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Travelling with kids is always going to be one of those stressful moments in life. If they are well-behaved it’s easier, but for parents of badly behaved kids, it’s an absolute nightmare!
Of course, we’re not saying that’s your kids, they might be a relatives children or you may be taking a school on a trip. Whatever the reason you “took the short straw” there are a few ways to make the whole process easier.
The key ingredient to a smooth trip when travelling with kids is to find the right balance between the needs of the children and the realities of modern-day travel. The 2 have to combine to make the journey as pleasant as possible.
We spoke to a renown children’s trips organiser who gave us these following tips on travelling with kids:
It always pays to book ahead, whether you’re staying in hotels or out camping. There is no joy for anyone if you arrive at your destination only to find there are no rooms or camping spaces and now you’re back on the road with tired & hungry kids. No, no, no!
2. Take it slow
You may have spent your “without children” years rushing through the Airport security or up the Motorway to your destination, but those days are over. Now it’s time for responsibility. Make sure you have all you’re children with you at all times. Have you ever seen Home Alone? Nuff said!
3. Plan, but maybe not too much
OK, you don’t want to spoil the holiday with too much planning. After all, any delays could throw your well-meaning plans out the window. But you do need a semblance of a plan. You need opening hours, excursion times, Airport arrival times, etc etc. So definitely make plans around your travelling with kids experience, but be flexible with them. There are even Apps to help you with this!
4. Be climate prepared
It’s obvious we know, but children will be happier when they are dressed for the occasion, so it’s no good taking the woollens with you on a summer beach holiday. And how do you think the kids will react to ski suits 3 sizes too big? It all helps with your travelling with kids vacation!
5. Use you’re children’s iPad or tablets
It may seem like an idea to take the crayon set or a toy box the size of a small car with you to keep the kids entertained, but the crayons will all get lost down the seats and the toy box will turn into a nightmare for everyone, especially the other travellers. So simply use the kids own iPad or tablets. Even the most basic product is loaded with apps and games to keep them entertained for hours (hopefully)
6. Explain the journey
There’s nothing worse than a child who doesn’t understand what is happening, especially when they have never been on a plane before. So it’s always beneficial to sit down with children and explain the whole journey from start to finish. Where your going, what your travelling on, what’s expected of them, etc etc. Then during the journey, explain to them why they have to put on a seat belt, or why they have to stay quite for a moment!
7. Invest in a child locator
It really is so easy to lose a child when travelling. You are struggling with luggage or talking to someone and all of a sudden, it’s panic as you realise one of the children has disappeared. It’s important to let children have some freedom, but not every child likes to be on a leash. A child locator means they wear a small unit, strapped to a shoe or a belt, and you keep the transmitter. If the child moves out of a pre-determined range (for example, 10 feet) the alarm goes off. You then follow the alarm to find the child. Obviously, there are flaws with this, but it’s a start!
8. Airport time-check in online
You don’t really want to spend long periods in Airport queues, so try checking in online. Then you just got to hit the baggage and security and your done. Most airports have a family area near security so your all in it together so to speak!
9. Leave plenty of time at the Airport
OK, although you don’t want to spend long periods in queues, you do want to get to the airport in plenty of time to spare. One, it avoids all the stress and panic of late arriving, and two, you can tire the children out with games before the flight!
10. Keep bugs at bay
Whether your travelling to Brighton or Brazil, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer are a must. A quick wipe of the cutlery or the hands now and then, can zap a few million germs and stop your kids catching some very common bugs!
11. Don’t forget their medicine
Always remember to take the children’s medicine with you on the journey. It’s also an idea to take some basic first aid kit with you, maybe including some plasters, Calpol, antiseptic wipes, sting treatment, and a thermometer. Check out other “medical” post “Top 5 tips of staying healthy during your trip”
12. Try a practice run
This might seem a bit over-cautious, but if your kids aren’t used to the hustle & bustle of an Airport, it’s a great way to show them what to expect. If your going camping, try it out in the garden first, before embarking on your 2 week camping holiday. This will ease everyone’s concerns and increase their enjoyment when the real vacation comes.
13. Avoid sweets
Resist the temptation to keep feeding them sweets during the travelling with kids journey. Instead pack some savoury snacks like bread sticks, fruit and bagels, anything to avoid the “sugar rush” and subsequent hyper activity.
14. Check your passports
Children’s passports only last 5 years while yours lasts 10 years so be very careful that you’re children’s passports haven’t already expired. The cost of a last-minute passport is immense, and will definitely spoil your travelling with kids holiday, so please check way before the holiday.
15. Involve & engage older children
You don’t want the older children or especially teenagers sulking all through the holiday, so try to involve them in all aspects of the journey, including asking them what they want from the holiday. You might be pleasantly surprised that they don’t spend the whole time on their tablet!
16. Give them a camera
Try giving your kids a robust, child friendly camera. This encourages them to focus their interests and observe their surroundings a bit more than normal. You might even be pleasantly surprised as to their photography skills!
17. Make sure the hotel has a lift if you have toddlers
Carrying toddlers, toys, luggage & strollers up 7 flights of stairs is NOT fun. So make sure your hotel has a lift unless you want the extra exercise.
18. Consider the hotels kids facilities
Has the hotel got a family pool, is there any children’s activities. Have the rooms got children’s TV like Disney or nickelodeon. Is there a movie library. etc.
19. Set a family Travel budget
Family travel can get expensive if you don’t set parameters on the budget. Reward good budget keeping with a “blow out” now and then. It’s still supposed to be fun you know!
20. Capture your kids memories of the journey
Get them a journal to go with their child friendly camera. Or use their smart phones.
Maybe get them a scrapbook once you return, providing a lasting keepsake of their wonderful experience with you.
21. Go see the doctor
You need to see your doctor 2 months before you leave to discuss vaccination of you and the children involved. You may have to take their names and addresses with you.
22. Fly direct on long haul
If possible, try to fly direct on long haul flights. You don’t really want to be changing flights mid way through a long haul journey at crazy hours of the night. It doesn’t help anyone arrive as fresh as possible, and is another way to make travelling with kids more peaceful.
23. Don’t forget, you were once a child
Putting yourself into your child’s shoes is always beneficial. Try to remember what you enjoyed doing as a child, how did you like to travel and what did you enjoy doing on holiday?
24. Travel with an open mind
Your going to experience different cultures & unusual environments during your journey. Try to keep an open mind, and teach your children’s minds to be open to change. Whether that be different foods or traditions. There may be times when other cultures may shock you, but try not to judge, maybe sit back and say to the kids, “hey, isn’t that interesting, lets discuss”.
25. Expect the unexpected
Things can always go wrong. When they do, try not to panic. Try to go with the flow. Have an attitude of “Everything will work out just fine”. This journey is a great big adventure and the kids will remember it forever. But, they will also learn life skills from watching you on the trip!