Friday, January 23, 2015

Tips for traveling with children

Are you heading away for the long weekend? Let's be honest, travelling with children can be a bit like trying to wrestle a live chicken into a hessian bag (ever had to do that? It's hard!). Whether they're your kids or someone else's, there's a bit more to it than bunging a Playschool CD into the player and stopping for constant snack and potty breaks. I remember driving my parents insane on our regular driving holidays, and I'm not looking forward to the day my children do that to me!


Here are my top six travelling with children tips:

1. Take your Time
Small humans don't run to the same schedule that bigger humans do. Toddlers in particular love to explore and we all know that babies are unpredictable and love to throw a schedule out the window. So you'll cope better if, from the outset, you factor in lots of faffing, tantrums, toilet breaks and just general extra preparation time into your travel. That six hour drive you used to do? Yeah, get ready for it to take nine now.

2. Book Ahead
Really this one is a bit of a no brainer. It applies to everything - accommodation, entertainment, travel, transfers... everything. As an adult it's ok to not have a hotel in mind and just take whatever you can get. That's not going to fly with children in tow. Especially if you need special considerations, like a travel cot. Or, if you're flying, certain expectations about where you'll be sitting and a bassinet seat. It'll save your sanity if you know exactly where you need to be, when, and what you can expect. So make those bookings! Which means, if you were planning a last minute escape this weekend... well, you best get right on that!!

3. Pack Snacks and Entertainment
Have a collection of toys to be handed out regularly. Ideally, these should be things that have a bit of novelty, so not toys that they already play with every day. I like to pack things like colouring books and crayons, stickers, board books and the like. Also, don't give them everything all at once. Ration that entertainment out, otherwise you'll be stuck with constant laments of "I'm bored!" and "Are we there yet?"

Pack snacks. There is totally something to be said for ordering food when out, but what if that food isn't suitable? Or isn't served at the right time? Pack a few things that you know your kids will eat and that travel relatively well without special conditions and temperatures. Think sultanas, sandwiches, muffins (like my apple and oatmeal muffins) fruit, crackers and cheese. Really resist the urge to feed them too many sugary things... do you really want to be stuck with a small child who has consumed their own body weight in sugar and has nowhere else to go? Exactly.

4. Let the children know what to expect
Children really do understand more than we give them credit for. Explain to them what is going to be happening and what they can expect so it's not a complete shock for them. It's hard enough as an adult to fall asleep in a new bed, imagine how hard it would be for a small child! Tell them what to expect so that you can remind them of the conversation when things are happening, and they have time to get excited and think about all the new things that will happen.

5. Everybody does not need their own bag 
Pro tip. Don't let everyone have their own unique bag. There is nothing worse than getting to your destination and realising you are short a piece of luggage. Of course, that would probably be the bag that has the special toys required for sleeping, the nappies and all the other essentials. At least if you have an outfit and bare essentials spread across the bags, it probably won't be too bad a disaster. 

6. Stick to a routine
I know from experience that my children are at their best when I roughly follow their daily routine. They need to sleep at a certain time and eat at a certain time to be cheerful. So keep that in mind when you're planning a getaway - the most enjoyable holiday might be one that's closer to home instead of taking a long haul trip away.

Organisation is really the key. Make sure your bags are packed early, and pack the car in advance. Pick the right time to travel - if your kids are good sleepers, it might work better to travel overnight so they sleep for most of the journey. Alternatively, it might be best to get an early start... work around nap times so that you don't have tired and cranky little complainers.

Want some more travel tips? See this series by Lifestyles of the Modern Mum:
What are your sanity saving tips for travelling with children?

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