After traveling with our kids, we have learned, sometimes the hard way, that in order to survive travel days, we need to do some pre-planning! Here are our tips for a successful trip…
For us, hungry kids means meltdowns and meltdowns are not fun for anyone. So we always make sure we have snacks in our day bags and for longer trips, like long flights or train rides, we make sure to take meals as well. Kids can be fussy and it’s so much easier to have a back up sandwich in your bag then risk them not liking the food on the plane/train and becoming hungry.
Long travel days can be so boring for kids. Once the excitement of the airport and boarding the plane is over and you have a 9 hour flight ahead of you, you need to have entertainment planned and iPads are not always enough! Our 9 year old is more than happy to immerse himself in movies, only looking up when food arrives, but our younger kids, aged 4 & 2, need something more. Sure, they’ll watch a couple of episodes of their favourite TV show, but then what? Well, we take activity books and mini travel games. Things they can do with us but also by themselves. I usually print and make my own mini A5 sized activity sheets, stapled together, then once they’re done with one sheet, we tear it off. That way we’re not lugging around a big book which is full of completed puzzles which we no longer need.
3. Minimalist packing
We have 3 kids, so we’re already outnumbered! The last thing we need on stressful travel days is more things to coordinate, carry, and ultimately lose! So we pack light, like REALLY LIGHT! If we’re taking a long flight, we’ll check in 1 medium sized bag with everything in for our family of 5! We only ever pack 3 days worth of clothes for each of us regardless of how long we’re away, as we try to always stay in apartments and hotels that have washing machines. For our carry on luggage, I take the Baby Zen Yo-Yo stroller, Andy has the main day bag and the 3 kids each have a mini Fjallraven Kanken backpack and that’s it!
4. Health & safety planning.
Be prepared and plan for the worst case scenario!!
This is probably one of the last things on your mind when you’re planning a holiday, but it’s probably the most important one. We make sure to carry a full first aid kit, everything from plasters to pain relief to rehydration salts! We hope to never have to use it of course, but it’s there if we need it and it helps with peace of mind. We keep this in our day bag so it’s with us at all times.
We also have SOS bangles for the kids with our contact numbers on and although thankfully they’ve never been needed, we’ll keep using them.
5. Tell the kids what to expect
When we have a busy travel day ahead of us, we explain to the kids all the steps that we need to take. Weather it’s a taxi, followed by a plane, followed by a train etc, the kids need to know what to expect. For the younger kids, when we have a particular long or complicated travel day, we tell them a bedtime story the night before in the form of 3 little boys who go off on an adventure and then the next day, they remember the different parts to the story and so they know what’s coming next and how long it takes to get to the ¨end¨.
6. Arrive early, but not too early
When travelling without kids, I’m more than happy to do a last minute dash through the airport if it means an extra half hour at home relaxing, but doing a mad dash with kids in tow is a recipe for disaster. The airport is a great place to let kids run off some steam before a long flight, so we arrive with enough time to get through check in and security at a leisurely pace and then to find a kids area for the kids to run about in for half an hour. Usually whilst the kids are playing, one of us will go and grab drinks and any other supplies we may need for the flight. However, try not to be too early, because kids will get bored and in our experience, they will start asking for their tech, which we prefer to give them when we’re up in the air.
7. Pre book transport or stay in easy to reach hotel/apartments.
The worst thing, is arriving in your new country/city with tired children from a long day of travelling and then having to find your accomodation with no plan as to how you’re going to do it. This step of the journey is probably the most important part to get right. The kids are excited, tired, overwhelmed by their new surroundings and it doesn’t take much to set off a meltdown. So, to make this transition to our new surroundings easier on the kids and on us, we research heavily before we arrive somewhere. Here’s what we do… If we arrive somewhere late at night, we pre book a taxi to collect us and make sure the driver is waiting with a sign for us as we come out of arrivals or off our train. If this isn’t an option, we research to see if Uber is an option and if not, we will use the airport taxi pick up point where we will negotiate a price before we get in and always research the costs involved with this beforehand. So we know what to expect.
If we arrive during the day though, we love to either try out the local transport system or we walk. On a recent trip to Italy, we stopped in 7 different hotels and we did the whole trip with public transport. We made sure to book places that were close to train stations or metro stops (max 20 – 25 minute walk) and we checked out google maps before arriving in each location. We love to put it into satellite mode and do a little virtual walk through of our route, making sure to pinpoint certain buildings or names, in our mind, so we already “know” where we’re going.
8. Be prepared for when things go wrong
Some things you have no control over, but you can make it easier on yourself. Let’s start with the obvious, flight delays. You always hear stories of that family who had a long delay, in some remote, unheard of location and they only took enough formula for their baby to last the flight, or had no snacks for their older kids and there was nothing available to buy at the airport. Don’t let this be you! All it takes is a bit of planning.
Andy and I once took a flight, many years ago, pre kids, in thailand. We ended up delayed and found ourselves in that above situation, no food, no water, and nowhere to buy anything. After about 5 hours, the airline brought round some noodle soup, which wasn’t exactly the nicest thing I had ever consumed but for the sake of my blood sugar levels, I ate it. I think this experience has stayed with me and now, I plan for this scenario. The kids all have their own small day bags on travel days with enough entertainment and snacks to last the trip, but we also carry a day bag which is filled with everything we may need in an emergency or for when things go wrong. In this bag we have a first aid kit, we have spare clothes, we have extra nappies and wipes for our 2 year old, we have lots of extra snacks which would get us through long delays, we have copies of all our documents and also a couple of power banks incase we need to charge up phones.
I hope you have enjoyed reading our travel tips and that they help you with your future travels.
What have we missed? do you have any amazing tips and tricks that you want to share with us? then comment below, we would love to hear them!