Travelling with Children? 21 Tips to make your Trip Easy and (Almost) Stress Free…
Travelling with children tends to split parents into two categories.Those who are super laid back, pretty optimistic and ready to take the rough with the smooth. And those who, even the mere thought of entering an airport with a toddler conjures up palpable levels of stress and trepidation about the logistics ahead - especially if you’ve never done it before.
Well the good news is - the parenting team at Bloss has you covered. Alongside our experts, we have the inside scoop on all things travel, to help take the hassle out of every stage of getting away with your family (As well as a handful of tried and tested, must have travel products to help you along the way!)
Before you go...
There are a few things you can prepare well in advance of your holiday. If you’re going somewhere with a pool (or even a body of water!) It's well worth investing in swimming lessons for your children.
Bloss Expert, Becky Adlington MBE and founder of Swim Baby explains “Swimming is a fundamental life skill at any age and all year round but certainly when booking holidays where there are swimming pools. A lot of holiday pools won’t have lifeguards or safety aids like armbands, so it is even more important to have lessons beforehand. Lessons will help your child not only with the right skills and technique but with confidence too. By taking lessons you are taught by experts who will guide your child in the right way. It's not just a skill for a holiday, it’s a skill for a lifetime!”
Sophia and Gemma of Toddlers, Teens and Between advise that if you’re travelling with different aged children, including teenagers, “Check out age appropriate entertainment for the whole family where you’re heading and get your teenagers involved in researching a fun thing to do all together ahead of time!”.
Around three weeks before you travel (or earlier!) write a list and get organised.
Making a list of what everyone in the family needs ahead of time is a good way to make sure you don’t forget anything and that you’re not digging around in the attic or washing clothes the night before you travel. Keep adding to the list as you think of things in the weeks before departure - and keep it somewhere safe for the next time you travel so you’re not starting again from scratch. Using the notes section on your phone with a bullet point tick list that you can duplicate is always a winner!
Packing - how to avoid taking the entire contents of the house…?
It’s a common mistake - overpacking. We all swear we’re going to ‘pack light’ but we like to reframe it as ‘packing smart’ which feels much more achievable as you know you’ll only be taking along what you need and avoiding any ‘What if’ items. Be as ruthless as possible!
Check the weather report before you go.
This might sound obvious, but checking the weather before you go should (!) allow you to pack more sensibly, bringing Summer clothes for warm weather and rain jackets for a drizzle. If you don't need it - don’t pack it! Depending on your destination, if the worst comes the worst you may be able to buy anything else you need when you get there if you’re caught out!
If you’re looking for some fantastic quality wet weather gear - Blade and Rose has a wonderful selection for children up to four years old. The designs are all colourful and fun - ideal for brightening up those puddle splashing days on holiday!
Are there laundry facilities at your destination?
Most self catering accommodation and Airbnbs have washing machines, which means you can take enough clothes for a couple of days and wash and re-wear clothes to cut down on suitcase space. If you don’t have this option, check out where the nearest public laundrette is and see if that’s a feasible option to use it whilst you’re there.
Invest in smart luggage.
You don’t want to be dragging around heavy, clunky bags, with precarious zips that inevitably fall apart on the bag carousel, depositing your belongings all over the airport. If you’ve got children in tow, go for something sturdy, easily manoeuvrable and lightweight.
For the grown ups, we absolutely love the Alyssa four wheel cabin carry on bag from Storksak. This versatile and stylish bag ticks all the boxes. Not only is it lightweight with spinner wheels, it comes complete with an incredibly smart internal organising system - meaning things like clothes, nappies, and accessories for your little ones are compartmentalised ready for an even smoother unpack when you arrive at your destination. The hanging organiser has a velcro strap so you can even pop it straight into the wardrobe. What’s even better is its cabin size - if you manage to pack smart, you can avoid time waiting for bags at your destination. Straight off the plane and go!
For your little ones - the trusty Trunki ticks all the boxes, Trunkis are ride along suitcases for children (makes trekking around the airport that little more fun!) and are surprisingly spacious inside. The Trunki comes in a fantastic range of designs and colourways - we loved the Lola the Llama! But there is even an option to design your own. All cases are made in the UK and are super durable, coming with a 5 year guarantee. Trunki’s range also includes some other fab travel essentials for car journeys. The BoostApak car seat is a cleverly designed car booster seat, which folds away into a backpack that can be carried by your child. This is a winner for holidays if you’re using hire cards, taxis or public transport but we have used it in restaurants when the seats are a little low!
Allow plenty of time…and more time…
Give yourself loads of extra time - and we mean LOADS. Allow extra time for the toilet, extra time for snacks, extra time for meltdowns, extra time for leaving something behind, extra time for slow walking… you get the message. By not rushing, you’ll be far less stressed and better equipped to deal with whatever the kids throw at you (literally).
Travel during nap times.
If possible, align long journeys with your little one’s nap time to give you the best chance of having some quiet time. However, this only really works if your child can nap on the go. If they can’t, and skipping a nap is likely to result in tears, do the opposite and try to travel when they’re well rested. One clever accessory which can help with comfortable naps on the go is the inflatable Koala Kloud foot rest. This dreamy product transforms that ‘gap’ between your plane, train or car seat into a cosy footrest, or allows little ones to have a lie down without awkward wriggling! We’d say this is a must have for a long flight. There are two options, one being adjustable (which we think is worth the additional investment!)
Dress everyone in comfortable clothes - and avoid laces.
Dressing kids in comfortable layers means that you can take things off and add things back on according to the changes in temperature. Avoiding shoes with laces also means kids can kick their shoes off easily and put them back on in a hurry - for example, when they need an urgent toilet trip. This will also help to get through airport security faster, if you need to take shoes off.
Pack medication in carry-on.
Don’t forget that if anyone in your family takes medication (either regular medication or an emergency epi-pen for example), you must pack this in your carry-on luggage or have it accessible during a long journey.
First aid kit...
Whilst we’re on that note - packing a small first aid kit in your carry on luggage or somewhere accessible in the car is a really good idea for when you need to respond to minor ailments and sickness in an emergency. Essentials to include are plasters, travel sickness bags, wipes, diarrhoea relief and something for upset tummies. Try to get things in a non-liquid form to avoid restrictions if you’re taking a flight, and pack just enough to see you through until you can get to a pharmacy. Mini First Aid have an exclusive 15% off their first aid kits for Bloss subscribers.
Kate Ball, Founder of Mini First Aid says “A first aid emergency is hard enough in familiar territory, but throw a foreign language, lack of local knowledge and one drink too many into the mix and your ability to calmly address a situation can be severely compromised. It’s so important to appreciate that the outcome of any emergency is always going to be better if the medical response time is quicker. So what can you do on your holiday to access help quickly?
- Know your numbers – in a medical emergency in Europe call 112; in the USA call 911
- Research your resort / locality – it sounds really boring but you will never regret taking a few minutes out to find your local hospital / medical centre / pharmacy should you end up needing it – your hotel rep will be able to help you with this.
- Get familiar with Google Translate – practise converting some simple phrases into over 100 different languages – it’s actually quite fun to do with the kids so get them to have a go too! Phrases such as “my child is not behaving in a way that is normal for them” can be especially useful when trying to explain to a doctor that strong, parental gut instinct that something just isn’t right.
Packing plenty of things to keep kids entertained is essential for long journeys. Early Years Development Consultant Danielle Manton-Kelly recommends “When travelling with children, collect small activities and wrap them individually like little birthday presents, before placing them in a hidden bag. Usually you won’t get to the end of the presents and wind up using the remainder of them throughout the trip instead. For those that want to storm through the presents quickly, set a timer for each activity. Bring things like mini pots of play dough, busy books, water colouring, small world boxes, pens, pads, stickers, mini board/travel games and of course SNACKS!”
Our 5 year old Top Bloss Tester tried out the wipeable silicone colouring mats from Moo & Dot. With a range of designs to choose from including ‘Around the World’ and ‘Animals at Risk’ (10% of sales for which are donated to wild animal charities) These educational and fun packs went down a storm - they scrunch up to travel size into a sweet little pouch with pens included. After your little one has finished colouring, they wipe clean and can be used again and again - plus they double up as food place mats! The back of the mats are blank so can also be used for practising writing, or playing games like noughts and crosses.
For when you’re at your destination - one of our much loved products for babies is the multi sensory Galt Play Ring. This is inflatable, so is light and easily transported. It folds up super small and once blown up, means you can contain and entertain your baby at the same time. This is ideal for those times when you want somewhere secure for them either in your room when you’re getting ready to go out, or even on the beach. The covers are all machine washable and it's suitable from birth.
They might not be every parent's favourite item, but electronic devices on a long journey can be a life saver. Make sure you pack headphones for every child and ensure the device is fully charged before setting off. If you won’t have access to the Internet, let your children know that they might not be able to access certain games and apps, or consider removing these from the homescreen to avoid impromptu meltdowns. Downloading their favourite programmes and movies is usually a winner.
Seat kids away from the plane aisle.
The aisle of a plane is often busy and can be dangerous too. Avoid little legs getting squashed by the food trolley and small hands reaching out to touch hot food and drinks by keeping them away from the aisle. It’ll be much easier to keep them contained this way too!
Stock up on plenty of snacks and water.
There’s not much worse than a hangry child! And hunger is likely to be an issue if they’re bored and have been sitting for long periods of time. Stock up on snacks that are filling and low in sugar to avoid sugar rushes and crashes mid way through your journey. Accommodate for delays too - if you have a baby and you formula feed, take more milk than you think you need just in case.
Take a travel buggy.
We can’t stress this one enough. Having to cart an enormous heavy buggy to the airport in a buggy bag and check it into oversize luggage, only to then tackle airport security struggling to keep hold of a toddler or carry a baby in your arms. Most airlines allow you to take a collapsible buggy onboard for free, and you can use the buggy right up until you board the plane. Plus, if you're hiring a car the other side, you're going to need a space-saving buggy that can fit in any boot.
We tried out the Ergobaby Metro+ stroller which is ideal for travel. Ergobaby are well known for their fantastic carriers so we were equally impressed with this high quality, sturdy buggy which is perfect for on the go. Unlike others on the market it felt incredibly solid and durable and was so easy to manoeuvre. Folded dimensions are 54cm x 44cm x 25cm which makes it ideal for overhead lockers in planes and on trains. It stands upright when folded and can be put up with one hand, which is great for when you’re juggling bags and children! The Metro+ Deluxe is also available as an upgraded option, with all the same features plus some luxury extras.
Consider alternative ways to get from A to B with your little ones when a buggy isn’t an option.
If you’re travelling somewhere more remote or rural where you’ll be less likely to be able to use your buggy - for example cobbled streets, taking hikes, or going over more undulated terrain, depending on the age of your child, it's worth investing in a baby carrier for tinies, or a toddler hiking backpack.
Family owned, Swedish brand Babybjorn is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to babywearing; and this year BabyBjorn are celebrating 50 years of closeness in carrying. The BabyBjorn Harmony is one of our favourites for versatility and comfort. It’s easy to put on, very supportive and accommodates for newborn upwards, with your baby facing inwards or outwards as well as an option to carry them on your back.
If they are a little older, the Sapling toddler hiking backpack from Thule is a real frontrunner. Thule is another Scandianvian brand that prides itself on quality and it really does look and feel premium. Your child is supported under their bottom and underneath their legs which distributes their weight well and offers maximum comfort. The pack itself weighs a mere 3.2kg and can carry children up to 18kg. It comes fitted with a few clever features - including a ventilated back panel, a sun shade for your little one which tucks away and storage space underneath the pack for easy to access snacks and drinks to pass upwards! You can also buy add on accessories such as a sling backpack for more storage and a rain cover so you don’t get caught out in a downpour!
You’ve arrived at your destination! Now, how do you get the kids to sleep?
Talk to young kids about the changes coming up and if you can, make their sleep space familiar. If you’re taking a travel cot with you, let them see the bed at home and try it out before you go. If possible, take sheets and a small pillow that smells familiar to help ease the transition at bedtime.
If you haven’t come across them before - the Bundle Bed was created by founder Lucy Bartlett to provide a familiar sleep space – safe, secure and snug – for wherever kids’ adventures take them. If you are travelling with children, you can bundle your Bundle Beds onto the plane for free in its own handy travel bag. We’ve checked with the main flight providers* including EasyJet, Jet2, Ryan Air and Bundle Beds are included within the free items you are allowed to check-in for children up to the age of 15, so you can check them in for free. *Do always make sure you check directly with your airline too as allowances can change! Bloss subscribers get 10% off sitewide.
Keep to a similar bedtime routine.
Sleep Consultant Sophie Wilkinson says “When it comes to children and taking holidays the good news is that you do not have to cancel all travel plans and confine yourself to the house for the rest of your child’s life! It is possible to have children who travel really well, if you keep a few things in mind:
- Try not to over-schedule the day.
- If your child has a good bedtime routine then keep this routine whilst away. This will help your child feel safe and secure in a new environment and will help them fall asleep.
- If your child sleeps in their own room when at home but will be sharing a room whilst on holiday, then my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for your baby to sleep. You can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby, so that they are close but if they wake up in the middle of the night they don't immediately see you and think its play time at 3am! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great if that’s an option for you.
- Well-rested children handle jet lag much better than sleep-deprived adults. If your baby has had a great schedule leading up to the trip, they should slide into the new time zone without too much trouble. It is best to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as you can or if the time zone isn’t too different to your timezone eg 1hr ahead you might want to keep a later schedule to better suit your plans eg 8pm bedtime instead of 7pm which will still feel like 7pm to your child.
If bath time forms part of your usual bedtime routine, consider taking some fun, new bath toys for them to play with. We absolutely love this Scrunch bath bundle from Scrunch kids: made of silicone - they literally do scrunch up so can be packed easily. These are also suitable for using on the beach or by the pool for pouring and splashing water!
Keep the room dark.
“Light is the biggest disrupter of sleep for adults and little ones,” says Chris McFadden, the Daddy Sleep Consultant. “Whenever I work with clients I always recommend blackout blinds for all rooms tots sleep in. Travel blackout blinds are reasonably cost efficient and can be all you need to keep little ones asleep until morning.”
Travel white noise machines, or a white noise playlist downloaded onto your phone can be very handy when you’re on the go, either for pram naps when you’re out and about or to block out background noise in a busy hotel or apartment building. “Having white noise on is good for 2 main reasons: it will help to ensure that when they are drifting in and out of light sleep, they will recognise the same sound they had heard when they initially went down and hopefully drift back into another sleep cycle,” says sleep consultant, Olivia Mulcahy. “And white noise also helps to act as a barrier for all those noises you can’t control such as mobile phones ringing, dogs barking, door knocking and noisy siblings.”
Accept the rough nights with the smooth.
Long flights are almost certainly going to result in some sort of jet lag or sleep disruption for young kids (and adults). Despite all your best efforts, you still might find that your little ones are wide awake and demanding cereal at 3am on the first few nights. Accepting that this is just the nature of the beast will stop you stressing about what you should or could have done. Try to look on the bright side - it might mean an early night instead!
Finally, try and set some time aside for yourself.
A holiday isn’t a holiday if you constantly feel stressed and ‘on duty.’ If you’re travelling with a partner or family member, try and share the childcare and plan ahead so you can make time for yourself. Whether this be booking in a treatment at the hotel spa or arranging some time for your children in the hotel kids club so you can sit by the pool in peace.
Anna Croucher, Occupational Therapist and Mindfulness Coach says “When we are travelling with a little one it can naturally feel quite challenging, our minds have what's called a "Negative Bias" and will naturally go to the worst-case scenario, thinking about all the things that could go wrong. My 'go to' strategy when I feel overwhelmed in tricky situations is to put my hand on my heart. As simple as this seems, it produces the hormone oxytocin and communicates to your body and mind 'you are safe', regardless of what's happening around you. And when we feel safe, our little ones feel safe, due to the mirror neurons between us, so they will start to calm down naturally. Self care in the moment isn't selfish, it's an essential act!”
If your own time looks a bit more like just having a bath alone, while the kids are in bed - still try and make the most of it and make it special! Wilder botanics have a gorgeous range of products in travel size, including their 100ml bath oils. Vetiver Juniper & Petit Grain is perfect for aching bones and aiding relaxation after a long journey. Palmarosa, Frankincense & Sweet Orange is for exhaustion and lifting the spirits. They also have some lovely Body Oils for Summer ready skin, as well as our travel essential - First Help Flower essence for emergency emotional needs, great for when you’re having to stay calm with upset babies on the plane or in the car! Bloss subscribers get 20%.
Overall - have a wonderful trip and remember - these are memories being made forever for you and your family!
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