When you have young children, the idea of getting in the car and travelling to the local supermarket with the clan can be overwhelming – let alone flying with kids to the other side of the country or the world!
There are a few things that are guaranteed… everything WILL take 5x longer than it needs to, you WILL forget something, and someone WILL no doubt have a breakdown of some kind (it may be a child, it may be you, and if you hit the jackpot it could even be both simultaneously!!)
If you’re thinking about taking a family trip but are unsure about how you will go travelling with children, keep reading below for our 12 helpful travelling tips we have collected throughout our own experiences.
1. Book ahead and be organized
The only thing more nightmarish than trying to find your way from the airport to the hotel with two screaming kids in the backseat is landing with no idea of where you’re going to spend the night. While an element of surprise can keep things fun and interesting, try and limit the surprise to where you’re going to eat dinner or which rides you’ll brave at the theme parks.
Book everything big well ahead of time to avoid extra stress. Any flights, hotels, or tickets to popular tourist attractions can sell out months in advance so get onto these as soon as possible!
2. Research your destination
With the internet and computers today we have all the knowledge we could ever possibly desire right at our fingertips. A simple google search can bring up a wealth of information about your desired location – from the best hotels to must try eateries, to activities, to areas to avoid. The more you know before you go, the less likely you are to run into trouble.
However, it’s also easy to overdo it and feel the need to plan every moment. Nothing will ever go perfectly to plan – hotels will be booked out, restaurants will be shut, and the weather won’t always co-cooperate. So make sure you allow for some movement and flexibility in your plans as well.
3. Get the kids involved
Explain to them where you’re going and how you’re getting there. Travelling with children tends to go a little smoother if they know what’s going on – they are likely to feel scared and overwhelmed being taken into brand new environments and situations without an explanation.
Before you leave, find a few options of things to do once you reach your destination and get the kids to help choose their favorites. Having a say will make them feel important and help build excitement and anticipation for their time away!
4. Be early
One thing I absolutely cannot stress enough is to ALWAYS be early. Especially for flights! Traffic can be unpredictable, especially in cities you are unfamiliar with, and you’d be surprised how long it can take to get from the taxi to check in with kids and suitcases flying everywhere.
5. Be prepared with snacks
Plane food these days is generally much better than it was years ago but still can leave a lot to be desired. You will probably want to take a selection of small snacks when flying with kids, particularly if your children are fussy eaters. Our top picks are cheese sticks, crackers, home baked muffins or cookies, dried fruit, nuts and cereal bars.
Depending on how far you’re travelling and whether you’re driving or flying, you may also want to pack some small meals such as sandwiches to keep them full for longer until you reach your destination. If your hotel room has a kitchen you can grab some sandwich fillings and prepare things to take in a backpack each day to save costs and time.
6. Meet and assist
Many airports and airlines now offer this service. If you’re new to flying or just have your hands full with the children, this can be a godsend! They will meet you at a certain point in the airport and give you a hand right up to getting settled on the plane. Contact your airport or airline to find out if this service is available for you.
7. Have a medical kit handy
Whether you’re taking a family road trip across the state or flying with kids to the other side of the world, someone is bound to get sick or hurt themselves. Be prepared with a well-stocked basic first aid kit in your handbag or backpack.The essentials it should contain include: adhesive dressings, tape, antiseptic, wound cleanser, eye drops, scissors, tweezers, gloves, band aids, cotton pads, sunscreen, basic painkillers, a thermometer, insect repellent, antihistamine tablets, and disinfectant. If your child has any prescription medication make sure you have this as well.
8. Take your time and take a deep breath
One of my top travelling tips is not to try and rush through everything. Have plenty of time up your sleeve in case things don’t go to plan (as you will find they often don’t, especially when you’re travelling with children!)
9. Pack toys and games (and download apps)
Plane rides and car trips can seem to go forever as an adult, so just imagine how long it seems to take for your children!! Pack a few of their favourite small games and toys, and download some of their favourite apps if you have an iPad or tablet they can use. Just make sure it’s fully charged before you leave to avoid any disappointment.
10. Brand ‘em
If your kids are prone to wandering off, you can write your name and number on their arm for an easy return. I know plenty of friends who have done this when travelling with their children who like to run off in crowded places.
11. Take lots of photographs
Take photos of everything! You can never have too many. We all carry our smart phones with fantastic cameras around in our pockets these days so there’s no need to splash out on anything too fancy. You’ll never look back and wish you’d taken fewer photographs, but you’ll definitely regret it if you haven’t taken enough.
Another fantastic thing to encourage if your children are old enough is keeping a travel journal. They can write down their favourite things they did each day and stick in ticket stubs or instant photographs. These are great to look back on a few years down the track!
12. Have fun!
Trips away are fantastic bonding opportunities for you and your family. Relax and have fun. You’re sure to have a few road bumps along the journey (such is life!) but if you take them in your stride you’ll have a wonderful family trip 🙂
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