Last updated on August 30th, 2018 at 10:22 am
We all love to head off on our holidays, for some sun, sea, sand, and (most importantly) a chance to relax. But when you have small children, toddlers or babies, travelling can become less of a relaxing experience, and more of a nightmare at 35,000 feet!
But, with a bit of forward planning, a clever holiday packing check list for kids and judicious use of puzzle books and picnics, you can minimise the stress of travelling as a family and enjoy your well-earned time off together!
We’ve put together a list of family travel hacks that will help you through the stress of actually going on holiday. It might seem a lot to remember, but these are actually very easy (and budget-friendly) tips that anyone can use. And hopefully some of them will be fun for the kids too!
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Before You Go
No doubt, your kids will already be pretty excited to go on their holidays, but a good way of getting them invested is to let them help you plan the trip! Ask them for their thoughts on days out and what they want to do and get them to help out with research.
Once you’ve done this, create an itinerary of what you’re going to do when you get there. You’ll probably want to leave at least a couple of days free for just relaxing and chilling out, but by making an itinerary, you’ll be able to pre-book at least some of your days out and activities and thus be able to save a bit of money! Last minute isn’t good when tired children are involved, after all!
Family Packing Tips
Packing can be stressful under any circumstances, but when you’re not just packing for yourself, it can add a whole other layer of anxiety to proceedings. Help to keep stress levels down by making a family packing checklist. You can do this yourself, or find one on line and print it out. A good tip is to start off with one, and save it somewhere. You can then use this as a basis for future trips, adding and removing items as required – there will always be something you wish you had brought, as well as plenty of things you never use!
When it comes to the actual packing, maximise your packing space by doing the following:
- rolling your clothes rather than folding them – you’ll fit much more in and it minimises wrinkles
- packing shoes at the bottom of your bag, wrapped in carrier bags or shower caps – this stops them squashing and dirtying your clothes
- using underwear and other small items to fill gaps in between larger items, stuffing shoes to keep their shape, or padding out breakable items
Flying with Kids, Toddlers and Babies
If you’re planning on travelling by plane to your holiday destination, particularly if it’s a long flight (or – shudder – multiple flights!), then you’ll no doubt be worrying a bit about how your little ones will handle being 35,000 feet up, in a confined space, for a few hours. Well, there are a few things you can do to make things more bearable all round!
Comfort and Sleeping Tips
If you’re travelling with a baby, take the aisle seat so you can easily get up and walk around. This may help calm baby down, and will also help you stretch your legs (very important, especially on long-haul flights)!
If possible, try and feed babies during take-off and initial descent. Paediatricians suggest this as sucking can help babies’ ears to pop as the cabin pressure changes.
If you’re on a long haul flight, sleep can be an issue, and nobody wants to be the parent of the restless or crying child everyone is complaining about. A good way around this is to recreate “bedtime” on board. Ideally, choose flights that will fit with your child’s sleep schedule and follow as close to your normal routine as possible:
- get into pyjamas
- brush teeth
- read a bedtime story
- dim the lights
You could even create a “sleep tent” using blankets to keep light out. It’s super-simple to do and won’t disturb other travellers. More information here.
Keeping Kids Occupied on a Plane
For toddlers and older children, a good way of keeping them occupied is to create a “goody bag” full of toys, games, books and puzzles. Settle them into their seats and present them with their bags, and you’ll (hopefully!) not hear a peep out of them for a while! These bags needn’t cost a fortune either – some ideas for things to include could be …
- small toys/games
- colouring books and crayons
- puzzle books
- comic book/novel
- playing cards
- healthy treats
… all of which are available at very reasonable prices from supermarkets, bookshops and stationery shops.
Alternatively, if there’s no entertainment on board, load up your smartphone or tablet with their favourite shows and hang it in a clear bag from the tray table.
In Case of Emergency!
And don’t forget: when flying, carry-on luggage is your friend! Make sure you pack emergency supplies – a change of clothes and underwear for everyone is vital in case your bags don’t show up the other side. And if you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, then you’ll need to ensure you pack a nappy bag with the usual essentials: wipes, nappies and a change of clothes as there WILL be a nappy explosion!
Tips for Car Travel with Kids
If you’re travelling by car, and want to avoid the dreaded “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes, then keeping the kids occupied is the order of the day.
Again, you could create a travel goody bag for them, with toys and games, or why not create an I-Spy bottle? Just fill a bottle or clear tube with sand or rice, plus some small trinkets (think small toys, shells and beads).
Even so, you’ll all need to stretch your legs, so make sure you have lots of pit stops to let the kids (and yourselves!) let off steam. If they’re sleeping, however, it’s best to keep driving!
Long drives can be a good way to see the scenery on the way to your destination, but food at service stations and tourist attractions can often be very expensive, so save some money by packing a picnic.
Lastly, confined spaces and confined children don’t mix – avoid the worst of the mess by packing an in-car bin for any rubbish. A plastic cereal container works well for this, as it can be lined with a bag, and then only a section of the lid opens, which minimises the risk of spillage.
When You Get There
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your destination! But even when you get there, holidays with children can be stressful. So here are some top tips for while you’re away:
- Many hotels offer laundry services, but in fact if you take (or buy) some hand wash detergent, then you can wash clothes out in the shower or sink. This is ideal for messy beach or pool days!
- If clothes are too dirty for a quick wash, pop them in a “dirty laundry” bag to keep them separate from clean clothes (a massive time and stress save when you’re packing to go home too!).
- Pack your child’s nightlight to help them get to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings (if it’s a plug-in one, don’t forget a travel adapter!)
- Beach days = sandy little monkeys. Stop them from traipsing sand everywhere by sprinkling baby powder on sandy feet, arms and legs. This will soak up any moisture that’s sticking the sand to their skin and just allow it to be easily brushed off. If you do this as you’re leaving the beach, you won’t take as much sand back to the apartment/hotel/car with you!