I’ve been travelling with my children since they were infants, so I’m often asked if there's a perfect age to take a trip with kids. My answer is always, right now. Right now is as perfect as it’s ever going to get, no matter what their age. Travel is one of the best gifts you can give your children and yourself, so don’t delay, start planning now!
Yes, I said "planning." Sorry. As much as I would have liked to end this post with "throw your clothes in a bag and flip a coin to see where you end up," that kind of advice is for young adventurers, not responsible parents.
Responsible parents have little people they're accountable for, so there are two things we always need to do before we hop on a plane with our kids:
1. Do our homework on the destination we’re visiting.
2. Make sure our kids are vaccinated.
It’s up to you to know as much as possible about the destination you’re about to visit, not your travel agent. I get a little exasperated when I hear people complain about things they should have known about their destination BEFORE the plane left the tarmac.
First and foremost, before you book anything, visit the Travel & Tourism page on the Government of Canada website. You can enter any country you intend to visit and get up-to-date info on travel alerts and advisories. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what risk factors you’re comfortable with, but it's always a good idea to be informed.
Case in point: Despite all I had heard about Mexico and Montezuma’s Revenge (AKA THE WORST DIARRHEA EVER), we once took a trip where I glibly felt like I didn’t need to pack the anti-diarrhea med since we’d never had problems with it before. Huge mistake, because although you can certainly purchase these meds in Mexico, they aren’t easy to come by at 2am. Nobody said Montezuma was going to be considerate when he took his revenge.
Next, read as much as you can on the destination you’d like visit. If you’re heading to a resort, will there be enough to amuse you and your family for a week? If not, what excursions will you do off property and are they suitable for the ages of your children? If you’ve decided to rent a house, determine what there is to do in the area and how far you'll need to travel to sightsee.
Diseases such as chicken pox, polio, meningitis, diphtheria, and tetanus are still prevalent in many developing countries. Even when travelling within North America, it’s crucial to have protection against diseases like measles. The measles outbreak last year at Disneyland was a powerful reminder that you don’t necessarily need to travel to a developing country to get sick.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread through the air. It can also live on surfaces for up to two hours. In a high-traffic tourist destination, you can see why it’s the stuff of nightmares. I wouldn’t dream of leaving home without making sure my children’s vaccinations were up to date. If your kids have been following the Ontario Ministry of Health vaccination schedule, then they’re already protected against many of the diseases they may be subjected to when travelling. Hooray for the best health care system in the world!
Since many Canadians go into “winter escape mode” and travel to the Caribbean and Latin America each winter, it’s also a good idea to look at the Hepatitis A and B vaccines. These vaccines require a series of doses, so speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you will be travelling to any country where the risk for hepatitis is high (such as Mexico or the Dominican Republic). Since a winter vacation south is an annual event for my family, we made the hepatitis vaccines a priority.
If you plan to travel to more exotic destinations like Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, then be sure to check with the consulate or embassy of your destination country about immunization requirements for entry.
Finally, you’ll want to visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website for Travel Health Notices. As I write this, the Zika virus is front and center on the world stage. The government has not asked people to avoid travel to areas affected by Zika, but to practice precautions. HOWEVER, women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should consider postponing travel to Zika affected areas. If travel cannot be postponed, strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed. For those planning to travel to affected countries, find a full list of precautions to take here.
Once you've decided on a destination, have made sure you've kept a record of your vaccinations and have stayed on schedule (parents too!), the fun part can begin—because there is never a wrong time to travel with your kids. Bon Voyage!
Having your family immunized is an important part of creating a foundation for a healthy life and it’s normal to have questions. Now you have all the answers in one place to help make an informed decision for your family.