over-the-counter cough medicine and fever reducer, sun screen and insect repellent. Of course, children with chronic illnesses should have their prescription medications with them. Dr. Morgan also recommends that parents check with their pediatricians to see if their child should wear a medical alert bracelet for allergies, diabetes, asthma or other problems. These precautions can guard against the stress physical illness brings to family vacations.
But what about the family's emotional health? How can you ensure happy memories for all? "When deciding where to go and what to do, let the child's age and interests set the parameters," says Rosalie Rudert of the St. Louis Children's Hospital Child Development Center.
"For example, two year olds are very active, but tire easily. Make sure you include time for them to nap."
Because three and four year olds love hands-on activities, visits to science museums, play parks and outdoor playgrounds work well. Rudert adds that active, inquisitive, experimental school aged children thrive at theme parks and enjoy outdoor experiences, such as camping and hiking.