Here we come summer holidays! YEAH!
When it comes to travelling with children it does not always fill one with joy. Long days, cooped up in a small space for hours and multiple snacks allll day it seems! It can be fun though, it will be a busy full on day and nothing like travelling solo…that is for sure!
Here is my ultimate guide of top tips when travelling with your littlest members of the family to make the experience a little smoother for you all…
Before You Go
PLAN PLAN PLAN. Book anything and everything in advance! From boat crossings to car hire and don’t forget to hire the car seats also! You may need to book kids clubs in advance also so this is worth checking out on booking hotel stays.
Figure out your journey and itinerary in advance. If taking a road trip get out the map and work out where you will make your pit stops. You will need to stop every 2 hours or so especially if you have a small baby in a stage 1 car seat. Safety first and it is recommended not to have baby longer than 2 hour stints in a car seat.
Leave PLENTY of time. For the journey to the airport/station and for the airport transition. As a mum of 2 myself and travelled a few times on planes 2 hours is NEVER enough time at the airport and you do not want to be stressed out rushing through the airport with children in tow!
For older children over 3 you can get them involved in the planning of the holiday. Go to the library, look at books about travel on a plane/boat/train…look at books about your destination. This will build excitement and keep expectation on par. Some children like to know what to expect so this can be a great way to help them understand. Using travel flashcards is a great way to help children understand what is coming next. You can make some yourself with pictures of cars, boats, suitcases, airpots, planes...swimming pools and beaches!
For school aged children they may enjoy making a scrapbook of the journey/holiday. I still have mine form the first time I went to Australia when I was 10!
What to Pack
Whether it is a road trip or a long haul flight try to pack light! Famous last words right! There is nothing worse to than having hundreds of bags and pockets and so much stuff you don’t know where anything is and having to dismantle that awesome neat packing you have done.
For baby…essentials only!
Lots of nappies/wipes/nappy cream/nappy sacks. I always worked out how long the journey was door to door, calculated how often I usually changed nappies in that time and then added another 3 nappies for any mishaps!
Formula and then an extra couple in case one spills or baby is still hungry! Premade bottles are great for journeys
Spare sterilised bottle/s
Snacks for the baby on solids
Favourite toy. Even a paper cup and a couple of shiny spoons can be entertaining for a baby!
Calpol/Nurofen in travel sachets
Masking tape – for baby proofing loose cords and covering light switches and power outlets
For the toddlers and older children…
Snacks, snacks and more snacks!
Travel sick bags
Neck pillow for older children. We all know how sore it can be when we fall asleep and our head falls forward!
Audio stories/head phones
Car seat desk/organiser
Calpol/Nurofen in travel sachets
1st aid kit with Dioraylte for the family.
Blackout blinds - click link to see my fave!
For The Journey
You may prefer to book flights over nap time. We always did this and the children slept pretty much the whole way when we visited family in France and Spain.
Whether you are travelling by train, boat or plane let your child walk/ run about as much as possible. Airports often have play spaces so it is worth checking this out before you leave the house. Exerting energies before having to sit for a long time will likely help them be calmer.
Loo stops. You can never have enough! Before you leave home, arrival at the airport, after check in and before boarding the flight. You don’t want to be caught out on take-off with “mummy I neeeed to go to the loo now”!
Ensure your child stays hydrated and well fed. You may need to pack a lot of snacks for older children! Offering a feed or water (water over the age of 6 months) during take-off and landing to help relieve babies’ ear pressure. A lolly is great for older children to suck on and also keeps them quite. It is physiologically impossible to suck a lolly and cry at the same time!
Let your child be part of choosing the activities to pack in their backpack. But remember luggage restrictions and weight!
Road trip time! Remember with small babies in a car seat you will need to stop at least every 2 hours for safety reasons. Please read this article from The Lullaby Trust more information on car seat safety.
Routine is very much likely to go out of the window on travel day so relax a bit, however, if you still want to keep to some routine, try to drive over a nap time and wake your child up at the usual time they would wake from a nap. It may mean you need to stop the car and get out for a breather or sit in the back yourself to wake them.
For longer distances you may like to drive over night, avoids traffic and also more chance your child will sleep and not be asking a thousand times “are we there yet…”?
Giving a backpack to your preschooler/older children can really help them prepare for the journey. It builds excitement and gives them some responsibility not to forget being part of the process.
Pack the buggy or sling on the top so it is easy to get it out on your stops. You won’t want to put baby on the floor in those service station loos…!
Have a pack or wipes next to you for ease of access especially if you are driving alone.
Take new toys with you as this will engage them more then perhaps olds ones. Some ideas for you-
Mess free water paint colouring books
Twistable crayons (lids get lost and pens dry out)
Reusable sticker books
Journey Play Prompts from Play Hooray!
Travel bingo. You can print out pictures of things you will see on the journey such as stop signs, bridges, rivers, red vans… for your child to circle when they see it out the window!
Card games such as Uno or Happy Families
You could even pack a picnic for the journey and make a nice stop somewhere to break up long journeys.
So there we have some of my travel wisdom for you! I would love to hear from you what travel necessities works for you!
Peaceful Nights to you all and happy travelling!
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant
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