beach-837271_960_720-150x150With March break around the corner, you may be planning a fun-filled getaway with your family. While sunscreen and an extra pair of socks or flip-flops are always handy, it’s important to remember the basics for keeping your family healthy and protected from illness.

While vaccines are an essential part of a regular healthcare routine, it is extra important to ensure immunizations are up-to-date before traveling. Your family will typically spend time in spaces where germs are easily spread, like an airplane. Travelers are also exposed to many people– including some who may not be vaccinated – who can put others at risk of getting sick. Some vaccine-preventable diseases that are rarely seen in Canada are still common in other parts of the world and can infect anyone who is not protected.

Follow these steps to make sure you and your family are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases before you travel and year-round:

Step 1.

It’s always best to consult with an embassy or consulate of your destination country in Canada for up-to-date information on entry and exit requirements, including required vaccines, before traveling abroad.

Step 2.

Talk to your doctor or your local Public Health unit about the routine publicly-funded vaccines you or your children need no matter how far you’re traveling. You could also visit the public health Web site in your province or territory.  Find out if any extra travel-related vaccines are recommended based on your destination.

Step 3.

Stay up-to-date by using a free online vaccine scheduler tool. Ontario residents can add immunization reminders to their online calendars, or print a copy for future reference using’s scheduler tool. Simply enter your child’s name and birth date to see their schedule.

Family trips are not the only milestones that can act as reminders to stay on track with an immunization schedule. Expecting a baby, registering for junior kindergarten and starting high-school are other times to make sure everyone’s immunizations are up-to-date. Consult your doctor or a public health web site in your province or territory for more information.  For Ontario residents, see Ontario’s publicly funded immunization schedule or visit

By Dr. Anne Wormsbecker, MD, MPH, FRCPC, Toronto paediatrician, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital.