Travelling with kids is all about damage control. Heaps of it. Damage. And control…of self that is.
Normal rules don’t apply. Kids aren’t allowed juice? They are now. Too much screen time will turn their eyes square? Pfft. You know they turn into zombies as soon as a screen appears. Not into making pals with strangers? Get into it now!
You’ll need strangers. Well, at least one of them, particularly if you are travelling without any help. You will want to scope out the nearest nice old lady or babysitter/student type and befriend them. Pay them compliments. Feign interest in everything about them. Then have them save your bacon when you – or one of your kids – need to rush to the toilet.
It’s amazing how you can save all year to book a getaway with the family and instead of being filled with excitement all you think about is that dreaded travel time with the kids in tow. Okay, so last time someone was sick, someone screamed in public for an hour, and someone spilt their drink on a stranger’s bag. Think positive! The key to a less stressful time travelling is to prepare – here we have at least 25 tips for travelling with children so you don’t feel frazzled before you’ve arrived.
1. Get it all booked
The days of holidays-on-a-whim died the day you had children, until such time as they leave home. Don’t be crazy and turn up without a booking. Get the accommodation in order first and make sure it is kid-friendly.
2. Organise travel insurance
Looking forward to relaxing? True relaxation begins with the right cover. Travelling with kids means more chance of illness, injury and the potential to lose things, because there is so much going on and kids can be unpredictable.
3. Pack a travel bag
Give everyone their own bag with all the bits they might need when travelling. The kids will love packing a bag but make sure you check it before you leave!
4. Give yourselves plenty of time
Always give yourselves heaps and heaps of time to get there. Pack the car the night before, if you can, and leave as early as possible so you don’t arrive too late.
5. Take the medicine
Children’s paracetamol is a must item to pack! If you are taking an infant on an international flight then security will allow you to take through your infant paracetamol – just remember to get it out of the bag for them to scan.
6. Pack some baby wipes
Even if all your kids are out of nappies, you should always grab a pack of wipes for the trip. They are so handy for wiping hands, clearing up spills, and preventing everyone becoming a sticky mess.
7. Get a cheap stroller
If you are doing a lot of travelling, especially by air, then take a small light stroller instead of your normal one. They weigh nothing, pack up small, and are great for use in the airport (call your airline to check if you are allowed).
8. Wash their hands regularly
Keeping their hands clean will avoid them catching any nasty bugs. The last thing you want is to spend your much-needed holiday nursing a sick child. Keep a small hand-sanitiser handy for those occasions when there is no soap and water.
9. Stretch those legs
If you are in the car then take plenty of stops and get the kids out. If you are on a plane or train have a walk around regularly.
10. F and L-y-ing
See what I did there? It’s a Madagascar joke! While we are on the topic of movies, whack some on a USB stick and save your sanity everywhere you travel and stay.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You can ask a flight attendant to take kids older than three on a walk around the plane to stretch their legs. Many are happy to do it if they aren’t busy with other duties.
12. Bring snacks.
Although you’re going to need nappy bags and something to cart bribes, distractions and snacks – here are some great travel snack ideas – try not to bring luggage that you have to put in the overhead locker, this way you can board first and get lots of help getting organised.
13. Organise for help in all possible places.
If you are travelling alone with kids, have someone to help you at all possible places. Get help being dropped off, have someone meet you at the final destination to help with luggage or consider hiring a car with a driver instead of a taxi on arrival. You’ll look cool and have an extra set of hands.
14. If possible, fly on a midweek flight that will be less packed.
It will be less stressful for all of you — fellow passengers counted.
15. Request a bassinet as soon as you book your flight.
Then show up as early as possible so you can be assigned those seats.
16. Set up a bed at your feet.
Set up a cosy bed at your feet and then you can stretch out over the extra seat. They can’t sleep there, but it’s a fun cubby. Try to sit at the bulkhead if possible, it’s a great spot for kids to sit on the floor or stand in front of you.
17. Wrap new toys and books individually in crepe paper.
It will take time to unwrap each toy, which adds to how long their attention lasts playing with each toy.
18. Bring a thermos for warm water or milk.
Don’t fill it up before your flight. You can get it filled in flight and have hot water or milk at your side instead of on their schedule.
19. Bring a mini version of your medicine cabinet with you for emergency colds or earaches.
Check with your airline for what is acceptable to bring.
20. Take extra clothes.
Even for you.
21. Dress for the environment.
Wear something comfy, for you and the kids. If you have a long journey then don’t forget to pack something warm. If you are taking a flight over your kids’ bedtime pack pyjamas, toothbrush and other night time must-haves such as a story.
22. When travelling by car, bring some games.
Get the whole family involved in some games on the trip and keep everyone quiet. Have a go at ‘I spy’, if you are in the car then spot 10 of something, like trucks, cows, or red cars etc., or tell part of a story and get other members of the family to continue it.
23. If your family members are susceptible to travel sickness then go prepared for the eventuality.
Take some travel sickness tablets with you and plenty of sick bags and baby wipes. If your child is struck down with sickness get them to look out of windows and let in some fresh air.
24. Travelling time is the perfect time for a snooze.
Make sure everyone is comfy with a pillow and a blanket.
25. Most of all, try to go into it with a positive attitude and remember – this too will end.
You can always drop a small fortune on the in flight duty free Lego sets if you’re desperate!
What are your best travelling with kids tips?