Tips for Making Travelling with Kids Easier
When anticipating travelling with your kids are you cool calm and collected or panicked, stressed and thinking the idea of staying at home might just be a whole lot easier?
We have travelled with our four kids since they were born, for the past 17 years across Europe, South Africa and the USA. I hope some of the tips we have learned along the way, that I share with you below, will help you too in your quest to travelling easier with your kids.
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Sometimes you just need a break – a change of scenery may be just what you need, especially during those tough early years of parenting. Travelling with young children is a whole different story to travelling as an adult couple, your eyes and world are opened up to a whole new host of experiences and you could even have some fun!
So here are my 3 P’s to make travelling with kids a bit easier:
- POSITIVE PEP TALK : it’s all about your attitude. Think of the benefits of exploring new places with your family: Spending extended periods of time one on one time with your little one on your lap in a plane is a rare opportunity to cherish (actually that’s not a sarcastic remark). You make friends when you travel with kids because they are cuter than you are and therefore great conversation starters. There may be obstacles to overcome but if you start as you mean to go on, having a positive attitude, you have a better chance of enjoying the whole experience.
- PREPARATION IS KEY : plan ahead very well. Write lists and put them in a visible place so they won’t get lost. Double check transport details and passports. Don’t allow your child to pack their own carry-on luggage as they always pack too much and then you have the pleasure of carrying their bag. Bring spare zip-lock baggies and baby wipes – essential travel items. For boredom busting pack a selection of small paperback books and toys (eg magnetic doodle board, water painting book, sticker books).
- PREDICT OUTCOMES : OK I know impossible to tell the future but you can use your imagination (imagine what could go wrong) a little to help preempt disaster. This sounds like the previous point but it’s more to do with thinking ahead while you are travelling along. Make sure you not only have a spare set of clothes for your baby or toddler in your hand luggage or footwell of the car, but include a spare top for yourself (preferably one with a pattern to disguise spit up/goo/juice etc). Kids need to snack often so a variety of small savoury and fruit snacks as well as treats they are not expecting will be a nice surprise. Cooked pasta in small tubs, hard boiled eggs and cheese blocks travel well in cooler temperatures. Choose water over juice as it won’t be sticky when it spills. I’ve decided never to ask my young ones if they need to go to the toilet, I just take them whenever I have the opportunity – it’s not a choice!
Top travel tips for travelling with kids:
- Carrying your small baby in a sling instead of a pram frees up your hands and helps keep him or her securely on your lap if a bassinet is not available on a flight. Also a great solution for visiting crowded markets and busy fun fairs. Bringing a lightweight ‘umbrella’ folding pram is also very useful and is light to pack. Having those pram handles to hang a bag or two from can be a life saver.
- If you have a toddler, allow them to bring their own (small) backpack with some activities to keep them occupied in the car or on a flight. I found the ‘paint with water books’ handy as a small amount of water is usually easy to find and little spills not too tragic. A little pack of crayons and a notebook as well as some soft cover story books, some small toys like a couple of cars or mini figures/dolls are also good. If you bring a phone or tablet don’t forget the headphones! (If you are flying, double check the backpack for flight restricted items before you leave home!)
- Driving long distances can take much longer as you need to factor in regular breaks, every hour and a half or so. (Don’t rely on average travel times given to you on the internet, add extra time.)
- Audio books are wonderful for a family driving any long distance. (Find them at your local library, these are a total life saver for older children, tweens and teens, in fact sometimes it’s hard to get the family out of the car when you get there.)
- If you are flying alone with young children it will be a challenge going to the toilet yourself. Some airlines have an air stewardess dedicated as a ‘nanny’ who will hand out a an activity pack for your kids to enjoy on the flight. When you need to go, ensure you have a stewardess who is able to watch your children for you for a few minutes for your own peace of mind and their safety.
- This may seem like a trivial issue, but as far as possible dress yourself and your kids nicely and try and clean snot and food off of yourselves as much as possible, people are more willing to help others who are reasonably well presented! (Sad but true.) So ALWAYS travel with a pack of babywipes!
- Bring small non-perishable snacks and refillable water bottles everywhere.
- If it’s hot, pack sun cream and hats.
- How up to date is your first aid kit? Check and restock if necessary before your trip.
- My favourite travel memory as a child was the journal my mother encouraged me to keep, we collected postcards and small souvenirs to stick in, drew pictures and wrote a little bit each day. I can look back on those holidays as an adult and remember so much more. (You are teaching your kids to be adventurers -and journalers – right from the start.)
- My number one recommended item to pack for myself is a Kenyan kikoy, I ALWAYS travel with one. Traditionally a man’s wrap but worn by women too, very light and compact to pack, made from 100% cotton and measuring approx 100 x 160cm, they are immeasurably useful. They can be used as a skirt, a dress, a scarf for warmth, a wrap for the evenings, a cover against sunburn, a towel, a picnic blanket, a tablecloth, a hat, a sling for carrying a baby, a carry seat for your toddler on your hip, a handy bag for groceries – all depending on how you tie them.
The best part of travelling with children is that you get to see things through the eyes of your kids. They have a sense of fun that we adults seem to sometimes loose along the way and travelling with them brings us back in touch with a new sense of awe and adventure in the world around us. We eat ice creams and go to fun fairs more. We talk to more people as people are often more friendly to adults with children. Our kids make friends with other kids from across the language barriers. This all brings us out of our comfort zone and we return home changed people.
++For more articles on travelling with kids, here’s a post I wrote about +9 camping pitfalls to avoid, +camping in Normandy, France, another about +a trip to South Africa and a further one about the +holiday photos we don’t share.++
And here are some helpful websites to help you when travelling with your kids:
Million Mile secrets has a very helpful article about TSA Baby Food Travel Restrictions.
The Rough Guide has a great list of 20 tips for travelling with children.
I loved traveling when I was single. I loved traveling with my wife just after we were married. But I love it more now that I have kids. It takes it to another level. A different level. It’s almost a whole different experience. You can drink a glass of water. You can dive into the ocean. They both involve water but are totally different.”
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