Lifestyle's Travel Expert, Rose Jacobs, shares her top 10 tips for travelling with the little ones. Grab a pen, because these words of wisdom could make or break your next family holiday!
My two-year-old received her first letter in the post recently. It was her Qantas Frequent Flyer points update. Her passport has more stamps than her reward board on the fridge. And she loves to travel! That’s a good thing, considering my husband Steven travels for work on average 300 days per year and so our kids and I attempt to join him for as much of that as possible.
It has been a journey, to say the least and I am proud to say I have gained a handful of very useful tips along the way when it comes to making these trips manageable. I even write a blog about it now, because I’ve gained so much insight I think is worth sharing! (poopypropeller.blogspot.com.au) And let’s face it… if you’ve ever attempted to travel with your kids then you know just how challenging it can be.
The following advice may just make your next journey an enjoyable one, for the entire family. Here are my top 10 tips for those brave enough to take the leap!
- Prepare as if it’s a military operation! I’m of the theory that you should spend the time leading up to the trip getting as much as possible in order so that the minute you step on that plane / boat / train, you know that you can roll with any punches that come your way, but you will be mentally prepared for any of them. This especially applies to your packing and pre booking as much of your logistics as possible. The cots or extra beds in the hotel rooms. The car seats to go in hire cars. The little things that will make your journey either really time consuming and frustrating or breezy and hassle free. Preparation has never been more vital!
- Carry on baggage is the most important! If you have very young children (in nappies or toilet training) then pack DOUBLE the amount of nappies / undies as usual. From my experience, their tummies seem to expand and inflate as much as your favourite face cream and you will be in need of extra supplies.
- Take a small travel bag for the kids (on wheels) full of disposable, cheap, safe toys and books that they’ve never seen before. If your child is walking they will love the independence of having “their own travel bag” and it will come in very handy when they start throwing tantrums in sticky situations on planes or car trips in traffic when you’re lost and stressing out. Distraction is key!
- Do a little research on child friendly facilities at your destination. Playgrounds, parks, kid friendly cafes, toy stores, swimming pools, bike tracks, duck ponds, ice creameries, cinemas, beaches, anything that will be exciting for them and something you can have them look forward to as a good behavior reward.
Always pack an umbrella!! And by that, I mean an Umbrella Pram. They are called that for a reason – they fold up like one and take up very little space. For a start, they are super cheap to buy from Target, Kmart etc and if they are damaged, lost or stolen you won’t be devastated and they can easily be replaced. Secondly, you can take them with you right up to the airline gate, leaving your child content during that long airline wait. Thirdly, they are the most lightweight, fast and easy things to throw around, pack in taxi’s, push up hills, fold up in restaurants and you will wonder how you ever lived without one.
- Leave some things open for improvisation. There’s no point in throwing caution to the wind, packing up your kids, your bags and your sanity if you’re going to try and control every single element of the journey. And you won’t be able to even if you try. So, don’t pack ALL the nappies you’ll need for the journey – you can always buy more when you get there (unless you’re camping!) and you may even surprise yourself with discovering a new brand that’s even better than your usual nappies at home – after all, that’s the point of travel – to expand your horizons!
- Always try to book two bedrooms (joined) if possible! Now that both my kids are in their own rooms and don’t need feeds in the night, we try to keep their sleeping arrangements separate to ours even when on holiday. It’s not always possible. But on those occasions when we are all in one bedroom together, all it takes is for one to wake or moan and it’s a domino effect, which leaves every single one of us short tempered and irritable the next day. It’s a recipe for disaster! Sleep is everything, especially when on holidays!!
- Ease the kids into the new time zones - Break some rules and let them stay up later than usual for the flights etc – and just edge them closer to the new zone each sleep time. But I say this only if you’re away for more than five days and it’s a significant time change. Phenergan can help for the flights if your kids are over the age of two. But I strongly suggest doing a little trial at home with this travel medication as some kids do have an adverse reaction and go hyper!!
- Find your compassion – for your kids and for yourself. You’re all in unchartered territory and remember just how overwhelming this can be for little ones to be so far out of their comfort zones. Extra cuddles, extra patience for their tantrums and changes in eat and sleep patterns and extra deep breaths for yourself and your partner, both doing your very best. It will go a long way.
- Adapt Your Itinerary - Remember that when you’re travelling with the little ones, your itinerary should not be what you would normally attempt to achieve on a big journey. Your backpacking, museum touring, shop-til-you-drop, mountain trekking trips of the past just won’t work for you now. Go at a child’s pace and they will reward you for it. Seriously, the less you attempt to achieve the more enjoyable the little things will be. You will see the smaller details, you will notice the subtleties, you will enjoy your family and come home in one piece.
But with all of that in mind, just remember that there’s nothing more important than being together, as a family unit, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Ok, so maybe remembering passports could be considered just as important. But everything else, is just part of the journey!
And whatever you do, don’t forget to take photos… these memories are priceless.
Do you have a question for Rose? Ask here HERE!