While airports may be well air conditioned, aircraft cabins can get chilly.

Cape Town - The December holidays sound like they’re a lifetime away, but now’s the time to start planning your annual family break, whether it’s a local or long-haul getaway.

Apart from booking your flights, choosing your accommodation, and planning your activities while you’re away, it’s important to keep a focus on your family’s health before, during and after your flights, to make sure that your happy travel memories aren’t tainted by any health woes.

 

Before flying

For elderly, child and infant passengers requiring special assistance, be sure to let your airline know at least 72 hours before departure of your flight.

 

Book appointments at your local travel clinic for any vaccinations required for your destination, giving enough time for them to take effect. Remember that some vaccinations, like yellow fever, are required to re-enter South Africa from some countries, rather than to enter countries that you’re flying to.

If you’re travelling with infants or small children, ask your airline if they charge extra for you to include a car seat or pram as part of your luggage, so that you can plan to either take yours along or to book one with the car hire company at your destination to keep your little one safe during all parts of your journey.

If anyone in your family is allergic to any types of food, make sure you book an appropriate special meal at least 24 hours before take-off.

While airlines offer infant meals, you will still need to pack formula and sterile water for your baby for the flight. Remember to store all baby food and liquids in a clear, resealable plastic bag to be presented separately from hand baggage at the security check-in.

If you’re going to be flying long haul with small children, try to book flights that will coincide with their night-time sleep routine. Doing so will make for a quieter flight for you and for them (and for the passengers around you), making sure that you all arrive at your destination refreshed.

If you’re going to be travelling east, try getting the family to bed a little earlier each night for a few days ahead of your flight, to prepare your body for the change in time zones.

 

Airport time!

Don’t leave your packing to the last minute, as you’ll likely leave something important behind – and the fear of doing so is going to make you unnecessarily stressed. Try to have your main bag packed at least 24 hours in advance, giving you the time to shop for any last-minute requirements.

When you’re packing your infant’s or toddler’s bag, remember to include something age-appropriate for them to suck during take-off and landing. This will help them equalise their ears, avoiding the ear-pain that often occurs during these parts of the flight.

Have everyone in the family dress to peel for the flight. While airports may be well air conditioned, aircraft cabins can get chilly. Being able to add a soft jacket or a pair of socks to your flying fashion ensemble will make sure that you’re warm.

Dress children in brightly coloured clothes, so that you can see them easily in a crowd, should you be separated from them. Make sure that they either know your phone number, or that they have it written on their hand or arm, in case you’re separated in the crowds at an airport. It goes without saying that this only works if you have international roaming enabled on your phone…

While it may be tempting to sit for the two hours ahead of your flight, remember that your long-haul journey means that you’re all going to be sitting for a long time in the near future. Walk around the airport, browse the duty-free shops, and keep as active as you can before boarding. This is particularly important for the younger members of your family, as burning off some of their energy ahead of the flight is a good way to prepare for the long journey ahead.

 

All aboard…

Make sure that you and your family drink lots of water during the flight, and tempting though it may be to enjoy the onboard drinks trolley, adults should rather avoid drinking alcohol as it causes dehydration.

Keep your skin hydrated too, and encourage members of your family to apply moisturizing lotion and lip balm to counteract the effects of the air-conditioned cabin.

Avoid deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots in your leg veins) by bending and straightening your legs every half hour, and pressing the balls of your feet down hard against the floor. If the seatbelt lights are off, take a stroll up and down the aisle every hour or so.

Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks that may keep you awake and avoid overeating, as that overly full feeling could make you too uncomfortable to sleep.

Travelling to new and exciting destinations is a great way for families to spend great quality time together, away from the daily routine.

However, keep up with regular family rules, like washing hands before meals, sticking together in public places, and eating a (mostly) balanced diet, to make sure that you all return home in the kind of robust health you enjoyed when you left on your fabulous family journey.

Adapted from a press release for IOL

* Cathay Pacific flies from Johannesburg to Hong Kong seven days a week. For more information and flight bookings, visit www.cathaypacific.com/za