The thought of travelling with children is pretty daunting. I’m by no means the most experienced of travellers, however we’ve been on a fair few trips both in the UK and abroad, with Tom and more recently, Lois, in tow.
So here’s my top tips to make those journeys a little less stressful:
- First of all lower those expectations. I mean, get them right down. To the point where your goal is simply to get to the other side alive, and having not committed violence against another member of your family. By doing this you aren’t going to be disappointed are you?! I say this, because we’ve travelled in the past with lovely ideas of how it’s going to go down and it just never goes this way. For example, we decided to drive back from Cornwall to Scotland in a day, with a stop in Manchester to go to the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre for a few hours. Setting off and stop off times were planned around Tom’s naps. We didn’t factor in leaving on the first day of half term in England and being stuck in traffic for the entire day, missing LEGOLAND and Tom staying awake for the entire 12 hour journey. Actually, that’s a lie, he fell asleep 45 minutes from home, then we had the added fun of the car to bed transfer. It stressed us right out but the funny thing is, looking back, Tom was completely chilled out. If we’d had no plans for how the day SHOULD go, we might have been the same.
In saying that I still believe preparation is key. Whatever the mode of transport them kiddies need entertained man. So here’s how we do so:
- I always pack a selection of small toys, colouring and activity books, cards, the favourite teddies and the old portable DVD player. Yes I live in the stone age where we haven’t progressed to iPads.
- I also make sure I have a ton of snacks for the kids that can be eaten throughout the journey – and things that take a while to eat, like little packs of raisins, mini biscuits, grapes, crisps and I always take my own sandwiches as I HATE shop bought ones (that’s just me though). By the way, did you know you can take your own food through airport security? I thought it was a well-known fact but it turns out my sister was hugely surprised and a little annoyed when we arrived separately to our holiday and she found out we’d had a massive picnic on our flight while her 3 had a bag of airplane crisps on their 3 hour flight!
- If you’re travelling with baby you’ll be surprised by what you can take through airport so fret not. You can take formula, sterilised water and even breast milk through, as well as baby food. For more info check out the GOV website.
- While we’re on the subject of travelling with babies and toddlers, I made a massive error when we took Tom to France at the age of two, by not taking his buggy. He was hardly using it and I thought I had to pay to take it with us and I’m tight-fisted 😉 Turns out we really needed it as the heat tired him out, and it was FREE to take. If you want to carry a tired toddler round a hot country for 90% of the day then leave the buggy at home for sure! Otherwise, take it. You can also take it right up to the gate with you so it’s a huge help if your gate is miles away. Now every airline is different so do check before you travel but in my experience you can normally take two items of baby/child equipment with you for free, whether that be prams, car seat, travel cots, carriers and so forth. So take advantage, If you’re hiring a car you’d be as well taking your own car seat as paying for one that you might not trust anyway.
- For long car journeys, plan on taking much longer than the norm to get to your destination and stop as many times as you feel you need along the way to let the little uns stretch their legs and burn off some energy. We’ve figured out the good service stations to stop at that have little outside areas and after a bit of fresh air we bribe the kids back into the car with a sweet treat. Naughty, but it’s got to be done.
- Lastly – don’t stress about those around you. It’s hard enough travelling with little ones without worrying about the impact on others. Obviously if your toddler is pulling the hair off the lady in front you might need to intervene, but otherwise I’m very much of the opinion that this journey will be a whole lot more stressful on you than it will on them; for one – they get to go their own way at the end of it, you’re stuck with your little screamers, so I’m sure they’ll get over it. If those around you can’t be a little understanding if your little one is unsettled on a flight or a bit bored on a long train journey then screw them, that’s not your concern. You do what you can to get through it and forget about it.
I hope that this little post has helped a little. I joked at the start about lowering your expectations, but it actually genuinely helps. I’ve planned car journeys around ‘nap times’, early morning and late night flights thinking the kids would sleep and we would read, we’ve brought our own books to read and having an idea in your head of how a journey is going to go and it not going your way can be really stressful. So now we make sure we’re full of caffeine, and we each take a child and just go with the flow, pandering to their every whim in an attempt to make the journey as easy as possible. That, and making sure you have copious amounts of food, toys and games to entertain them with will definitely help. Then, when you arrive at your destination, drink wine! Also, note below – sometimes things just do go your way. The below situation lasted 40 minutes. 40 minutes of sheer bliss!
Wherever you’re heading off to, enjoy! The journeys aren’t always the most fun, but they’re definitely ALWAYS worth it.