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Are you planning to travel with kids or is it your worst nightmare?
Summer’s here, are you all ready to go away on holiday? 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?
First I heard it from an adult a few years ago and then the other day I overheard a little girl saying it too. They were not going to go anywhere on holiday this year as her baby sister is too young. I was tempted to tell her that it is possible to travel with a baby, because I, as well as many others have, several times, and look at us wonderful people. I didn’t though as I felt that I may just be the spoil sport in her day. A ten year old really didn’t need some lady telling her that her poor mum is probably overwhelmed by the idea of having to pack almost the whole house to go and spend a week or two where she won’t relax. Although the poor Dad probably is dying for it.
No way, José. I needed to tell the parents. There is help out there, a holiday might just be the thing you need and it is possible to travel with young kids, even babies. And you could even love it!
So here are my 3 P’s to get you going:
- POSITIVE PEP TALK : it’s all about your attitude. You CAN do this and you WILL enjoy it. 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!
Just getting back to point number one because it doesn’t sound very important but it actually is the most valuable of all of them! Sometimes you may have those moments when you have been awake all night on the plane with your baby on your lap, non-stop feeding, cleaning up vomit from the top end and poop from the bottom, the type that reaches up the back and out of the neck of the second back-up babygro, you have wrapped him in your own spare top and he finally falls asleep. Then just as the dawn flickers, your two year old on your husband’s lap awakes and all you want to do is cry but instead you turn to your husband and make a little joke, and the two of you manage a small smile together. You’d need that – to be able for those tough moments.
Top travel tips for travelling with young children:
So here are some further top tips gleaned from experts (other parents just like you) who have travelled the globe, sometimes single handedly with multiple little ones in tow:
-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 well presented! (Sad but true.)
-If you are flying alone with young children, make friends with the people around you and the airhostesses as you will need to leave your kids in capable hands when you have to go to the toilet. (You won’t all fit in the cubicle, infact it’s sometimes hard to shut the door when changing your baby’s nappy.)
–Minimise your child’s hand luggage as you will probably be carrying it all, and use backpacks.
-Carrying your small baby in a sling instead of a pram frees up your hands and helps keep it securely on your lap if a bassinet is not available on the flight.
-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, I absolutely love these, in fact it’s hard to get the family out of the car when you get there.)
-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 am able to look back on those as an adult and remember so much more. (You are teaching your kids to be adventurers -and journalers – right from the start.)
– Finally, 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.
++For more articles on travelling with kids, here’s a post I wrote about camping in Normandy, France, another about a trip to South Africa and a further one about our most recent holiday on the Isle of Skye.++
And here are some helpful websites to send you on your way:
Flyingwithkidz.com is an upbeat website filled with helpful information that will encourage you to step a little further out of the comfort zone!
The Rough Guide has a great list of 20 tips for travelling with children.
Deliciousbaby.com is a helpful website with a whole host of travel ideas.
I loved this quote from mylittlenomads.com as I think it sums it up perfectly:
But there’s the payoff. It’s great. Like parenthood itself, it’s something you can’t quite explain until you’re in it. You can’t get there by some other route. There’s something unique about traveling with kids. You can’t sleepwalk through it. Or fake it. You can’t sum it up in a postcard.
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.