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Surviving the journey with children

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

Travelling with the little darlings can be challenging, so it pays to be prepared. The aim should be more than everyone arriving in your destination alive (but if that is all you achieve then that's fine too). Here are my tips for reduced stress travelling.

- Talk about the journey - Assuming your children are old enough to understand, explain to your children about what they can expect on their upcoming trip a couple of days before you set off. Talk about how long it will take to get to your destination, what you will be using to get there (plane, rail, car etc) and how you expect them to behave. Ask them for suggestions on how they can make the trip more interesting for them and what they are looking forward to. For instance, my kids love seeing the planes on the tarmac and playing on the travelators at the airports. Try to generate some excitement about the journey as well as the destination.

- Carry on luggage - Try not to have more carry-on bags than there are adult hands. Make it even easier on yourself by getting a backpack or cross body bag so your hands can be free just in case your little one decides to do a runner. Here are some bags you might want to consider to help you on your journey. Some extra tips in the luggage department would be:

  • If you are travelling with a baby, your changing bag (or diaper bag for our American brethren) is your best friend. Make sure to pack extra nappies/diapers and wipes than you think you need. Also pack medication and a change of clothing for both your little one and you in your carry-on in case of illness or accidents. Keep your pram/buggy with you until the last possible moment and consider bringing a sling with you as well this may make getting through the airport on arrival at your destination and walking around the plane easier.

  • If you are travelling with children of 4-5 years old and over, they should be able to carry a small backpack or rolling suitcase themselves. Getting kids to take care of their carry-on bags filled with their toys for the plane will lighten your load and may encourage them to pack less. And yes, I believe that they should pack their own carry on bag when they are old enough to carry it. It helps create excitement about the upcoming trip.

- Toys & Electronics - When you’re traveling with kids, keeping them entertained is crucial. It can make the difference between a brilliant journey and a down-right miserable one. A good selection of digital and non-digital options is usually the best way to go. Surprise toys or books can make the journey go a lot easier as they have a new thing to play with. Add to that a tablet with games, movies and books already loaded on it and a good set of headphones the children will be amused for a good part of your trip. For electronics, we agree usage rules upfront. For example when flying, my two boys can have unlimited electronics time on the plane as long as they are well behaved on the way to, and in the airport, before the flight. Being on a plane is the only place on Earth that they get to have as much electronics as they like, so this makes them amazingly well behaved, almost like they are someone else's children.

- Food & Snacks - No one wants to be caught short on food or snacks when their little one is getting hungry. This leads to a 'hangry' child, which will be no fun for you or anyone in the near vicinity. So if there is one thing you may choose to overpack, let it be this one.

  • For babies, you are allowed to take unlimited amounts of powdered milk on to the plane to make up feeds during the flight. You are also allowed to take bottles or cartons of prepared milk or sterilised water in your hand luggage. Because you can take as much as you like, pack plenty to cover any possible delays. Be warned, airport security may ask you to open the containers and taste the contents.

  • For toddlers and above, try to pack healthy snacks, with a few special treats, that way you are less likely to have to deal with a demon on sugar high at 30,000 ft. One thing I always try to bring for plane journeys is a handful of low-sugar lollies to help with ear pain due to elevation changes on take off and landing.

- Lastly accept things will go wrong. Things will take longer, your children are likely to want to go to the toilet at the most inconvenient time, something will get misplaced, there may be vomit and you will have to queue. The experience of travelling broadens their horizons and creates wonderful memories making it all worth it. Just be realistic about what it will be like to travel and give yourself time for things to go awry.

I'd love to hear your suggestions on how you make your journey's better for the whole family. We're all in this together, so let's share what works. And by making travelling easier, maybe you can look to travel further?

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