My family is truly lucky that we can travel last minute without much preparation. I usually just pack as light as possible and cross my fingers that my kids sleep in the car and on the plane. However, for families with children who are battling cancer, this summer break looks very different. I’ve partnered with The National Children’s Cancer Society to share their tips for summer family travel. May contain affiliate links.
For most families battling childhood cancer, the best possible treatment isn’t always nearby. This requires families to become experts at road trips or plane rides in order to make family travel as smooth as possible. Some of the families at the NCCS have come together to share their best travel tips and they’d like to share their knowledge with other families.
Summer Family Travel Tips from The National Children’s Cancer Society
BRING A PIECE OF HOME
Lisa Fitzgerald is the mother to Landen, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age four. Over a three year time period, this family of six road tripped two hours back and forth, several times a week for treatment.
Lisa suggests that families bring a piece of home with them as they travel.
We bring a night light, every one grabs their favorite jammies, pillow and blankets, and it makes them feel like they brought a little bit of home with them.”
She also recommends that families call ahead for accommodations, especially when traveling with an ill child. Businesses like hotels and airlines will accommodate your family if your child isn’t feeling well or has special needs. Don’t hesitate to contact them ahead of time.
Anna Schroeder is the mother to Blakely, who was diagnosed with Wilms tumor at eight months old. She urges families to go hands-free.
Do whatever you can to have your hands free. Using book bags to carry items was really important for us, and I also used a smart watch to keep in contact with family members without needing to have my phone on me at all times.”
She also thinks parents should figure out their must-have products. For Anna, she had a few key products that she used to keep trips as smooth as possible:
- Cloud b Sleep Sheep (they never left for the hospital without it)
- Plum Organics Jammy Sammy, and Contigo Kids Water Bottles for snacks
- JJ Cole Urban Bundle for cold days and to keep the germs away
SNACKS ARE A MUST
Nat Miller is the father to his three-year-old daughter Hazel, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last year. The Millers road trip 2-3 hours back and forth 2-4 times a month for treatment. They’ve become experts in family road trips.
The secret to making the road trips smooth are snacks.
We always have yogurt drinks, string cheese and bananas on hand as Hazel enjoys these and they are easy in the car.”
He also recommends that families stop the car frequently during long road trips. This could be to do a family stretch, after sitting so long in the car. Or take the time to pull over to see something interesting, which he says is a must for their family of 4 kids under 10 years old.
BRING EXTRA CLOTHING
Jennifer Desantiago is the mother to Kaylee, who was diagnosed with Wilms tumor at age three. She has some practical travel tips involving plastic bags and extra clothing.
Keep plastic bags in case your child gets sick, nausea medicine for plane rides and Tylenol in case of a fever. No matter how short your trip is, bring a spare set of clothing for your child and yourself.”
PACK A SURPRISE GOODY BAG
Julie Komanetsky is the Vice President of Patient and Family Services at the National Children’s Cancer Society. She’s also the mother to Lauren (18) and Michael (20).
Entertaining kids on planes can be especially difficult. Pack a goody bag for each kid, and don’t let them see it before they’re seated on the plane. They’ll be excited to see and play with what is inside, even if they are cheap toys from the $1 bin. Or, for long road trips, let them unwrap a gift each hour to pass the time.”
She also suggests taking turns being the “fun” parent.
If you’re able to travel with your spouse, take turns being the entertainer. Maybe one parent gets some time to read in the passenger seat, while the other leads road trip games like the License Plate Game, I Spy, or 20 questions. Then switch!”
The NCCS supports warriors of childhood cancer. With more than three decades of experience, the NCCS has distributed more than $65 million dollars and served nearly 42,000 children, helping families get where they need to be – physically, financially and emotionally – to give them hope, and to give their children the best possible shot at survival. Whether that be helping ensure children can get to the treatment center where the best care is available, understanding the many issues that accompany survivorship or simply being there as a source of hope and compassion. The NCCS is on a journey with each family, and the NCCS is with them for life – no matter what.
Did you know the average cost to treat a child with cancer is over $800,000?
If you’d like to donate to the NCCS, please visit thenccs.org/donate.