As we have just returned from our first overseas trip with Amelia, it had me thinking back to our travel with Liam and how it differed – what worked and what didn’t.
We were so lucky with Liam in his first year and managed to travel a lot!
So here are a few of my tips for traveling with kids...
Tip #1: Plan, Plan, Plan
I am a mega list maker and have an excel spreadsheet for each holiday we go on, it might seem a bit over the top but it helps me work everything out…
I really try to avoid over-packing, the more organized I am before a trip, the better I pack, meaning I can avoid the hassle of having to push too many trolleys and keep track of the children! The reality is, in most places you can buy anything you could need but to be honest, I just try to have the essentials with me, food and nappies! I don’t want to be searching for nappies or wipes when I could be having a cocktail! And the left over space on the return trip makes room for messy packing!
Top items to take on every trip
- Black out curtain (or a black out porta cot cover)
- Black blanket or sarong style
- Masking tape – you will be surprised at how much you can use this!
- Disinfectant wipes – we all get sick from time to time travelling but it’s really hard keeping kids hands out of their mouths, so do what you can to stop those little germs spreading
- A travel stroller - most airlines will let you put them in the overhead locker (we have always loved the Mountain Buggy Nano), or a front pack if you're traveling alone.
- Any medical supplies you might need, easier to have this on hand rather than trying to get to a doctor or having to use a translation app
Tip #2: Do your Research
- Where you are going? Can you book a hotel that has a playground nearby?
- Are there any childcare options that you would be comfortable with? Do they need to be pre-booked?
My favorite accommodation style with kids, is some form of serviced apartment. It can be a lifesaver having washing and cooking facilities (although try not to do more than you need to!) It also means if you are sharing rooms, you have a separate area to be in while the kids are sleeping (I have found myself in a hotel room bathroom with a laptop before!) This option also gives you a bit of extra space for them to play when you are not out and about, my kids always need a bit of down time. And don’t forget to check if you are not on street level, that it has lift access!
Tip #3: The Flight
Often we are governed by cost or airline flight times - below are a few things to think about if you can make it work!
- Try to take day flights. Even if the nap times don’t work out, it’s a whole lot easier to deal with a restless child when you’re not tired or when others aren’t trying to sleep. Late night flights often have a meal service and lots of noise so it's hard to settle a baby during that time. If this is you, you could try to adjust the babies sleep times 2/3 hours to make it more manageable. If all else fails, try and keep them well feed and tag in and out with a travel buddy if you have one, so everyone gets a little rest! If you’re on an overnight flight, the ideal time to board would be about 3/4pm, giving them time to settle and have some food while all the announcements are still taking place.
- On long-haul trips, if you can stop over and sleep somewhere easily, do. Some think it’s easier to just go straight through- I’m in two minds about this. I usually stop on the way up if costs permit, as it means we can all get a rest before another big journey, even just a few hours can make a big difference. On the way back I do prefer to go straight through and just crash when I get home... and hope a family member is around to help with any troublesome kids!
- Feed babies on takeoff and landing to help with any sore ear drums
- Snacks, snacks, snacks! Enough said.
- Take lots of distraction
Tip #4: Routine
- Think about the time of your flight and what time it will be when you land. Try to adjust your baby to that time zone ASAP. They will usually be so tired after a big flight, if they do fall asleep just let them have a few catnaps until it’s their actual night time (or the time you want to adjust them to). Maybe you want them to sleep in more and stay up later? If you are wanting them to sleep in a little more I would highly recommend having black out blinds on hand.
- If you’re travelling far abroad, find a way to separate yourself and your baby for the first few sleeps. We have put Liam in large wardrobes and gone for cheaper accommodation to ensure we could get into time zone if different rooms.
- Food- try and pre-plan as much as possible until they are at the stage where they can eat normal adult meals. Liam is now 3 and he is a bit of a tricky eater, but I know I can always get him cheese and pasta, so we are ok with him. I try not to take too much packet food for the babies, on our recent trip to Fiji I took Weetbix, pear cans and yoghurt for Amelia. For lunch, I bought her avocados in Fiji and mixed them with scrambled egg or cottage cheese. And for dinner I took a mix of Future Foody meals & smoked salmon and some of the more hearty packed meals. When we went to Europe with a baby Liam, I had no trouble getting each hotel to purée me a big lot of veggies. I would give him a pouch and then top him up with real food!
Tip #5: When is the best age to fly?
I found Liam easier to fly with up until when he was crawling (around 9 months), and then again once he was happy to sit and watch a movie, around 2 years. 18 months was particularly hard when flying long haul, Liam was awake for long stretches and needed to be entertained but he wasn’t quite old enough to watch an iPad or a movie – those options were totally worth lessening the pain for me though! If that’s not you – stay closer to home.
My final tip
Many of my friends ask why we travel with kids as many find it too hard, for me it’s my favorite thing to do so it was important to work out how to do it with them and still have a good time. Once you adjust your expectations to suit the family and don’t stress if you miss out on something, it’s surprising the other experiences you enjoy along the way. Plan for downtime and take public transport from time to time – many kids love a bus or train!
Get out there and do it!