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Your Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, after Thanksgiving, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is among the busiest travel periods of the year. During this time of year, the number of long-distance trips increases by 23% compared to the rest of the year’s average. We can help your family have smooth travels with our ultimate guide to holiday travel with kids.

Traveling during such busy times is usually stressful, especially if you add children into the mix. Whether you’re planning a long drive to the grandparents or traveling across time zones this holiday season, these suggestions from Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, will keep your family safe, sound, and sane.

Entertainment

  • Apps – Make sure you download kid-friendly apps before the journey.
  • Toys – Coloring books, finger puppets, stacking cups, magic markers, make-believe computer or phone, and sticker books are great options.
  • Games – Our favorites include Bananagrams, Spot It, Mad Libs, Rubberneckers, Melissa and Doug Travel Hangman, and Travel Blurt.
  • Headphone Splitters – Headphones splitters allow two kids to share a device. They’re very practical in situations where it’s inappropriate to use speakers, like on a plane.

Safety and Comfort

  • Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes – Kids get dirty very easily when traveling. Eliminate these germs fast by being prepared with wipes and sanitizer, and improve your chances of avoiding a holiday bug.
  • Child Locator – Busy airports and train stations can quickly turn into a nightmare if your child gets lost. Many companies offer small tracking devices and smartwatches to help you locate them quickly in such a situation.
  • Medicine and First Aid Kit – It’s very important to be able to attend to your child quickly when they’re hurt or sick. Make sure you’re prepared before you leave by putting together a first aid kit and packing must-have medicine.
  • Ease Ear Pain – During takeoff and landing, give your kids a gummy candy, chewy food, chewing gum (if they’re old enough), or a drink to get their jaw moving and ease their ear pain.
  • Temperature – Layers are essential for the comfort of your children, especially on the plane where it can often be cold.

Planning

  • Passports – Keep in mind, children’s passport expiration periods are different than adult passports. Make sure you renew them 6 months before you plan to travel.
  • Monitor What Your Children Pack – Chances are they’ll want to bring many unnecessary things, which will make traveling uncomfortable for everyone.
  • Carry-On Tips – Pack at least one extra outfit for each child in case an accident happens. If you lose your luggage, the extra outfits will also help you avoid buying new clothes for the entire family. In the meantime, remember that Assist America can help you locate and retrieve your lost luggage. Finally, plan on bringing snacks like granola bars, cheerios, individual cheese and crackers packs, applesauce, or individual hummus cups.
  • Bring Surprises – Children love surprises and unwrapping things, and an early holiday gift could be used as a reward for good behavior.

About Assist America

Our plans include Assist America, a unique global emergency assistance program. They serve more than 40 million members worldwide. Their services include medical and non-medical services, like medical evacuations and repatriations, prescription assistance, medical referral, lost luggage assistance, and pre-trip information. Visit AssistAmerica.com or download the Assist America Mobile App on the Apple App Store or Google Play to access a wide range of travel assistance services directly from your phone.

Safe Bathroom Play

National Bath Safety Month

January is National Bath Safety Month. Bath safety for kids and seniors is key.

Never leave children under 4 years old alone in the tub. Accidents can happen in an instant.

Protecting Little Ones at Bath Time

 

Always wait until the tub is finished filling before putting your child in because the temperature can change as it fills.

Safe Bath Temps

 

Beware of sharp edges, especially with kids. Use a rubber cover for the faucet and avoid hard bath toys.

Bathrooms are one of the places seniors suffer the worst falls. Prevent them with no-slip strips or mats in the bottom of your shower.

No Slipping in the Shower

 

Install safety handles in the tub or shower and by the toilet to make getting up and down easier.

Simple Bath Safety Hacks

 

Keep a no-slip rug or bathmat beside the bathtub or shower to avoid falls.

Preventing Slips

 

Vision issues increase your fall risk, so make sure you have bright lighting that’s easy to reach.

Bright, Safe Bathrooms

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Food Expiration Dates and Safety

Decoding Expiration Dates

Did you know the government doesn’t make food companies put expiration dates on most things? They choose to put those dates on their products so that you get the best quality as a customer, which is why there are so many different kinds of labels.

According to the Boston Globe, 3/4 of Americans think eating things after their printed dates is unsafe. That’s not always true.

What Do the Expiration Dates Mean?

“Sell by” Date

This tells the store how long it can sell the product. You should buy it before this day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad after that date. It really just means that it’s freshest before that date.

“Best if used by (or before)” Date

You should use a product before this date for the best quality and flavor, but it has nothing to do with safety.

“Guaranteed fresh” Date

This is usually used for bakery items. You can still eat them after this date, but they won’t be at their freshest.

“Use by” Date

This is the last date a product’s maker recommends you use it for the best quality, much like “best if used by or before” dates.

“Pack” Date

These are dates that are on many canned or packaged goods. They’re used by the manufacturer and do not tell you if the food is safe. They may also be in a code, usually month-day-year, like MMDDYY. So September 29, 2015, would be 092915.

Other Dates

Federal law says that all baby formula must be dated. It is usually marked with a “use by” or “expiration date,” and after that date, the nutrition of the formula begins to decline from what’s shown on the label.

Some states also make stores pull dairy items off the shelves after their expiration dates.

How Long Are Things Good For?

While these dates will help you eat things while they taste the best, you won’t need to rush to throw most things away by those dates.

You should always try to buy your food before these dates expire, but as long as it’s stored at the right temperature and hasn’t been contaminated during cleaning or prep, it can be good after the dates.

Product Dates and Expiration

And of course, it is important to smell and look at your food before you eat it if it’s past those dates (and before them, too). If something smells bad, tastes weird, has rotten spots, or is moldy, don’t eat it! It’s definitely time to throw it away.

You can see more info about dates and food safety from WebMD and the USDA.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re storing your food safely to keep it good for longer.

Are you always cooking things to a safe temperature to avoid foodborne illness? Our guide can help!

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Safe Food Prep

Preparing Your Food Safely

Safe food prep is key to cooking at home. As we’ve talked about before, storing your food correctly and washing it well are both important parts of safe cooking, but food prep is actually where it’s easiest to accidentally contaminate your meal.

Tip #1

Always wash your hands before and after dealing with food and after each time you touch raw meat (before you touch anything else).

Tip #2

Make sure everything is cleaned correctly and that all bruises or rotten spots have been cut off of your fruits and veggies.

Clean the lids off the top of cans before you open them. You never know how many people or things have touched that can before it touches your food!

Tip #3

The fridge is the best place for slow, safe thawing, especially if you thaw out meat unattended while you’re at work or busy during the day. Make sure that thawing meat juices don’t drip on other foods. You can refreeze meat you’ve thawed in the fridge if needed.

You can also put meat in a sealed Ziploc bag and submerge it in cold tap water for faster thawing. You need to change this water every 30 minutes and cook as soon as you’re done thawing it.

If you thaw meat and poultry in the microwave, always cook it right after that.

Don’t just set food out on the counter to thaw!

Tip #4

Don’t cross-contaminate. This is when it’s easiest to accidentally cause sickness!

Keep raw meat, its juices, and eggs away from other food. Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat and veggies.

After cutting raw meat, wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops  with hot, soapy water or a bleach cleaner (1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water).

Tip #5

Marinate meat in a closed dish in the fridge. Don’t reuse marinade that has touched raw meat unless you bring it to a boil first.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re always cooking your food to a safe temperature.

Safe, Fresh Food Storage

Keeping Things Fresh

Storing your fresh food correctly is important. It protects you from contamination that can make you sick, and it helps you get the most out of your groceries. If you store your fruits and veggies in the wrong way, they can go bad more quickly, before you have the chance to use them. These tips can help.

Tip #1

Keep them cold. Most importantly, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, 40°F or below, and the freezer should be 0°F or below.

Foods that need refrigerated should be put in the fridge as soon as you get home. Never allow food that should be refrigerated, including leftovers and takeout, to sit out for more than 2 hours.

As soon as you get home from the store, freeze any meats that you aren’t going to cook in the next 2 days.

Tip #2

Some things always need to be refrigerated. All produce that is pre-cut or peeled needs stored in the fridge.

Eggs, meat, chicken, and seafood need to be refrigerated.

Tip #3

Some fruits and veggies shouldn’t be refrigerated. Tomatoes get mushy and lose their flavor; bananas will turn black, and the starch in potatoes turns to sugar when kept in the fridge.

And while potatoes and onions do best in a cool, dry place, don’t keep them under the sink where leaking sinks can ruin them. And never store any food near cleaners because they can poison you.

Tip #4

Some fruits should be ripened on the counter and then refrigerated. Avocados, kiwis, and fruits with a pit, like peaches and plums, take a few days on the counter to ripen and then can be kept in the fridge.

Tip #5

The containers some produce comes in are good ways to store them. When you bring home berries, make sure you go through them and remove all spoiled ones so they don’t spread mold to the other berries. Their containers also allow for air to get to them.

Things like grapes and onions also come in bags that let air get to them.

Salad mixes also often come in good storage containers. It can be a good idea to put a paper towel between the lid and greens to prevent condensation.

Always make sure your meat is wrapped well, both for the best quality and to protect other food.

Tip #6

Some things shouldn’t be stored together. Never store anything you eat raw, like fruits and veggies, near anything that must be cooked to be safe to eat, like raw meat, chicken, or seafood.

And even though potatoes and onions both do well in cool, dry environments, you shouldn’t store them right next to each other. That goes for most foods and onions because other foods can take on the onion flavor. (But make sure to store green onions in your fridge in the crisper drawer.)

If you buy root vegetables with their tops still on, like radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots, cut the greens off and store them separately. Never used the tops before? Don’t worry, we can help!

Tip #7

Use water to keep some things fresh for longer. Asparagus and fresh herbs, like basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, stay fresh for longer when you store them with the ends in a jar or cup of water.

Still not sure how to handle a certain food? This handy guide can help:

How to Store Your Groceries
Image via Buzzfeed

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

And make sure you keep your food bacteria-free by washing your produce and practicing safe food prep.

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Your Home's Thermostat

Long View: No One Wins in Thermostat Wars

When I was little, I loved visiting my grandparents in the winter. There was always lots of snow, and my siblings, cousins and I would play outside for hours. Our folks would slap a stocking cap on our heads with a pair of woolen mittens and any available coat. Then off we would go. The cold didn’t even bother me then. We usually came in when our cheeks and fingers were numb, but not before.

Things have changed, to say the least. I now own every thermal article of clothing known to mankind. If it’s cold enough, I have been known to wear gloves to get the mail, and the letter box is on my front porch. Winter weather is no longer the joyful playground of my youth.

My grandmother lived with my aunt and cousin until she was in her 90s. I remember the “thermostat wars” every winter. Grandma was never warm enough and would flip the thermostat up to 85. My aunt would be “roasting to death,” as she would say, and turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees. They went back and forth until spring.

So what happens to transform cold-tolerant kids into shivering adults? Dr. Stephen Belgrave is a medical director at Health Alliance Medicare and a family practice physician. He puts it this way.

“Peripheral vascular disease affects many of our older patients,” he said. “This can slow circulation, and this often affects temperature sensations. It’s important to protect older people from extremes in temperature because of these types of sensory deficits.”

Ah, there you have it. It seems I now qualify as an “older patient.” But the question is how can caregivers help their mature friends and family members?

Here are a few suggestions:

• Be more tolerant when someone complains about being uncomfortable. Even if you think the temperature is cozy, that may not be true for older people.

• Make sure your loved ones have protection from the cold when they go outside. Check and see if they have a cold weather emergency kit in their car. If they don’t have one, it makes a great gift.

• Offer rides (in your preheated car) to the store, appointments and errands during colder months. Removing snow and warming up a car can be a serious hurdle to older adults and people with peripheral vascular disease.

• Finally, find a comfortable, temperate middle ground. Do not engage in “thermostat” wars. I can say from personal experience no one ever wins.

*This piece first ran in 2009.