Travelling with toddlers can be a daunting prospect - especially to inexperienced parents. A trip can often bring out your child's worst side when all you want to do is sit back and relax. Here are a few pointers on how to make travelling with your young ones fun rather than frustrating.
BOOK A DIRECT FLIGHT AT OFF PEAK TIMES. Try to find a direct flight to your destination, at off-peak travel times. The less time you spend walking through airports and clearing security check points, the better. You are going to have to carry plenty of extra baggage, and this will become a nuisance if you have to keep unpacking.
A crowded airport is full of stimuli that can upset/ excite/ bewilder a young child, so travelling at a quieter time will make the journey easier.
If you are driving, try to break the trip up into small sessions. Keeping a young and energetic toddler confined to a car seat can be as stressful for them as it is for you.
CHAT TO YOUR CHILDREN. Win your kids over by accessing their imaginations. Before you fly, show them pictures of an airport and an airplane - talk about the exciting moment when the plane takes off. Tell them about where you are going, so that they have something to look forward to when the flight is over.
If you are driving, tell them about some interesting/ exciting places they will see along the way. Make a game out of it, giving them points for every landmark they can spot without your help.
Most importantly, be excited and positive. If you are dreading the long and tiring journey, your kids will pick up on it.
GET VALET PARKING AT THE AIRPORT. If possible, use valet or 'meet and greet' parking services. A chauffeur will meet you outside your terminal, minimising the time it takes to get you inside. A long walk to the terminal with your kids and all their extra bags is not the ideal start to your trip. Meet and greet parking will keep it simple.
PACK BOOKS, GAMES AND TOYS. Make sure your child has enough to keep him or her busy, entertained and satisfied for the duration of the trip. Think about all the on-flight entertainment available for adults - drinks, food, movies, sitcoms, soapies, documentaries, newspapers and music. Now double that and you are somewhere close to what your child needs.
Pack a rucksack full of toys for each child (they will use it the whole holiday), including one or two new ones that are wrapped - these do not have to be expensive. Don't let them open them until they get on the plane. Build up the excitement for them.
If you are packing a gaming console, like a DS, make sure you have extra batteries. This applies to all electronic products.
PREPARE FOR MESS. Children are messy at the best of times. When they are in a car or on a plane, they make even more mess than usual. Do not give them full glasses of juice or watery puddings. Very importantly: keep your bag of cleaning essentials close by - not locked away in the overhead compartment, or in the boot of the car. Messy incidents will happen at the most inopportune times.
Here is a basic checklist to consider:
- Wet wipes - an absolute must
- A bag to throw rubbish in
- A change of clothes for you and your child - trust us, you could very well need it
- Extra wet wipes
- Spare nappies
- A tea towel or two
- Travel potty
- More wet wipes
- Have we mentioned wet wipes yet?
PACK SWEETS AND JUICE. Sweets and juice are a multi-purpose tool. They can be used as a reward system in boring times. For example. Child says: 'I'm bored!' Parent says: 'If you sit still and read your book for another half an hour, we can park at a rest stop and eat some cake'.
Chewy sweets and suckers are also great for relieving the pressure on a child's ears when landing and taking off in an airplane. Have these ready, especially for younger children who are flying for the first time.
PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN. If you are flying or driving during the day, make sure your kids are well rested beforehand. You do not want to bring a tired and grumpy child through security, or have them squirming and complaining in the car.
Do not overfeed your kids before a trip either. You do not want to get up every ten minutes to go to the bathroom with them and you do not want them to vomit.
TAKE A MEDICINE BAG. The physical environment when travelling may have a negative affect on your child. To be prepared, you should consider bringing a few helpful provisions:
Child-friendly motion sickness pills, Lip Balm and moisturiser for dry skin, Paracetamol, Sunscreen, Child car seat sun visor
PACK COMFY BLANKETS. A sleeping child is a happy one. Make sure you have some comfy pillows or blankets handy if your child wants to catch some shut eye. If your children have special sleeping aids - a teddy bear, dummy or doll - bring those too. The goal is to make the environment as comfortable and familiar as possible.
BRING HEADPHONES/EARPLUGS. Bring decent headphones or earphones for yourself. While your children are sleeping quietly, someone else's children could very well begin screaming their heads off and driving you mental.
Last Updated: October 2010