Travelling with sick kids – what to do?

When you're a parent you don't go on vacation. You just take care of your kids in a different location.

So I’ve had a few conversations with people recently about nightmares of travelling with sick kids. I know people who have had to postpone departures for it. “What do you do?” a friend asked me. “Do you just take them anyway or do you stay at home?” Another friend recounted the horrific tale of losing their security deposit after the kids threw up all over a hotel room in Muscat for an entire weekend. I know people who have had scares in far flung places. They’ve had to navigate the health system of a foreign country in a foreign language. Sometimes they’ve been delayed returning home.

We’ve had our fair share of bad experiences…

Travelling with sick kids is no fun. We ourselves have had our fair share of holiday illnesses and injuries:

  • Thing 1 fell and smashed his chin on a diving board in Greece last year not once but twice.
  • That same summer his sister managed to fall over and cut her eyebrow open.
  • Thing 1 also got ill in Italy with a terrible temperature 4 years ago. We were told off by an Italian doctor for not going straight to see them as soon as he spiked a fever. I felt like the world’s worst mummy that day!
  • Thing 2 had a fever for 3 days this summer in Sorrento. In a separate incident in Sicily, she spent a night vomiting (luckily it was a short lived bug and didn’t spread).
  • Oh… and Thing 1 got bitten by a spider (we think) in Miami once. He had a shocking temperature for 48 hours before we got on a transatlantic flight.

It’s not just us… is it?!!

Casting around for comfort that I’m not the only one travelling with sick kids, I discovered the following from my followers and fellow bloggers:

“Elijah cut his head open falling off a climbing frame in Cyprus, his sun glasses cut into his eyebrow 😕 ….. We ended up at a terrifying stitch em up and shove them out medical centre which resulted in a traumatised 4 year old and the crappest stitches you’ve ever seen . He was so scared they threatened to remove me from the room and have security hold him down to get stitches 😡😡.”

“We were in paradise with a wonderful old friend for a long weekend, staying on the beach and Mia had flu. The beach is the worst place to be with flu: wind, sun, all combining to make it very uncomfortable ” – Cecilia

“We went on our very first family holiday this April when Willow was just 15 months old. She didn’t eat for most of the week we were away and had the most horrendous cold, struggling with her breathing and a yucky snotty nose. We went to see a night time pharmacist who prescribed her medicine and we just made do. As soon as we came home, she seemed like her old self again, eating and drinking properly.” – Tattooed Tea Lady

My daughter got sick over Thanksgiving because her cousin was sick. I didn’t really care because I’d rather see them on a big holiday and deal with the aftermath than miss that time with them. Anything other than a big event would upset me.”Home Makers Journal 

“When our son was almost 18 months old we went to Lanzarote for our second family sun holiday. It started off brilliantly but on day 5, two days before we were due to fly home, he came out in chicken pox. We were grounded for an extra 3 days and couldn’t leave our room until he got the fit-to-fly cert. Thank the Lord for travel insurance and available rooms in our hotel. I wrote all about it in our Holiday Diaries. It wasn’t the best end to a holiday!” – Battle Mum

“We’re currently in Spain and have had a very grumpy toddler. She’s had prickly heat and has cried for days over the heat. Wouldn’t sleep or eat.We’ve been keeping her cool inside and even ventured to a Spanish pharmacy to get some calpol to see if it would help. It’s not been the most relaxing holiday but she is feeling a lot better now!”Little Bargain Hunter

“It seems whenever we go away, one of our children is sick. We stayed in a gorgeous Welsh pub this year and my youngest just could not stop being sick! I stayed in the room with him and watched out of the window as my husband enjoyed a pint in the beer garden whilst our other two children played. I was VERY jealous! But Jack wanted his mam so I drew the short straw.” – North East Family Fun

Are we scarred for life?

Well… I mean this metaphorically haha. Clearly from the above stories, there are some literal scars too including one each for Things 1 and 2. I know people who won’t travel far because they are traumatised from experiences. For the most part, though, you all told me that you are still travelling far and wide.

Lessons learned

“So what have I learned? Carry a proper med kit with me including butterfly stitches. They would have done a better job than the stitches and Elijah wouldn’t have such a terrible scar on his head . Poor boy.” – Sarah

I’d definitely recommend travelling with a first aid and medical kit. Almost unanimously everyone who has experienced travelling with sick kids recommended taking Calpol (kids acetaminophen for those non-Brits among us) and kids neurofen with them. I even suggest taking some on the plane with you to avoid problems when flying. I just know that the day I forget it will be the day we have a sick kid on an aeroplane. Anna even came up with the brilliant idea of buying it on the other side of security at the airport to save her relying on translations of the equivalent. I’d add that flavours can vary between countries – we found out the hard way, Having medication with you that you know your Thing will take is a massive bonus. No-one needs to be force feeding medication to a sick kid.

What else should I take with me?

I feel a follow up to this post should definitely be a first aid and medical kit. In the meantime Laura at Life with Baby Kicks has compiled her must have essentials. If they don’t work, it’s best to make sure you have  adequate travel insurance to make sure you get appropriate medical help.

When you're a parent you don't go on vacation. You just take care of your kids in a different location.
When you’re a parent you don’t go on vacation. You just take care of your kids in a different location.

Want to know how I avoid taking the kitchen sink with me on a trip? Check out my top 7 packing tips!

Emma Morrell
Emma Morrell

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  1. 7 October 2017 / 11:39

    I will say, every time I go and visit my friend and her children (whom I like to think of as my adoptive nephew and neice) they seem to be sick with something! Can’t work out if it’s me, or just life haha. I do know children can make your life very hard when they are ill … bless them!

    • admin
      7 October 2017 / 17:02

      Kids are just buckets full of germs 😂

  2. 7 October 2017 / 15:27

    We’ve had our fair share of tummy bugs and other illness on holiday, but fortunately nothing too serious just lost a few days of holiday. We always travel with an ear thermometer as our children always have temperatures when they are ill, and of course a supply of Calpol. Love your quote, it’s so true especially when they are younger!

    • admin
      7 October 2017 / 17:01

      It’s starting to get better now they’re older thank goodness but when they’re sick it’s like everything regresses lol

  3. 7 October 2017 / 17:42

    It is frightening when babies/ kids fall ill/ get hurt when in a new place, but I guess you csn’t stop travelling and holidaying! Be smart, take the necessary vaccinations and precautions prior to travel, and keep a first-aid kit annd medicine bag with you at all times. I always carry calpol sachets on a flight – for the unexpected fever/ pain/ toothache.

    • admin
      7 October 2017 / 17:44

      So frightening. 😢

  4. admin
    7 October 2017 / 18:51

    Oh no! Assume everything was ok? Did you consider not going?

  5. 7 October 2017 / 22:43

    Lily was a reflux baby and is still sick a lot, we pack soare clothes for her and us whenever we go on a long car journey! It still makes me feel sick every time she hurts herself too x

    • admin
      8 October 2017 / 05:05

      Oh – ALWAYS spare clothes!!!! I can’t bear it when they hurt themselves regardless of where we are. When Thing 1 split his chin open I saw stars!

  6. 8 October 2017 / 00:52

    Oh! Traveling with sick kids is the worse! OMG! Your kids has been quite a ride haven’t they. & Yes! Capol & neurofen are something we always make sure we carry then when we go anywhere at all.

    • admin
      8 October 2017 / 05:06

      They have but it’s always been reasonably minor thank goodness. I’m just waiting for one of them to do something more serious!

  7. 8 October 2017 / 10:12

    I took a first aid course when mine were babies – the thought of not knowing what to do was to terrifying for me. My daughter plans to try for a baby next year and her work had paid for her to do a course (not specifically on children however – but useful). I’d thoroughly recommend doing it x

    • admin
      12 October 2017 / 15:51

      I’m always so thankful for having taken a first aid course but now I feel like I need a refresher!

  8. Donna
    8 October 2017 / 12:01

    We’ve had it too. Split lip in Houston, pulled elbow in mexico, heat stroke in Italy. Just got to roll with it!

    • admin
      12 October 2017 / 15:51

      Glad it’s not just me!

  9. 8 October 2017 / 13:43

    Thankfully neither of my kids have been sick on holiday so far but they are incredibly accident prone. On our last holiday our youngest ran into the patio door not realising it was shut and got nasty bump to the head, slipped on the bathroom tiles and banged her head again. And then, just to make sure we were truly terrified she decided to tip herself off the back of her seat at a restaurant and fell over some planters, down some steps onto the cobbled stone walkway. And you guessed it, she broke the fall with her head! There was a lot of blood (mainly from her nose and lip) and a huge bump and bruise on her forehead, but amazingly nothing was broken or in need of stitches. That child is going to give me a heart attack!

    • admin
      12 October 2017 / 15:50

      Oh my goodness she really put you through it on that holiday! So glad everything was ok x