As much as we love to have them on the actual trip with us and making memories together, the actual travel to get to the destination with kids can be an utter nightmare. Plus, the added pressure of travelling during the Christmas season only makes things worse!
There's no point denying it. Airports can be stressful enough places without little humans in tow who need their every need attended to immediately or a breakdown may well ensure in the departure gate. There are ways to make it all just a little easier. Simple tricks and hacks from parents and airlines over the years have made the stressful journey with kids just that little bit more manageable, from being super prepared to accepting that sometimes, things just go wrong.
The main ideas are to be prepared, take it as slow as you need to and give everyone plenty of time to pee - you've got this mums!
Understand the charges and regulations for each airline
Every airline is different, so it’s better to know ahead of time what you can and can’t bring, what you are and aren’t charged for. Some airlines have a policy of not charging for kids under two, while others require that you purchase a seat for them. Same goes for buggies – some may charge extra while others include them in baggage costs. You’re better off knowing all of this beforehand so you’re not caught with any nasty price surprises at the airport when you’ll already be under enough pressure. This way you can also shop around and get the bets deal to suit you and your family.
Think of how much your prepare for your usual day running errands with the kids in tow – now imagine doing all that going through an airport which are already stressful places. However much prep you usually do with your own documents and baggage for the airport, this will be doubled if not tripled when you travel with kids. You need to have them wearing clothes that they can easily sort out for security, they need to be able to access certain items in their bags, if you think you have enough wet wipes or spare changes of easily accessible clothes – you probably don’t. It’s all about being prepared for the messiest case scenario.
Keep it as simple as possible
The above being said about preparation, with kids luggage it’s generally best to keep it as simple as you can. Do they need a whole suitcase full of clothes or will a backpack do? Particularly if you’re going somewhere warm and will have access to a washing machine, lots of light clothing should easily fit into a simple backpack for each child. Lugging extra bags that you don’t need through the airport is the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re actually there struggling with the kids and all your own baggage and needs.
Check in beforehand
The cardinal rule of all travelling! Some airlines give you the option to upload all the documents you’ll need for checking into different countries beforehand to allow you to check in and get through the airport with as much ease as possible. It will all run more smoothly if you’re not fumbling for the right documents for your whole family at every checkpoint.
Be strategic with timing
When flying with kids, try to book flights that take advantage of their natural downtimes. If you can get an evening flight that’s around their usual bedtime, they’re more likely to drift off on the flight and give you and your fellow passengers a more peaceful flight. That being said, airports and holidays are exciting things to kids. They’ll naturally be more wired and sometimes no matter how prepared you are or what extensive measures you’ve taken, your child may just cry the whole plane journey. It happens, it’s natural, and anyone who has any experience with kids or a little empathy will understand what you’re going through. It can feel mortifying, but it’s happened to almost every parent at some point and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or awkward. If anyone has an issue with it, if reflects more poorly on them than it does on you.
Break your screen time rules!
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If your screen rules are usually a strict half an hour, it’s okay on this rare occasion to break them for a little peace and quiet on the plane ride. Download a few episodes of whatever they’re interested in beforehand and they’ll be able to watch it even when flight mode is on.
Comfy and colourful outfits are key
This is an old trick of my mother’s that I’ve always thought was clever. Whenever travelling somewhere with a child who can’t keep still or is prone to wandering off, dress them in super bright clothes in a distinctive colour so you can keep an eye on them no matter where they wander. Bright green, neon orange, sunny yellow – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s distinctive. It’s also important to ensure their clothes are comfy. There’s nothing worse than travelling and being cooped up for hours at a time in jeans that are too tight or a top that requires too much adjusting. Keep it comfortable and colourful when travelling.