“Are we there yet??”
It’s summer holidays here in Australia and I know that many families are travelling somewhere over the next few weeks. Be it on a long-haul flight or a few hours in a car, I thought I’d share some of my tips for travelling with kids. In keeping with tradition, here are my Top 6 Tips for travelling with young children…
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Tip #6 – Run, Run, Run!
You need to get as much energy out of them as you can before you board that plane or sit in the car for the next three hours. Make the most of the time you have at the airport. Some airports have dedicated kids play areas, but otherwise find a bit of space and let them go! It is also important whenever you have a rest stop on a road trip to get them out and running around or doing star jumps just to expel some of that energy. We have taken a balloon ball with us in the past for the kids to play with while waiting for a flight or to play with in a hotel room. You pop a deflated balloon inside the fabric, blow it up, tie it off and voila, you have a ball! These ones below come from My Little Giraffe.
Tip #5 – Slow Paced Travel.
Whenever I am planning a holiday for a client – as well as for my own family – I encourage them to slow it down if they are travelling with children. Many kids need familiarity, space and time to cope well with travel. If you are challenging them with different time zones, languages, food, sights, smells and sounds, you can’t expect them to cope with a different bed every night as well. A two night stay is a short stop for a three year old – I would encourage you to have more three and four night stays if you can. If the children become a little more familiar with their “holiday home” and their own spaces and can create their own little routines with where they are putting their bags and their favourite teddy bear then they will be better equipped to handle the trip overall.
This also goes for trying hard not to cram too much into one day. I learned the hard way when we took our son to Japan with us. He was three at the time and Mummy didn’t really think about leaving time in the day for a rest or a play in the park, or even just an hour in the room to play with his cars. After a few tough days at the start, I realised that we needed to cut things out and give our son pockets of time with nothing to do. All of our holidays from then on have been slower paced and as a result have been much more enjoyable for all of us!
Tip #4 – Pack Spares.
We always put in spare clothes for the kids in case of accidents, but for a flight always pack spare clothes for the adults too! Why? I know baby wipes get most things out, but not leakage from an explosive nappy ten minutes into a thirteen hour flight… There’s also an outside chance that your suitcase might be left sitting in a pile on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport while your plane is pulling out of the gate… So pack spares in your hand luggage!
Tip #3 – Feed Them.
With my kids, food always works. If they’re bored, food will distract them. If they’re tired, food will help them to push on a little longer. Food buys time. I’m not saying stuff them full of McDonalds or lollies every time they make a squawk, but having some snacks and treats on hand if you are stuck waiting somewhere or still have a bit of time to until your next stop. I make up little lunch boxes for them with a variety of bite-sized delights in there so they can munch away when they need to.
Tip #2 – Have a Secret Weapon.
I know a lot of clients over the years who have booked something special for their children on a trip and have kept it a secret from them. They may have told them just as they were leaving home, or they may have saved it and then revealed it during the holiday when they have really needed it. The parents may have come up with a series of clues about the special surprise and then gradually reveal them throughout the course of the trip.
These “secret weapons” might be a stop at Disneyland or some other theme park, or a stay in some kind of unique accommodation like a tree house, or a visit to a zoo, an aquarium or some other kind of wildlife park. They could also be something tangible, like a new toy travelling companion, an electronic game or even their own little camera. Or it could be something to inspire them, like their own travel journal or a CD of their favourite songs. It may be something quite simple and inexpensive – for example, my daughter loves stickers so I always sneak a few extra pages of stickers into my luggage and pull them out as needed. A notebook to stick them into is also quite handy!
Whatever your secret weapon is, my advice is try to not peak too early with it. Don’t make my mistake – my children’s highlight from our three week overseas holiday last year took place within the first two days! There is nowhere left to go after that! Draw it out – bribery can be a good thing where travelling with kids is concerned!
Not sure I’m going to win Parent of the Year for some of these tips, but anyway…
Tip #1 – Old Fashioned Fun.
Yes, I use electronic devices to entertain my children. Yes, I stick on a DVD for them. Yes, I break all the rules I said I would never, ever do as a parent. However, my top tip for successful travel with kids is to try some “Old Fashioned Fun”. I couldn’t believe on our recent road trip how much enjoyment our children got from a game of eye spy, or looking for yellow cars (“Spotto!”), or doing a word search or a dot-to-dot, or simply writing / drawing in a notebook about what we had seen, where we had lunch, where we were staying that night and so on.
The best thing we had with us was a Travel Bingo booklet. There are loads of printable versions online with a variety of road signs, land marks and common sights (plus some not-so-common ones too). Give each child their own copy and a pen and let the searching begin! My three year old loved it so much – she would shout “Check!” at the top of her lungs every time she crossed something off. She would cross it off multiple times too – it was a never-ending search for her! My eight year old was more structured and had the concept of “bingo” more than his little sister, but it provided hundreds of kilometres of entertainment for the family. The best part was it cost nothing – only the paper it was printed on!
So wherever you are headed these holidays – be it on a plane, a train, a boat or in the car – I hope that these tips help to make your family escape a little smoother.
What are your tips for travel with kids? I’d love to hear them!
x Sonia x