Planes, trains and automobiles! With summer holidays booked, travelling with younger children always requires planning and a whole lot of distraction! As the aim is to get to our holiday destination sane, happy and ready to enjoy the break as a family, it’s important that the journey and adventure is well-planned so it can go as smoothly as possible, making a huge difference for everyone.
Travelling By Plane: Some Helpful Tips
Although most airlines allow families to board first, it’s a good idea to pre-book aisle seats, mostly for easy access, to allow small children move around during the flight and take trips to the toilet. Be prepared to do a certain amount of walking up and down the aisles!
Some parents find that the wheely school bags are great for the children to wheel themselves: “The bags are not too big for the younger ones to pull along in the airport, but a good size to pack enough to entertain them, and a change of clothes in case of accidents, spilt drinks or warm weather at the other end!”
The idea of having their own bag is exciting in itself for children who are old enough to pull them! We all know the discomfort of a fully packed nappy-changing bag over our shoulder, and the frustration of trying to keep it from slipping while pushing the buggy. Many parents find packing the toys, snacks, nappies and wipes into an adult rucksack a great help. It’s also easier to store this bag (instead of the usual roller carry-on suitcase) under the airplane seat in front of you, so that you’ve got easy access to grab the essentials when you need them during the flight.
A top tip for Baby is make sure to bring their nap time essentials - comforter, soother and blanket, making it as easy and familiar as possible to doze off.
Whether travelling by plane or train, remember that you may find yourself watching the children and juggling your bags in the airport or train station; while another adult is parking the car, taking one of the children to the toilets, or grabbing a much-needed cup of coffee! Think practically when packing up the family about how much you need, and what will weigh you down during the journey.
A bag of tricks
Before travelling, take a trip to your local Euro shop to pick up ‘never seen before’ bits and pieces - you will find a great assortment of sticker books, crayons, toy cars, miniature dolls, pocketsize books and fun flash cards. Spending a little bit on these treats before the journey will save you from buying overpriced items in the airport or stations. The more of a novelty, the better; as children are always excited to have a new present to open and play with. They also come in handy as a distraction during long delays and waiting times. My top tip is to avoid the noisy toys - I once made the mistake of packing a very noisy set of kiddie’s car keys - they swiftly went back into the bag for the sanity of other passengers until our arrival.
Feeding during take-off and landing
Whether you bottle- or breast feed, allowing your child to feed on take-off and landing is a very comforting way to help their ears pop or adjust to the change in air pressure. For older children, you might like to have a supply of chewing sweets or a lollipop, which will also help to relieve any discomfort for their ears, and is of course an extra sweet bonus. For the toilet-trained toddler, try to bring them to the toilet about 30 minutes before landing, as you don’t want to be caught in a long queue at passport control with “I need to do a wee”!
Slings and buggies
A lightweight carry-on buggy which can be taken on the plane free-of-charge is a must-have item of luggage to bring with you, especially when there is a lot of walking to do at the airport. You will most likely need it as soon as you arrive at your destination, as well. Some airports now provide complimentary buggies to help parents move their family throughout the terminals, so check online to see if you can avail of this service at your departure or destination airport. In my own experience, using a sling can be a great comfort for your baby as well as being very practical. The buggy doesn't always land at the arrivals gate - even though they promise it! Having your baby in a sling or baby-backpack will also give you two free arms to wheel your cases, hold hands, or push the luggage trolley.
Snacks and drinks
Again, preparation of food ahead of time is key to saving time and money - more so for the plane and train, so you can supervise. Prepare some pots of fresh and dried fruit, crackers, batons of cheese and veg, pouches of fruit. Pre-cooked meals that can be enjoyed cold, like pasta, vegetables and sandwiches are always a winner while en-route. Sports cap bottles are one of the best travel companions, as they not only quench the thirst but are mostly spill-proof – so no mess! The snacks and drinks not only fill our little ones' tummies, but they love small portions to nibble and graze on while enjoying the journey.
Travelling by car or train
Plan around naptimes. If your baby or toddler has a routine nap time, try to take advantage by ideally scheduling your trip when they are likely to sleep. This can make the travel time easier and more comfortable for everyone. When you are travelling by car, occasional stopping to stretch the legs, for trips to the toilet and some fresh air, can help break up the journey for both parents and children.
Audio books for the car
There are some really great classic stories that the children love to listen to on a journey - maybe even their own favourite bedtime story with sound effects and music. One of our family favourites is The Gruffalo, and at this stage we all know this one off by heart! But have you thought of mixing up the stories and music with some of the parents’ requests? It’s amazing how much our children enjoy the grown-up tracks too, as well as learning to share the entertainment along the journey!
Create a space like travel pouches that you can hang on the back of the front seats, to store all the children’s travel-friendly toys; these are handy not only for distraction but also for ease of access. Remember that the bag of tricks works well here too - anything new and different is a novelty that will most likely hold their interest!
Remember: Whatever the journey, a little planning and preparation goes a long way and will ease those unexpected stresses!