Travel Health Pre-trip Planning and Preparation

Dr Brian Gilbert of Travel-bug Vaccination Clinic in Adelaide has kindly prepared the following information to help us get ourselves and our children ready emotionally and medically for international travel with kids.

Although it can be somewhat exhausting, travelling with children can also be a very rewarding experience. Planning ahead can make a big difference when it comes to making the trip enjoyable.

Most of the health issues that child travellers encounter are not from exotic diseases but from trauma, respiratory tract infection or diarrhoea. It is wise for parents to do a first aid course. Having said that, a trip to a clinic which specialises in travel medicine is also an excellent idea as they have up to date knowledge about risks and prevention strategies by all methods including vaccination.

It is important to include children in parts of the planning process. These simple tips will help to familiarise them with their holiday destination and create excitement for the impending holiday and help to avoid ‘culture shock’ on arrival at your destination.

  • Food – introduce different foods into your children’s diet, particularly foods they are likely to encounter on holiday. Try out some restaurants that sell the same cuisine to help them adapt to food.
  • Books - look through books together, guidebooks, story books and travel pamphlets…basically anything with pictures in it. A good book for adults to read is: ‘Travel With Children’ by Cathy Lanigan.
  • Media – DVDs, travel shows and sometimes films will also help to create a visual example of where they will be going.
  • Maps – look up the holiday destination on a map or in an Atlas; see how far from home you will be travelling and where you will be travelling to, if you are going to multiple destinations mark out your journey on a map.
  • Language – it is fun to learn a few words to try out while you are travelling. Words such as ‘Hello’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘please’, ‘thankyou’ as well as numbers may be helpful. Or take a small language translation book with you.
  • Encourage your children to keep a small diary of their trip. Collect entry tickets, menus, brochures, maps etc along the way. When you get home children can stick them into a scrapbook along with photos.
  • If you have the means a camera or even a disposable camera is an exciting way for children to remember their holiday. The world is a different place through a child’s eye.
  • Pack a small backpack for each child, but keep it light. Even young children can carry a small backpack with a few items. This pack will be their responsibility. Inside you can pack a bottle of water and snacks for day trips. A small toy/computer game/colouring book with pencils/reading book.


If you can visit a travel clinic say 6 weeks before and have a discussion on your own, you can gather all the information regarding vaccines and malaria with a clear head and discuss later with your partner. Once a decision has been made, book into the clinic allowing adequate time for the vaccination schedule (commonly 4 weeks).


This really complicates the medical issues, and visit to a specialist travel medicine clinic is highly recommended.


As well as a traditional travel first aid kit, it is advisable to also pack the following when travelling with children:

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant
  • Thermometer
  • Paracetemol
  • Gastrolyte

Optional extras - Antibacterial gel/hand wipes, medications for; cold, runny nose, antihistamines, Stingose, aqua ear, teething gel.

Make sure to also see Dr. Gilbert’s article on Travel Health while you are away.

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