A guide to traveling with sick kids


Beware: this is not for the weak at heart… or the weak in the stomach.

I’d like to share a few tips I learned from our recent travels with sick kids. If you don’t laugh, you will cry. So I choose to laugh. Hopefully you will also find the humor in our story.

It all began in our hotel room in the wee hours of the morning. Our last morning at Disney World. We had planned to sleep in, then spend our last few hours before our flight shopping at Disney Springs before catching our flight home. Our children had a different agenda for the day and we were forced to comply.

So here are my tips should your children happen to get sick while you are traveling:

1. If you hear the sounds of “Mommy, mommy, I don’t feel good” just a few inches from your face while you are still half-asleep, do not reach out your hand to hold the child thinking you will pull them into bed with you. The child will throw up into your hand and all down the side of the bed. It is at this point you will know your plans for the entire day have changed.

2. Always hoard hotel towels. Put any extras in one of the drawers so they will continue to restock your room. If you are a family of six, ask for additional towels every day. They will come in handy should you find yourself having to clean up vomit.

3. Start packing well before you need to leave. If your children happen to get sick on the day of departure, you are ensured not only of having no help packing, but also having the distraction of carrying sick children to the bathroom every few minutes and stopping to clean up what didn’t make it. Start early, as it may require every minute you have before checkout time (four hours)!

4. If you happen to work at a hotel and a guest calls asking for late check-out because children are sick, just give them the rest of the day for free. I promise it’s to your advantage. The one extra hour that you think is generous will only result in panicked packing followed by vomit in your lobby. So unless you want one sick child sleeping in your lobby and the other one puking, I recommend allowing the family to stay in their room away from other guests. Not following this advice will result in you not only having to thoroughly clean their room, but also your lobby and lobby bathroom.

5. If you work at a restaurant and a customer calls to cancel their reservations because they have sick children, graciously allow them to cancel instead of stating that your policy is to charge them $60 in the event of cancellation with less than 24 hours’ notice. Believe me, if they had 24 hours’ notice, they would have let you know. Upon finding out that they will be charged $60 for cancelling, they will show up to your establishment with sick children in tow. I promise you that you will regret this policy especially after the third time the child vomits in your restaurant. It’s better for you to allow this family to cancel … they don’t want to be there, you don’t want them to be there, and your other customers don’t want them to be there. With two sick and everyone else queasy, they won’t even come close to spending the $60 you were going to charge them for cancelling. And while you might think that nobody would come to your restaurant if they weren’t hungry, see the point above regarding hotel checkout policies. You are choosing to become a refuge for the sick hotel outcasts.

6. And just a little aside for Uber drivers … it’s just nice for you to check to make sure a family with two sick children has all of their bags. They’re already managing the sick kids, a stroller and a car seat. When you charge them $15 to meet you to get their child’s forgotten backpack, they will be frustrated that your fee costs more than their ride.

7. Large families with lots of luggage (and sick children) should rent 15 passenger vans for their return trip to the airport. There will be enough room for two sick kids to sleep, one mom to sit next to sick kids (isn’t that always how it goes?) and the three other people to sit far enough away that there’s no way they could get infected. It will also be large enough to manage all the luggage that the former lifeguard mom can’t stop counting after the backpack-left-in-the-Uber incident.

8. Finally airports … well, I have lots of advice for you! Airport personnel deal with tired and frustrated travelers all the time. I can’t imagine the patience it takes to do your jobs well. Unfortunately yesterday, I wasn’t really thinking about how I could make your long days better. I was selfishly thinking about how to survive my own long day. By the time we got to the airport, we had already dealt with more than 12 hours of sickness. We were exhausted and still had a flight ahead of us. So if you work at an airport and see four well people wrangling six suitcases, six backpacks, a stroller, a car seat and two sickies, it would be SO nice if someone would help us instead of staring at us as we try to manage the line just to check our bags. Thankfully there were a few chairs across from the ticket counter and the one sick child who could hardly stand managed to get a seat while the rest of us managed the luggage and check in. It’s almost impossible to keep up with that many people, that many bags, IDs, electronic boarding passes and the printed boarding passes you gave us (in case the electronic ones you sent us and asked us to use don’t work), but thankfully we were able to unload half our bags and start the walk to security.

9. Airport security … oh, so many things to say to you. Thank you for posting the wait times so we know just how long to expect to stand in line. When we walked up and saw that the wait time was 38-40 minutes, we knew there was no way the child who couldn’t stand more than five minutes would make it. And then as we discussed what to do and saw the wait time change to 44-48 minutes, we were certain we needed an alternative plan. Thank you for offering suggestions as to what we could do to accommodate our sick children. The suggestion to get a wheelchair for one of our children was a good one except that the walk back to the front of the airport to get one would have taken just as long as the line. (And we had a flight to catch!) We do appreciate that you allowed us to go through priority boarding which cut probably 20 minutes off our wait time. Of course that time was added back because of your diligence in flagging and searching one of our children’s backpacks. But thankfully you found the water bottle the sick toddler had stuck in a sibling’s bag. Although we have no idea how to make weapons out of water bottles, that water bottle probably was dangerous because of all the germs on it. So glad it didn’t go on the airplane with us.

10. Flying tip: I highly recommend packing a change of clothes, not just for the sick children, but also for the parents whose clothing will become collateral damage. And check the weather at your destination, as your spare t-shirt might not be quite enough if your jackets were similarly targeted by the child-vomit.

11. Thank you for giving us two free trash bags on the flight and not charging us for them as extra carry-ons. They were perfect for carrying all of our puked-on clothes, jackets, and the toddler’s blanket. Oh and it also held my wrist brace nicely. I had no idea that vomit could actually fit between your hand and a brace. I have now experienced it.

12. Pack “thieves spray” …always! Take a shower in it, if possible.

13. Flight attendants …thank you! You generously gave us trash bags for our dirty clothes and wipes to clean the seats. After 2 hours of throwing up, we were finally able to get the 4-year-old to sleep. We know it’s your job to make us wear seat belts during the descent, but we are pretty sure that if the plane goes down, that seat belt isn’t going to help us. We also know what awaits us if the plane does go down, and trust me, it’s much better than two hours of throw-up in a confined space! Waking up the little one so he could put on a seat belt only served to bother everyone around us as he cried, “I just want this to be over.” “Will this flight ever end?” “This is not my favorite day!” “I don’t like throw-up!” (Me neither, for the record!) But at least he had a seat belt on while he cried.

14. Call the bus driver to take you to the parking lot ASAP and then call again and again just to make sure he’s coming. Since you have no jackets and it’s freezing cold and raining, you do not want to wait 30 minutes then call back only to find they somehow canceled your ride.

15. When you get home at 11 p.m. (which is midnight in the land you came from), make everyone take a shower! Even though you’re exhausted, throw everything from the trash bags into the washer and bathe the toddler. You’re home now. Your home doesn’t smell (as long as you get those clothes in the washer). And everyone will wake up in the morning “as good as new!” (That’s a quote from the child who was far from good the day before!)

16. My last piece of advice … don’t travel with sick kids!

Carla Villanueva is a married mother of four living the dream in Wylie, Texas. She has the great fortune of being the older, wiser sister to Sealy News editor April Towery. She blogs at keepwalkingthepath.wordpress.com/


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