Nutrition and Health When Travelling With Small Children

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Travelling with small children can be a joy and a challenge for parents. For things to go smoothly, it’s important to be well prepared and know the types of foods that are available in the country you are travelling to. Having travelled on long haul flights to foreign countries with small children myself, I am very familiar with the challenges faced by parents.

Nutrition and health tips when travelling with children

  • Prior to departure research your destination. Find out what the local foods are, whether there are any local markets or supermarkets that are close to your accommodation.
  • When travelling by plane, take a bottle of water and encourage your children to stay well hydrated. Arrange children’s meals in advance and have readily available snacks packed in your carry on luggage. Some good ideas include light crackers and cheese, cut up carrots and cucumber, wholegrain sandwiches and fresh or dried fruit. If travelling with infants, feed them as you would at home. The change in atmospheric pressure when landing can cause ear pain that can be distressing in young children. Give them a bottle/ drink during descent.
  • Choose appropriate accommodation A self- contained unit is ideal which has a microwave or a stove top. This enables you to prepare quick and familiar meals, and organise snacks for the day if you plan to go touring. Always pack water and a few of their favourite healthy snacks in your day pack.
  • When you have arrived at your destination, find the nearest convenience store where you can buy some familiar items (cereal, bread, crackers and fresh fruit). If you are travelling to a culturally diverse region plan ahead and take some familiar food with you to get you started. Some good ideas include a container of dried breakfast cereal, crackers, a packet of pasta, dried fruit. Once you are settled, you can explore the area and stock up on some basics such as rice, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep to a fairly regular meal-time routine. A good start is to keep breakfast simple and familiar. This will provide a sense of security for the children while they are away from their familiar home environment.
  • Keep children well hydrated, particularly in tropical regions. A child can become dehydrated very rapidly. A good guide is the colour and amount of urine they produce. If it looks more concentrated, they require more fluid.
  • If eating out, plan ahead and research some of the local restaurants. See if they offer a children’s menu.
  • Reduce the risk of food borne infections and traveller’s diarrhoea in children by encouraging regular hand-washing. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly on the children. Avoid high risk foods such as seafood, undercooked meat and pre-prepared salads. Avoid street vendors, and drink only bottled water or purified water. Eat foods that are cooked and served hot. Peel fresh fruit, and wash them in clean water.
  • Visit your doctor before departure to ensure immunisations are up to date. Take a medical kit with you. Pack some children’s paracetamol, band-aids, antiseptic lotion, mild corticosteroid cream, insect repellent, oral rehydration fluid such as hydrolyteTM or gastrolyteTM and a thermometer.

By following this advice, you will have a smooth and enjoyable trip as well. Happy travelling!




2. Better health channel

3. Slonim M et al; Are we there yet? Travel vaccination for Australian children; AFP Vol 43, o 6, June 2014 pp 378-381