Whether you love it or loath it, planning is the key to ‘stress-free’ travel with kids.
It’s absolutely imperative in my books!
Let’s be honest … there wouldn’t be many parents out there that could admit to enjoying transit times! I wish I did – but the reality is – I DON’T.
We’ve done enough travel now that I absolutely know that we’ll all come out of it at the end, but regardless of what my intellect tells me, my mind (and stomach for that matter) still scream the words FEAR & ANXIETY. I like to think that the backflips that my stomach is performing is all about ‘excitement’ … that’s crap – it’s my old friends ‘fear and anxiety’!
BUT, I have learnt that if I’m well prepared for the period of transit then my fear subsides a touch and the time seems to go by without too many hassles or challenges.
We’ve spent many, many hours in this funny state of transit. And I’ve made some pretty fine mistakes – doozie’s in fact, so this post is all about helping you to prevent my mistakes by giving you some tips that I, myself, look back on each time we’re about to embark on a period of transit.
When booking a journey we all want to get to the ‘other end’ as direct, and as fast as possible. In a perfect world, maybe without children, that’s possible, but when you have little travelling partners, trying to achieve this may end up creating a lot more angst and trauma than necessary. Slow down and take your time.
Always consider your travel partners when planning your route and booking your tickets. This will include their ages, their usual daily routines and even their personality!
For example, are they ok if they skip a normal sleep-time? and are they happy to sit still and entertain themselves for extended periods?
Work around them, book flights that will work into your child’s routine, and don’t fret if you need to book 2 connecting flights rather than the 1 direct one. Yep, It might possibly be a little more expensive but I can tell you from experience that you’re better to take a few extra hours, even days, to get to your destination if it means arriving in a sane and together state. Don’t push their little boundaries. Remember … happy kids = happy parents = seamless journey!
Try to book your route around nap times, whether that be flying to include the nap time or avoiding it totally, allowing them to be well rested opposed to tired and grumpy – not fun! Don’t push your children to extend their normal hours of ‘awakeness’. This will come back to haunt you, I promise that! The last flight I did was short so I flirted with danger – We were to board at 6am but I didn’t account for the 2 hr check-in and the 1 hr journey to the airport AND then I hr prior to departure to sort luggage etc. So my great idea of a reasonably early start turned into a 2am wake-up call, arriving in Australia at 10:30am to our ‘very excited’ arrival party waiting eagerly at the arrival gates, all bright and chirpy and ready for a day full of catch-ups and engagements. My poor little darlings managed to roll through it all, albeit with heavy bags under their little eyes and lead feet. I learnt from that one, our next flight is booked for a 10am departure! (still early but manageable!)
Allow plenty of time between connecting flights, and check the distance between the gate you will arrive at and the gate you will next depart. Each airport is different so you never really know how effective or sometimes downright ineffective this process will be. And keep in mind that you need to double the time to do anything when children are in tow! My general rule of thumb is to allow at least 2/3 hours from touch-down to take-off and, if you find that you breeze through the transit then you can always stop for a milkshake and cookie!
Ask your airline if they supply prams at the destination. Just this alone can save precious time not to mention your child’s little legs! If you child would rather run, and I expect they will, then use it for a baggage cart!
Another tip is to consider a stop-over or overnighter. If this works into your time schedule it can become just another part of your adventure, as well as giving plenty of time for rest and recuperation. Just make sure you check the distance from the airport or station to your accommodation, the last thing you need is to be stuck in a taxi or bus for another extended period. The hotels that are close to the airports are usually more expensive but personally I’m willing to tweek the budget a touch to allow for this bit of comfort and sanity saver!
The big question!
There are those people who do this effortlessly, you know the parents that seem to have more tricks packed into their teeny little daypacks than David Copperfield’s magic show. Well, I try ever so hard to be like them, sometimes I’m almost there, other times I just fail miserably! Most of the time I remember all the ‘less important’ things like lego and lollies, (a BIG no no!) and forget the vital components – like vomit bags and face wipes – ekkkkkk!
So…. Here are my tips
‘in their packs’…
– allow them to chose a couple of their favorite books (soft cover are good)
– light weight colouring in pads and sketch books, A5 size is perfect, and new pens & pencils (don’t forget a pencil case.)
– word sleuth and kids crosswords are great for 5+
– If they’re into electronics an ipad, tablet, Nintendo etc
– Their favorite teddy
‘in yours – for the kids’…
– Socks and a lightweight jumper
– A travel blanket (our absolute fave is a ‘quillow’ it’s small and doubles up as a pillow, we just couldn’t do without it!)
– Snacks – lots of little packages of surprises – sultanas, tiny teddies, banana chips, nuts etc etc
– Face wipes, small plastic bags for rubbish,
– Some sort of sweet to help their ears acclimatize
‘in yours – for you’…
– It’s decadent but I LOVE my Jurlique Rose Water spray. Sometimes you just need a spray of something lovely!
– I also carry a Jurlique Hand Sanitizer, not so much for the sanitizing component but simply because it’s a great product. I do struggle with the dry air in the cabins so rehydrating is essential for my comfort. And … it’s another bit of lovely!
– Speaking of the dry air I have eye drops to combat that as well
– Water, water, water! (first thing I do when I buckle up – ask the attendant for water!)
Now, just a bit for those parents, like me, that have children that are prone to travel sickness.
A lot of these things won’t work for the little darlings that suffer from motion sickness, if anything they tend to aggravate the situation. Reading and watching movies are almost always out for my boy so we tend to break the rules a little and allow him small sets of lego, or small hand held matchbox cars, trinket like toys. If we lose some parts during the journey then no stress. Now that he’s getting older he tends to sleep for most of the journey, this works for him (and me!) and I’m relieved to say that the travel sickness has dissipated somewhat for the last several journeys so x-fingers we’re over the worst! BUT with that said, I am always prepared!
– a change of clothes – for them and for you because most the time you’re the one wearing it!
– Dark plastic bags, zip lock is ideal if you can get theml
– Face wipes, and a damp face-washer in a zip lock bag.
– Mints or something similar
– Toothbrush and toothpaste
– I also bought Jed a set of wrist bands that are designed to work with the pressure points in the wrist to alleviate motion sickness. I had an enormous amount of success with these and still use them today. They’ll set you back AUD$30.00 but money very well spent!
AND, finally the most important tip of all, accept help if it’s available, and get the hostesses to remove the used bags, and bring you plenty of water!
During transit times you’ll undoubtedly be sitting on your butts for quite some time so dress for it! You can still look stylish and be comfortable at the same time!
For the girls … wear leggings and tops with room to move, boys, comfy pants and a tee. I always pack a lightweight jumper or throw, and a pair of socks for when the plane gets chilly, which they almost always do!
And I do exactly the same for myself.
I once considered starting a website on 101 ways to use a sarong. That’s how much I do!
In the past I’ve used them to provide shade as well as a little bit of warmth. I’ve used them as a ‘make-do’ seat belt for my toddler on the scooter and a seat cover to save burning our butts! I’ve used a wet sarong to comfort an unwell traveler and I’ve used it as a pillow cover when the pillows are looking a little grungy. I can keep going, possibly to 101, but I think you get my drift.
A sarong rates as my #1 Travel Essential!
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!
I think I’ve found the perfect little trick for a seamless journey! (I’d be interested to know if it works as well for you?)
Travelling with kids can sometimes resemble a roller coaster. Everything seems to be rolling along smoothly until you hit the next corner when all hell breaks loose and intuitively we, as the parents, know exactly when that’s about to happen! You can almost feel it in your bones. The secret lies in minimizing these peaks and troughs of transit travelling.
So, without further ado – my secret is …
‘The Lucky Dip!’
Firstly work out the time that you’ll be in transit and buy enough little goodies to allow for one per hour per child. Wrap them all individually, and put them in a special bag, one bag for each child.
When you feel that you’re heading towards a trough then bring out the ‘lucky dip bag’. Believe me it works a treat, no matter what age your little travelers are. Of course you’ll need to adjust the content for the age but it can work for all ages.
I put in all sorts of goodies, being mindful to reduce sugar considerably, if not all together. No kids wants a sugar rush while contained to a tiny area, and nor do you want to manage that. I try to make the surprise something that will entertain them for a length of time, not something that doesn’t really have a purpose like a figurine.