Holidays are an essential part of life – time to recharge, take a break from the daily grind and most of all, to have quality time together as a family. They can be as simple or as extravagant as you like, as close to home or as far away as your heart desires – but whatever you decide, it’s going to take some planning (and yes, no matter how fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants you were before kids, a holiday with kids does require a bit of forethought!).
Obviously the age of your children, your level of confidence, how adventurous you’re feeling and of course your budget, will determine where you choose to go and how long you choose to go for. One thing’s for sure – there are many MANY options available!!
So, let’s run through some handy travel tips for when travelling with children to hopefully make it more fun for everyone!
- Include your children in the travel planning. Tell them about where you’re going, show them pictures and talk about the things you will do. It’s good to prepare them for what’s ahead and help them feel more at ease.
- If you can plan trips outside of school holiday periods it can save you a lot of money…so make the most of travel before your kids start school!
- Have realistic expectations for your trip, especially if you are heading overseas. Try to prioritise activities and attractions that are important and do them early on. Ideally plan for one major attraction a day, particularly with preschoolers and early primary age kids. Don’t try to do too much, and aim to keep afternoons for relaxing back at your hotel or holiday home. Also remember, everything takes longer when travelling with kids, so allow yourself plenty of time.
- Try to pack light! I know it can be hard if you’re travelling with a baby or toddler and all their related paraphernalia, but try to keep it to the essentials, and remember we rarely ever wear ALL the clothes we pack!
- Although we’re trying to pack light, things like children’s Panadol is a must, as are bandaids, insect repellent, antiseptic cream, sunscreen, antibacterial hand wash, lip balm, gastro stop, and the usual toiletries. And don’t forget baby wipes! Even if you don’t have a baby, wipes are so handy to have for inevitable spills and sticky mouths and hands.
- Taking a small light stroller can be a lifesaver for when little legs get tired. They weigh nothing, pack up small, and are great for use in the airport. Carriers are great for little ones but once you hit 15-20kg of child, a stroller is definitely the better option!
- If you are staying in a hotel, make sure to research it ahead of time. Some things to consider are room size and configuration, kitchen amenities (if any), cleanliness, facilities available (eg a pool or play area can be a great bonus), proximity to transport, attractions and restaurants/cafes. An included breakfast is also a good bonus, but if not available, then having a kitchenette will be even more important. Remember you will likely spend more time than you normally would in your hotel room, so it’s vital to make sure it’s suitable.
- Cots are usually available in most places, though their quality can vary greatly. Make sure to arrange this with the hotel prior to your arrival. If you are staying in a holiday house rental, the same applies, but if you are driving to your destination it may be better to take your own portable cot.
- Don’t forget to take photos! Better still, give the children a camera of their own to use (it doesn’t have to be expensive). It gets them involved, keeps them interested and when they get home they can use their own photos in their travel journals.
- Travel journals are a great way for kids to capture their travel experiences and to encourage and motivate them to reflect on what they have seen and done. They can be as simple or complex as they want, or is appropriate for their age and it’s something they will be able to keep forever. For some great downloadable travel journals, check out our shop.
- Whatever your view on iPads and electronic devices, there is no denying that an iPad can often be the difference between a meltdown and sanity – of the parents! Download some age appropriate games, apps and movies before you go and enjoy your quiet time!
- Before boarding the plane, give the children plenty of time to walk/crawl around and use up some of their energy. This is also a good time to make sure everyone is toileted!
- If you need a bassinet, make sure you request it upon booking your flight. Then arrive as early as you can to ensure you can be assigned those seats.
- During take-off and landing, give the kids a drink or a few lollies to suck. If you have a baby and are bottle feeding, make sure the bottle is ready to go. For older children, explain to them what is happening and reassure them as best you can that it will be over soon.
- Give each child a backpack with their own things in it. Include a colouring in book, a sticker book, a plain notebook, crayons/pencils, and a small puzzle. Wrap them up as ‘presents’ so the kids are excited to have them.
- Always take snacks! Even on full service flights, there can be quite a wait to get food, so pack each child their own (labelled) re-sealable snack bag with enough to see you through the flight. Provided there are no allergies to be taken into account, try to keep the snacks exactly the same so there is no fighting!!
- iPads are lifesavers (see point above).
- Take an extra set of clothing (especially on long haul flights) for the children, and even an extra top for yourself, just in case. Also bring a couple of plastic bags for soiled clothing and accumulated rubbish.
- Pack an extra special food treat in case you need to resort to any kind of bribery!
Many parents dread plane travel with their children, especially those with babies and toddlers (and let’s face it, other passengers generally aren’t thrilled to have you on board either). However, you can only do the best you can, and no matter what happens or how much your baby screams or your toddler misbehaves, the flight does have an end, and it’s likely you will never ever see any of the other passengers again!
Road Trip tips:
- Pack the car the night before and try to get away early in the morning to avoid peak hour traffic.
- Make frequent pit-stops, about every 2 hours usually works well. Try to work it around food and toilet breaks, and if you can find a park for the kids to run around in, even better.
- As with plane travel, have some snacks on hand and a few little activities that can keep children occupied (without causing travel sickness!).
- Get ready to play lots of family games like I Spy, and Spot The…, and story telling games where everyone adds a sentence. Having a checklist of towns you drive through can also be fun for older kids to keep track of, and you can talk a little about what (if any) landmarks they have.
- Road trips are great for sleeping too, so pack a pillow, a blanket and a favourite teddy and enjoy the serenity.
Lastly, I should mention travel insurance. If you’re going on a big trip or travelling overseas, travel insurance is a must, especially when you’ve got kids on board. You just never know when illness or injury may strike and never will it be more important to be covered.
I hope these travel tips help you to feel more comfortable in planning your next family holiday. And remember at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, try to slow down and enjoy your time together.