If you’ve got plans to travel this half term, you might be filled with a mixture of excitement about finally getting away, and trepidation about the logistics of travelling kids – especially if you’ve never done it before.
What if my kids get sick? How will they sleep if they’re not in their own beds? What if my child needs the loo during take off? Will everyone hate us on the plane?!
But fear not! We’ve compiled a list of 20 top tips for travelling with young kids, to help take the stress out of every stage of getting away with your family.
First up: How can I avoid taking too much luggage?
1. 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. Add 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.
2. Check the weather 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 won’t need it – don’t pack it!
3. Don’t pack more bags than hands. Older children can be responsible for pulling their own suitcases, but with very young children, this might be more trouble than it’s worth. Making sure you only have as many bags as you have free hands will ensure you’re not struggling to keep hold of everyone and everything.
4. Check out the laundry facilities. Most apartments 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 your accommodation doesn’t have this option, check out where the nearest laundrette is and see if that’s a feasible option to use whilst you’re there.
Long plane or car journey ahead? No sweat!
5. 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).
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 car journey.
9. 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.
10. Entertainment. Packing plenty of things to keep kids entertained is essential for long journeys. “Stickers are a must,” says Norland Nanny, Alice Curry. “They’re mess free, cheap and easy. Water painting is another fun mess free option which takes a little more time. Colouring books and twisty crayons (no sharpener needed!) are a great addition to any backpack.” KeepEmQuiet have an enormous range of activity packs, travel trays, sensory toys and fidget kits for children of all ages, as well as hundreds of other really practical travel products that you won’t know you need until you see them!
11. Electronic devices. 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.
12. 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!
13. 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. Re-fillable water bottles are a must to keep everyone hydrated and keep plastic consumption to a minimum. We love these stylish Leiwood bottles, which are perfect for little ones on the go. As a bloss subscriber, you can get 10% off when purchasing through Scandiborn. Click here for your exclusive discount.
14. Take a travel buggy. Getting through airport security can be stressful, and even more so if you’re 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.
You’ve arrived at your destination! Now, how do you get the kids to sleep?
15. Talk to young kids about the changes coming up. 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.
16. Make their sleep space familiar. The Tot-2-Ten Bundle Bed was created to provide a familiar sleep space – safe, secure and snug – for wherever kids’ adventures take them. “I am a Mum of two boys (aged 3 & 5 years),” says Bundle Beds creator, Lucy Bartlett. “Whenever they’re not sleeping in their beds at home, they’re in a Bundle Bed, from sleepovers with Grandma and staying with friends, to AirBnb getaways, and hotel stays. Even when there is a bed available for them, we roll out their Bundle Bed on top because they know it’s their own bed and they settle SO well.” Bloss tried and tested Bundle Beds – read the full review here and get 10% off with an exclusive bloss discount!
17. Keep to a similar bedtime routine. “We still put the kids to bed at a similar time when we’re travelling, even when camping, as unfortunately they don’t yet understand the concept of a lie in!” says Lucy. Sticking to a similar routine that you have at home is going to send clear signals to your children that it’s time for sleep, even if they’re somewhere unfamiliar. So if it’s bath, pyjamas, teeth and story before bed at home, try to do the same whilst you’re away.
18. Keep the room dark. “Light is the biggest disrupter of sleep for adults and little ones,” says 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.”
19. White noise. Travel white noise machines 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.”
20. Finally – 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!