Christmas and the holidays usually involves some kind of travel for the family. It may be a decent length drive, or a massive long haul flight, there are a few things that can help the journey go a little more smoothly. A little planning and thinking ahead can make a huge difference in the overall experience!
1) Plan your journey.
Try and work your travel around your families best times of day, ie when kids are most likely to sleep!
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Some families I know dress their kiddies in their PJ’s, feed them up, bundle them in the car and take turns at driving through the night.
I only recommend this if you can both manage to get a sleep during the day first. Flights that go over tea breaks or late afternoon are probably the worst, try and go for early morning if you can.
For long haul flights, you are likely to be in the plane at all times of day, make the most of stop overs as a chance to run the children ragged in hope you can get them tired.
2) Pre-pack the car the night before.
If this means buying a few spare toothbrushes, just do it!
Have a small list of genuine last minute items stuck to the inside of the door or to the steering wheel of the car so it doesn’t get forgotten. Check, check and triple check for important items like your wallet, passports and travel tickets.
3) Put together some entertainment packs for each kid.
Small shoe boxes work well for this. Visit the local dollar store and get a few new things specific to each kids likes and abilities.
If you have a portable DVD player or laptop/tablet stock up on movies that the kids will enjoy. Books are great and some kids like to color or draw while driving.
4) Pack snacks, and LOTS of them.
You will be amazed at just how much contained children can eat! Try little things that you can ration to make them last longer – chippies, chopped fruit, grapes, small sticks of cheese, marshmallows (or other candy that little kids won’t choke on while you aren’t looking).
A little bottle of water each popped in the freezer the night before will help keep it cool in the car but watch the rules on international flight with liquids however.
You cannot take foreign food into a country, but you can eat it on the plane before you land.
Give the kids a lolly-pop to suck on take off and landing, or feed a little one their milk to encourage their ear pressure to stabilize. They may have sore ears for a day or so after landing, so give them some grace.
5) Leave with plenty of time.
We all know how amazing kids are at making us late. Allow an extra hour to get to the airport, that way when you have to head back home for the favorite soft toy that they now suddenly cant live without, you can and still have time for the toilet stop you will also inevitably have to make on the way to the plane.
When driving, plan to stop every hour or so, unless the kids have miraculously all fallen asleep.
Stop, have a play at a playground, run along the beach, feed the ducks, have a treat at the local cafe, have a picnic lunch, play a quick family game of sardines or something similar, take some photos and jump back in the car.
6) Get a mascot.
Consider buying a soft toy to make the journey an adventure for, get the kids to take photos of or with the toy and collate a scrap book of its adventures.
Don’t forget to record your family vacation memories!
7) Dress like a team.
As corny and very nineteen eighties that this sounds, dressing the family alike or at least in very bright colors makes finding a running toddler in a busy airport, or cafe, or park so much easier.
Others will work out that you belong together and are more likely to say “he went thattaway”.
Taking a family picture on your mobile device before you leave is also a handy trick for the old “have you seen this kid..?” Juuuust in case. Not that we plan on loosing a kid! But life happens!
8) Get a carrier.
Find some way of carrying the younger ones around the airport/stopovers. A baby carrier for a baby or an umbrella style pushchair that will fit in the overhead luggage for a toddler is a lifesaver for the long stop overs in large airports.
9) Thank people for their patience.
Preempt any angst and thank people before you get in bother. Consider putting together a little thank you card and a cookie/candy for the neighboring rows in the plane, get the kids to give them out pre-flight or mid-air while thanking the people for understanding how it is to fly with littlies so far from home.
Accept that sometimes, kids will be kids and that hot, hungry, tired, disrupted kids will likely play up, and maybe cry, and maybe forget how to use a toilet, and maybe even get travel sick.
Do you know what? Its OK! It’s only for a short while (36hours long haul may seem like forever, but its really only a day and a half, some of us labored longer than that, you can do it!).
Make use of offers for help from the flight team. And take lots of deep breaths! Laugh off the small stuff and try, try, try to enjoy the trip the best you can.
I hope these top tips for traveling with kids come in useful for you these holidays. Do your best to be prepared and organized and at the same time know that nothing will go to plan, and that is OK. Remember they whole point of your vacation is to relax and have fun, so just go with the flow and enjoy those candid moments!