Written by Saima Umair
Everyone loves travelling.
Whether it’s a hiking trips, a romantic holiday in a beach resort or going on a simple road trip, each holiday creates a wonderful memory.
Once you have kids, travelling can be a little challenging and overwhelming but it doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy it. You just need to be very organized to be able to enjoy your holiday and make unforgettable memories for them and yourselves.
Here are some tips to make your next trip more enjoyable and less stressful.
Plan and Organize Ahead of Time
Choose Your Travelling Time Wisely
Pick a suitable time in the day to begin your journey. A good rule of thumb is to travel when you think your kids would be most comfortable.
I prefer to fly in the morning. A good night sleep and having breakfast at home before leaving sets a good tone for my children. This way they remain active and are able to enjoy their trip better.
Alternatively, many parents prefer night flights so that their children can sleep in the plane.
If you are planning a road trip, again, choose according to your preferences. You have more flexibility in terms of planning your toilet breaks and can even time your road trips to coincide arriving for breakfast or lunch at a particular town or café that you would like to try.
Where to Sit?
If you are travelling in a plane and have a baby younger than 24 months, you can request for seats that offer baby bassinets. These seats are also often closer to the lavatory and aircraft galley.
Should one of your children need to go to the toilet, it is easily accessible while you can keep an eye on your other children. You can also easily catch a flight attendant’s attention if you need assistance.
Trains usually have seats in group of 4 where passengers can sit together facing each other. Some of these seats even come with the table in the middle. If you are travelling with more than one child, try to book these seats.
Make a List
Make a list of all the things you will be needing during your trip so that you don’t forget anything at the very last moment.
Based on this list, you know ahead the things you need to buy and prepare before packing day, including taking note on other things you need to do before your trip. When it is packing time, you will have everything ready and there is one less thing to worry about.
For example, if you will be travelling in a plane with a baby, you need to prepare a complete baby bag with extra diapers, feeding bottles or a breast feeding cover, rash cream, extra pair of clothes and baby wipes that you can take with you in your cabin bag.
If you are travelling with toddlers or older children, you need to pack according to their needs, for example, snacks, change of clothes and definitely something to keep them entertained.
You may not be needing a separate bag when you travel by road as you will have access to all your bags, but be mindful to pack them the last so you can easily pull out things you need.
Make an Itinerary
Plan each day of your trip.
Go all the way by making an excel sheet or simply plan each day that shows places that you will be visiting and activities that are planned. Take into account transportation, hours of openings, duration and cost.
This way you will know how to get to the next attraction, how long will it take you to get to the next location and how much it’s going to cost you in terms of transportation and entrance fees.
Give an outline of the trip to your children to keep them involved and excited.
Making an itinerary will save you the hassle of trying to make on the spot decisions and help you manage cost and time effectively especially when you have children who still require day naps and rigid meal times.
Wherever you can make bookings online in advance. Once you have your hotels bookings done, don’t stop there.
Book tickets for amusement parks, museums, sightseeing, tour buses and other attractions that you are planning to visit so that you can avoid waiting lines and have more time to relax and enjoy your holiday.
Baby Carrier or Stroller
Going on a trip with a baby or a toddler adds up to your luggage. Strollers and car seats are not only heavy; they are bulky and they take a lot of space.
Think of your destination. If you are planning a visit to an old historic town which has cobbled streets or planning a hiking trip, then it’s best to ditch the stroller and opt for a baby carrier.
Stroller will be a good option in a big city with pedestrian walkways.
A lightweight cabin size stroller would be the best. If you are flying, most airline allows you to bring a compact stroller into the cabin. This way you will have access to a stroller all the time.
If you are on a road trip, these strollers also take less space.
Some destination offers facilities that allow you to rent strollers and car seats. Perhaps explore if that option is possible on your trip. Please remember to rent car seats from reputable source to ensure you can trust that their car seat is accident free and meets all the safety regulations.
Entertainment to Keep Children Occupied
Children of all age groups need something to do on their trip to keep them from getting bored. Make sure to prepare enough material and toys to keep you children entertain if they get bored at any point of time.
My older daughter likes to watch cartoons. She also downloads some of her favorite cartoons and games on the tablet before every trip. This can become handy in case there are no movie screens offered in the plane or train.
My 6-year-old is not very fond of tablet, so she packs her small bag pack with toys, color pencils and blank white sheets. For my toddler, I download his favorite educational games and videos. I also pack a few of his favorite books.
Things to Remember Before Leaving the House
Children can get difficult when they are hungry.
You also run a risk that they may not like the meal offered in the plane or train. Or if you are on a road trip, you may not reach the nearest restaurant before hell breaks loose.
I always pack enough snacks like healthy chips, nuggets, vegetable sticks, cheese sticks, homemade pancakes or sandwiches. Don’t forget to bring their water bottles and enough water to keep everyone hydrated.
Pack important Medications
Pack all the basic medicines like pain killers (for adults and children), Panadol or paracetamol for fever, a cough syrup, baby rash cream, anti-allergy and a small travel first aid kit. Make sure they are easily accessible to you when needed.
Travelling can be tiring for kids specially if it involves standing at check points and immigration line. When tired or bored, they can easily be triggered by the smallest difficulty they face.
Should they need to take off their jackets, belts or untie shoe laces for security checks and these becomes difficult or uncomfortable, you can imagine the emotional outburst. Imagine the chaos if you have more than one child.
I prefer to dress young children with comfortable t-shirt along with a pair of track pants without zips or buttons and shoes without shoe laces. This also helps with toilet emergencies.
On the Day
Keep Track of Your Children
Kids love to run around, be it their backyard or the airport and the train station. It’s very difficult to watch the kids and your luggage at the same time.
Keeping track of your kids seems obvious but it’s worth mentioning. There are many gadgets that allow you to keep track of your children as long as they agree to continue wearing this gadget that usually tagged to their belt or worn as a lanyard around their neck.
You can also write your name and contact numbers on their arms so that you can be contacted immediately in case you lost them.
However, remember, it is always best to keep your children close and around you all the time. These gadget adds as an additional measure and can never replace an adult’s role to watch over them. Neither do these gadgets guarantee the safety of the children should they get lost.
Take Frequent Washroom Breaks
This may sound like a silly reminder. But most parents can imagine a scenario where we have found ourselves really needing to go to the bathroom, but simply cannot because our children's need at the moment had to come first.
So whenever you can, take the chance to go to the washroom so you don’t have to deal with it standing at the immigration line or traffic jam.
Ask older children to go to the toilet before leaving the house. If you are flying, remind them to go to the washroom again right before the airplane starts taxing as you are not allowed to use the washrooms close to take off.
If you are travelling with a baby, change his diaper before leaving the house. Again, if you are travelling by airplane or train, change your baby’s diaper just before arriving so you don’t have to worry about it for the next few hours.
Take Your Time
Aim to leave home a little earlier so that there is no need to hurry. It is OK to be the last person to board the plane and the last person to get off the plane. Relax and take your time to gather all your belongings and don’t forget the kids!
During a car ride, use a car seat for your child’s safety and comfort. Aim to take a break every 2 hours at a rest stop that has a park and restaurants. Let the kids run around to burn off some their energies so that they can be contented and comfortable for the next few hours sitting in a car.
Even after all your planning and preparations, things may still go wrong. Be flexible. Be open to changes. It is all part of the journey.
Travelling does not need to be perfect. Everything you do will usher in new exposures and experiences to your children. So use these tips to make your journey a little less stressful , get out there and enjoy yourselves.
Saima is a stay at home mum of 3 children, aged 9, 6 and 2. She has experiences in teaching as well as in Human Resources and is currently a freelance blog writer. She loves arts and crafts, especially as an activity with her children.